Laureus Olympic Legends unite with one message: the mental health legacy of covid-19 must be address

As Olympians and athletes they have stood on podiums, enjoyed international acclaim and have taken home the most coveted prizes in their respective sports, but a group of global sporting stars have united to underlined the crisis in mental health among young people and how sport can play a role in reversing this.
Speaking at the inaugural Laureus Sport for Good Mental Health and Wellbeing Forum - an online event supported by EACT Jockey Club Active Community Programme - sports stars were joined by representatives from Laureus-supported mental health and wellbeing programmes from around the world, as well as global leaders from the mental health and wellbeing sector.
Laureus Olympic legends including 400m hurdling legend Edwin Moses, four-time Olympic gold medallist, Li Xiaopeng, China’s first winter gold medallist Yang Yang, and South African swimming stars Cameron van der Burgh and Natalie du Toit were joined by rugby stars Sean Fitzpatrick and Nolli Waterman with surfing legend Garrett McNamara.
The international field was joined by Laureus Hong Kong Ambassadors Lee Lai Shan, Wong Kam Po, Malina Ngai Man Lin, Alex Fong Lik Sun, top fencer Vivian Kong and swimmer Yvette Kong for the inaugural EACT Jockey Club Active Community Programme: Laureus Sport for Good Mental Health and Wellbeing through Sport Regional Forum.
Throughout the three-day Forum, participants heard how Covid-19 has had a catastrophic impact on the mental health and well-being of young people all over the world, as a result of lockdowns, restrictions and the loss of social interaction, sport and wider opportunities for self-development. 
The Forum showcased the pioneering Model City Hong Kong initiative, which is convening like-minded organisations with the goal of working together to use sport to make a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the region as restrictions ease and activities return. The event also discussed the transformational mental health and wellbeing benefits of sport - particularly surfing, which will make an Olympic debut in Tokyo next year and swimming. Participants also heard about how sport is building resilience and tackling depression and anxiety in young people in Northern Ireland.
Laureus Academy Member Edwin Moses, who won Olympic 400m hurdling gold at the 1976 and 1982 Olympics, and was unbeaten for nine years, nine months and nine days, a streak of 122 consecutive race wins in the 400-meter hurdles, including 107 finals races, believes that sport is the perfect tool to support young people with mental health challenges:
“Globally, we have all been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but as one of our inspirational programme leaders rightly said during the Forum, young people in many communities around the world are also being impacted by mental health and wellbeing epidemics. At the highest level, the mental side of sport is crucial, but of most importance is the role sport can play in supporting young people with mental health challenges. At Laureus, the research is proving that the work we are supporting is making a difference to the mental health and wellbeing of disadvantaged young people, and we need to keep that up.”
Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick, a legend of All Blacks rugby who played in 63 consecutive Test matches for his country, spoke about the positive conversations that took place throughout the Forum, and encouraged participants to continue those conversations in the future. 
“The transformational programmes we support through Laureus Sport for Good are doing incredible work in their communities around the world,” said Sean. “Throughout the Forum, we heard current and former athletes, mental health professionals and sport for development programme leaders talk about the positive role sport can play in supporting young people with mental health challenges. If there’s one thing we should all take away from this event, it’s that we need to keep moving forward, keep these conversations going and keep changing young lives for the better.”
Laureus Academy Member Yang Yang, who won 500m short track speed skating gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics, making history as China’s first Winter Olympic champion, spoke at the close of the Forum. Yang Yang urged the sport for development sector to continue the conversation on mental health and continue using sport as the tool to transform the lives of young people facing mental health and wellbeing challenges.
“Children and young people are our future, and mental health and wellbeing among young people is a subject we need to put at the top of our agendas in the coming months and years,” said Yang Yang. “Listening to the mental health and wellbeing experts discuss the transformational power of sport, and hearing the incredible people on the ground at our Sport for Good programmes has been inspirational. In sport and in life, we all come up against challenges and the global challenges in 2020 are no different. Working together, sharing knowledge and continuing the conversations we have had over these three days is going to be so important in us using sport to help build resilience and confidence in our young people.”                                                   
“Here in Asia and around the world, mental health and wellbeing challenges faced by vulnerable and disadvantaged young people are increasing,” said Laureus Academy Member and four-time Olympic champion Li Xiaopeng. “2020 has been a turbulent year globally, but it’s had a real impact on young people we are working with. Through the Forum, we all had the opportunity to reduce stigma, raise awareness and use sport to help young people build confidence and increase self-esteem, and that’s one of Laureus Sport for Good’s main priorities, especially here in Hong Kong.”
Laureus Sport for Good is a global charity that supports children and young people by using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination, and disadvantage. Over the last 20 years, Laureus Sport for Good has raised more than €150m for the Sport for Development sector, reaching and helping change the lives of more than 6 million children and young people since 2000. Laureus Sport for Good currently supports more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries that use the power of sport to transform lives.

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