Event Report "The power of creativity and imagination ~Olympian's view on the importance of education~"
On Sunday, August 1st 2021, Panasonic Center Tokyo held an online workshop for high school students, based on the theme of sports and STEAM* education. Katie Ledecky, gold medalist for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Panasonic brand ambassador, was invited as the guest, and Hanae Ito, former swimmer and Olympian for Beijing 2008 and London 2012, was the moderator. This event was held as the continuation from the previous event held between Panasonic and Katie in May 2020, and the students who participated in last year's workshop gathered again to communicate with Katie about their learnings and progress through the year.
Katie, who had finished all her competitions for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with a total of 4 medals, 2 Gold and 2 Silver, was welcomed by the participants with a round of applause, and the event started in a very relaxed atmosphere.
*STEAM is an educational method advocated by adding Art to "STEM education"; a method to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics comprehensively.
[Session 1] Questions from Ms. Hanae Ito to Katie
To begin with, former swimmer Hanae Ito asked some questions to Katie regarding the postponement of the Olympic Games and about the importance of STEAM education.
Ms. Ito : It was very impressive when you said at last year's event, "I really hope that I'll be there in Japan next year for the Olympic Games." How do you feel now after actually participating in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 after a one year postponement?
Katie : It felt wonderful, and as I said, it was wonderful to be here in Tokyo. Of course, it was hard to be training for another extra year, but I'm so glad that we were all able to come together and be able to compete here on the highest stage.
Ms. Ito : I believe that many athletes, including Katie yourself, had a difficult time practicing over the past year. Why do you think you were able to overcome such difficulties to achieve great success at this Olympic Games?
Katie : It required a little bit of extra and different work, because some of the training facilities were shut down for a couple months. We had to be creative with our training and do everything that we could to make it as similar as possible to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. And I feel like I and a lot of athletes did a really good job of that and we all showed great resilience by getting through that and by performing here at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 at such a high level.
Ms. Ito : You have been very active in promoting STEAM programs, and also participated in last year's STEAM event with Panasonic. Why do you think that education, especially STEAM, is important in the sports field or, to be more abstract, in daily lives?
Katie : I think education is very important and is a building block for life. I'm very passionate talking about STEAM education because these subjects are especially crucial as many jobs are reliant on those skills. And I believe that technology and sports have a lot to do with each other, such as in swimming, to learn about how we're swimming and moving through the water. We use video review, math and statistics to try to get that extra edge because it could be a second or even tenth of a second or hundredth of a second, that's the difference between a gold medal and a silver medal or a bronze medal and not medaling at all. So it's a combination of a lot of things to get to this point, and to win one of these gold medals.
[Session 2] Presentation by the students
In the following session, students who attended last year's workshop made a presentation for Katie, explaining what kind of message they received from her, or what they have been putting effort in since last year.
The first student to make a presentation said, "When I heard that Katie was interested in education and studied at college, I thought that it is very difficult to be a world-class athlete and also study at the same time. I'm learning dancing now and I'm also interested in education, so I want to learn a lot from Katie. "
Katie commented with a smile, "It's wonderful to hear that you're doing both dancing and school. It's difficult to find that balance, but keep working hard and try to pursuit both of those."
Next, one student who belongs to the newspaper club of his high school gave us a presentation on the effort of his school and club regarding STEAM education. "At school, each student has been provided a tablet from this year, and projectors are introduced to study more visibly. The newspaper club was unable to conduct face-to-face interviews due to the spread of the coronavirus infection, but instead, technology has made us possible to interview people who live far away, including overseas."
Katie responded, "It's so great that your club is doing projects together and that you've been using technology in such a great way to connect with people. That's what I really loved to be able to do with Panasonic over this past year. And even though we haven't been able to meet, I was hoping to meet you in person after my competition here, it's so nice that we are able to use these platforms to still be able to meet."
Another student mentioned, "I participated in last year's event, and was very surprised and impressed that Katie was contributing to education, especially STEAM. Also, I saw your races on TV, and I think that sports have the power to encourage many people."
Katie replied in agreement, "Sports has the power to cheer people up. There's still a lot more of the Olympic Games remaining so I hope you continue to be inspired, and watch and cheer on the athletes. I've already completed my swimming, so I'll be heading back to the United States very soon, but it was just so nice to be here in Tokyo and we thank you for hosting us."
[Session 3] Questions from the students to Katie
In the final session, the participating students asked many questions to Katie in English. It takes a lot of courage to ask questions in English in front of a large number of people, but the students worked hard to express themselves.
Student 1 : I think that a one year postponement of the Olympic Games is both mentally and physically severe for the athletes. How did you stay motivated?
Katie : We were preparing for the Olympic Games in a four-year cycle, so we had to adjust our training and plans towards this Olympic Games. There were times when it was both mentally and physically challenging, but I think that the athletes were able to show the resilience to work hard and continue to be the best they could be. That's why this Olympics have been so special, to be able to show all the hard work that we've been putting in during the pandemic.
Student 2 : What does getting a gold medal mean to you?
Katie : A gold medal means a lot to me, it's a very special symbol of hard work and dedication, not just by me but my family, friends, coaches, teammates, and everyone that has helped me to this point. But regardless of the medals or the outcome of the Olympic Games, I was going to enjoy it, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I think that's something very important and something to remember. Whatever it is you do, or you're passionate about, always find a way to enjoy it.
Student 3 : After finishing the Olympic Games, you commented, "There is something more important in life than victory." What exactly does this comment mean?
Katie : I think that victory is not the only goal. The goal is to be happy with the outcome, and to be satisfied with the work that has been put in to reach the result. So I try to enjoy every day of training and hard work that it takes to get to the final stage. When I step up on to the starting blocks, I know that I've done everything, so whether I win or not, I'm going to be happy with the outcome because I still know that I've put in all the work that I could to be the best I could be.
At the end of the event, Katie concluded by giving an inspiring message to the students. "I'm so glad that we were able to connect last year and this year, and thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts and what you've learned over the past year. I hope that we can stay in touch and continue to talk about what you've leaned and how you progressed through your passions, and keep working hard and enjoy what you're doing."
In the questionnaire which was conducted after the event, a lot of positive feedbacks were given from the participants; such as "Katie's humble character and her attitude towards education was very impressive and inspiring", "I felt like I got a hint of seeing things from new, different angles."
We hope that the event became a great opportunity for the students to learn and receive lots of inspiration through active interaction with a current Olympian.