Former Canadian freestyle skier Philippe Marquis believes athletes have the “power to pave the way” on tackling climate change as they aim to help pull off the “biggest humanity comeback story ever”.
Speaking at the International University Sport Federation (FISU) World Conference here, the world dual moguls silver medalist said he was encouraged to see more athletes get behind efforts to address the “very scary” climate crisis by using their voice.
Marquis was on a panel session along with two-time world biathlon medallist Susan Dunklee and former Major League Baseball player Chris Dickerson, both of the United States, to discuss the topic “Athletes and Activism”.
All three individuals stressed how important athletes are to raising awareness of climate change and inspiring others to take action.
“We have the power to pave the way as athletes and that’s what motivates us to do what we do,” said Marquis, who is a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission.
“This is a highly powerful time to be taking on that fight.
“Whatever sport you are doing – professional or amateur or locally with your family – it’s extremely exciting to think about this to make the sport industry greener and talk about it.
“There is power in numbers and by getting organised together that’s how we are going to inspire our leaders and change the culture.
“There is a common battle that we are embarking on.
“This journey is very scary.
“There is definitely the fear of failure that we all experienced as an athlete but there is also joy and the immense inspiration that we can do this biggest humanity comeback story ever and it starts now.”
Marquis said the realisation of the climate problem was “starting to sink in more and more” when he witnessed the changes in seasons during his career.
Dickerson, a co-founder of Player for the Planet and sports and sustainability at One Tree Planted, believes athletes are the “perfect spokespeople” due to their experiences of training and competing in conditions.
“When you are training, you are on an internal clock that you should be skiing this mountain like you have been over the past 20 years,” said Dickerson.
“But now all this is being turned on its head when there is no snow there in the middle of November so you are having to push back your training.”
Dunklee, a three-time Olympian who retired last year after competing at Beijing 2022, admitted that she was initially unsure whether to become a climate activist due to her lifestyle as an athlete.
“It’s a little bit scary to put yourself out there as an advocate for anything,” said Dunklee.
“A lot of people say as athletes you shouldn’t be in politics or advocacy, just concentrate on the race.
“But we need to be doing something.
“You don’t have to be perfect to start being an advocate and that’s one thing that has held me back.
“I would think about what my carbon footprint was to be a biathlete when I am flying all over the world and I think I am just going to be such a hypocrite if I even open my mouth.
“I should not wait until I am perfect before I start opening my mouth.
“We need to get our teammates on board and everyone working on the issue.”
Marquis added: “It’s good to see the athlete voice rising.
“It’s great that we are no longer having the debate about whether [climate change] is real or is it really happening.
“This conversation has been done and we are ramping the people behind this movement now which has brought me a lot of optimism.
“We have a fresh sense of direction.
“We don’t know if we are going to win the fight but as athletes we have been underdogs in our lives which is why we can create good stories in this movement.”
The FISU World Conference, held under the theme “Save Winter”, is being staged here alongside the Lake Placid 2023 Winter World University Games.
The meeting, staged at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, is due to continue tomorrow and conclude on January 20.