The IOC recognizes the coaching careers of Laura Martinel and Taesuk Chang. © IOC

Laura Martinel is a seasoned judo coach in Argentina who has trained fellow countrymen to continental, world, and Olympic victories. Chang, on the other hand, is at the forefront of the growth of women's fencing in the Republic of Korea. Both are also Olympians. 

Martinel competed in the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992, while Chang also competed in Barcelona 1992 and later in Atlanta 1996. Both were recognized with the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award and were honored at a ceremony attended by IOC President, Thomas Bach, and Sergii Bubka, Chairman of the IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission.

Taeskuk Chang couldn't attend the ceremony in person, so his award was received by Mrs. HeeKyung Kwang, Director of International Relations of the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee.

"The role played by coaches in an athlete’s career is sometimes invisible but always invaluable,” said President Bach, who, as an Olympic champion in fencing, well understands the importance of a good coach. "The wealth of medals won by their athletes are testaments to the work of Laura Martinel and Taesuk Chang. More than that, both coaches serve as outstanding ambassadors for Olympism and the Olympic values – and both are worthy winners of this award."

"The IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Awards are designed to celebrate the achievements of coaches from the grassroots to the Olympic Games, the greatest stage in sport," added Bubka. "Both Laura Martinel and Taesuk Chang have more than proved their worth on and off the field of play, and Olympic medals are just the most visible result of their tireless work."

Martinel started her career as a judoka, winning the women’s -72kg category at the 1982 Pan American Judo Championships at the age of 18. She went on to compete at an elite level until 1995, making her Olympic debut in Barcelona 1992.

Martinel commented: "I deeply appreciate the opportunity to receive this prestigious award, and I want to express my gratitude to those who have been crucial in my coaching career, starting from the athletes who have placed their trust in me. I also extend my thanks to the IOC for providing a special place for coaches, the International Judo Federation for nominating me among many renowned colleagues, my National Olympic Committee, my National Federation, and, of course, my beloved country, Argentina."

After retiring from the tatami, Martinel transitioned into coaching and started working with Daniela Krukower, whom she coached to become the women’s -63kg world champion in 2003. Three years after Krukower’s retirement in 2009, Martinel began coaching another Argentine judoka, Paula Pareto. Under her guidance, Pareto became women’s -48kg world champion in 2015, then won Olympic gold at Rio 2016. Martinel has also served as the national coach of the Argentine women’s judo team and Technical Director of the Argentine Judo Confederation. Earlier this year, she received the International Judo Federation (IJF) Master Coach Award.

"The principles and values transmitted by my parents, then strengthened through my experience in judo and my dedication to Olympism, form the foundation of my life," Martinel explained. "I am a passionate advocate for the values of sport – and ultimately, my greatest desire is to leave a significant legacy for future generations."

An instrumental figure in the development of women’s fencing Like Martinel, Taesuk Chang was an athlete before he became a coach: he made his Olympic debut at Barcelona 1992 and made a second Games appearance at Atlanta 1996.

"I want to express my sincere gratitude for this honourable recognition from the IOC," said Chang. "I would like to express my profound gratitude to Kang Young-mi, Choi In-jung, Song Se-ra, and Lee Hye-in, the members of the South Korean women's epee team. It has been a joy and privilege to share countless memories and moments of triumph with these remarkable athletes."

Korean interest in women’s fencing received a boost following the medal-winning performances of the women’s team at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Four years later, Chang became the coach of the Republic of Korea women’s épée team, and since then, it has gone from strength to strength – picking up a host of medals at the Asian Fencing Championships, the Asian Games, the World Fencing Championships, and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Chang is also a keen advocate for the development of fencing in the Republic of Korea, especially women’s fencing. The creator of diverse training programmes tailored to the needs of female fencers, he has actively promoted women’s participation in leadership roles in his home country.

"Taking on the role of coaching the Women's National Team brought its own set of challenges," Chang added. "Through frequent communication with the athletes, we identified individual areas of weakness and worked on targeted training regimens to address and supplement those specific shortcomings. As a result of these efforts, we achieved notable success in consecutive competitions, including the Asian Games, World Championships, and the Olympic Games."

Honouring the best of the best The ceremony marked the fifth edition of the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Awards, which were launched in 2017 to recognise the vital role played by coaches in the life of any athlete – both on and off the field of play. Awarded to two coaches each year (one female, one male), they are overseen by the IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission, led by its Chair, Sergii Bubka.

Candidates may be nominated by Olympians, IFs, NOCs, members of the IOC Athletes’ and IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commissions, and IOC Members. From these nominations, of which 74 were received in 2023, the winners are selected by a selection panel composed of two IOC Members from the IOC Athletes’ Commission and two IOC Members from the IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission, appointed by President Bach. The selection panel is chaired by Sergii Bubka.

The previous winners are:

 2017: Kaneko Masako (Japan, synchronised swimming) and Jon Urbanchek (USA, swimming) 

2018: Katalin Rozsnyói (Hungary, canoeing) and Andreas Schmid (Austria, skeleton) 

2019: Ulla Koch (Germany, artistic gymnastics) and Malcolm Arnold (Great Britain, athletics)

 2022: Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi (France/Australia, canoe) and Malcolm Brown (Great Britain, triathlon)

There were no awards in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The awards are just one way in which the IOC is working to support and promote coaches’ major role in organised sport. Another is the Women in Sport High-Performance Pathway (WISH), a dedicated mentorship and training programme for female coaches supported by USD 1 million of funding from Olympic Solidarity.

WISH was launched in 2022 to support the Olympic Movement’s drive to achieve gender equality at all levels in sport. The bespoke four-year programme is designed to support women to coach at elite levels – on the continental, world and Olympic stages. More than 100 female coaches are benefitting from the programme, gaining a platform to kickstart successful careers as coaches in elite sport.

In addition, earlier this month, an athletes’ entourage dedicated course was run on Athlete365 Learning, “Beyond Performance; empowering athletes and entourage members”. Aimed at athletes’ specialist support personnel, as well as coaches, friends and family, this course aims to help the participants understand what holistic development is and how it can help athletes become the best they can be, both within and outside their sporting careers."