European Athletics Youth Team's Ivan Zlatev dreams big

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Bulgaria’s Ivan Zlatev is part of the European Athletics Youth Team that will be involved in the Young Leaders Forum that will be held during the European Championships Munich 2022.

He was a participant at the 2016 European Athletics Young Leaders Forum in Amsterdam and afterwards he decided to join the Youth Team to try to help others develop their skills and knowledge.

This year, and for the first time, the Forum will be open also for Young Leaders of other sports; a representative of rising young leaders from the other eight sport will join the workshops and seminar during the third and fourth days.

European Athletics is the only sport that has a Young Leaders network and events such as Young Leaders Forum and is a trailblazer for other sports organisations which want to create a community of youngsters.

From 17-21 August, Forum participants – aged between 20 and 30 – will discuss about the athletics’ situation in their countries, will share ideas and try to find solutions, will learn from other countries and from other sports.

European Athletics: When did you start athletics?

Ivan Zlatev: My first involvement in athletics was when I was nine years old. I competed in a school competition but, at the same time, I was also involved in ice hockey. At that competition I got a good result, so I decided to try athletics and I competed for the next 13 years, I started doing sprints and hurdles, and I’ve also run the 800m.

When I was 14 or 15, I decided to be an official so that I could participate in competitions with different age ranges and standards. Once I got to 17, I got involved in the organisation of important meetings purely by coincidence. After being an official, people in the federation were aware that I was able to do certain things and they offered me a chance to join their organisational teams, mainly like an intern.

In 2016, I was chosen by my federation to attend the Young Leaders Forum in Amsterdam and that’s when I decided to join the facilitators in Berlin in 2018 and, in 2020, I joined the team for the online event.

EA; What’s your involvement in athletics now?

IZ: I’m not an employee of the Bulgarian federation, I have a job outside of athletics, but I’m helping them during the events and I’m also a part of the I Run Clean project as one of the ambassadors.

EA: Why did you decide to be part of the European Athletics Youth Team?

IZ: One of the most life-changing things that happened was my participation at the 2016 Young Leaders Forum. After the Forum, I thought: “I can help other people to realise that they can be good leaders too.” Many people have good ideas and I want to help them in developing them.

I also really enjoyed the full experience of the Forum. It wasn’t just the conferences and the workshops; it was the contact with other people and the friendships that started there, even though we were together for just one week.

EA: Why you think athletics off-the-track need more youth involvement?

IZ: No matter how old you are, there is no age barrier for good ideas and young people are the ones that are the ones developing and establishing new and popular trends. Look at social media, at big events such as the European Athletics Championships, the teams with young people are the ones working better on social media and they are helping athletics’ popularity grow.

I’d really love to see the federations to hear more the voice of the young people. Also, we have a lot of young athletes but it’s disappointing that they don’t really want to join ‘the other side’ and cease their involvement with the sport when they finish their careers.

EA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

IZ: One big dream of mine is of having an innovative meeting in my country. I want to implement a more popular way of showing athletics. I’d like to put athletics in the centre of the city, having different disciplines there so that it can be a part of the cultural life in my country.

I’ll continue helping my federation as I’m doing now but I definitely see myself as an organiser of a huge event that is a little bit extraordinary.

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