By Tom Degun

Benjamin_Raich_and_Yoggl_22-07-111July 22 - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have announced that Austrian alpine ski racer and double Turin 2006 Winter Olympic champion Benjamin Raich will be a Winter Youth Olympic Games Ambassador for Innsbruck 2012.

The 33-year-old from Tyrol, who won gold medals in slalom and giant slalom at the Turin 2006 Winter Games, becomes the second Winter Youth Olympic Games Ambassador following the announcement of American star Lindsey Vonn as the first Ambassador for the event earlier this year.

"As a Tyrolean, I have skied these mountains all of my life," said Raich.

"It makes me enormously proud to see the first Winter Youth Olympic Games hosted in Innsbruck and witness elite young athletes from all over the world experience the world-class facilities this region has to offer.

"Developing youth sport is a great passion of mine, and as an Austrian it is privilege for me to be part of Innsbruck 2012.

"Winter sports are hugely exciting both to participate in and to watch and I hope that in my role as an Ambassador I can encourage young people to do both."

The inaugural Winter Youth Olympics are due to take place from January 13 to 22 next year, while the concept of having Youth Olympic Ambassadors was initiated last year at the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

Raich and Vonn will now follow in the footsteps of the trio of superstar Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Ambassadors Usain Bolt of Jamaica, Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia and Michael Phelps of America.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said: "It is truly sensational to have two-time Olympic gold medallist Benjamin Raich onboard as a Winter Youth Olympic Games Ambassador for Innsbruck 2012.

"Benjamin is an exceptional athlete and one of Austria's best alpine ski racers.

"He is a great icon in winter sport, and it is particularly special to have an Ambassador from the host nation.

"Together with Lindsey Vonn, we are confident that Benjamin will make a fantastic role model for the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games."

In addition to encouraging young people worldwide to become more active in sport, both Raich and Vonn will act as mentors and support the young athletes competing in Innsbruck as part of their roles as Winter Youth Olympic Games Ambassadors.

This week, Raich took time out of his busy training schedule to film a promotional campaign for the Youth Olympic Games which will be launched in the autumn in the run-up to Innsbruck 2012.

The Games are set to attract over 1,000 top athletes between the ages of 15 and 18 from roughly 70 countries.

The athletes will compete in the same seven sports as those on the programme for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, but a number of the 63 events will feature for the first time at an Olympic competition.

They include biathlon mixed relay, luge team relay, ski halfpipe, snowboard slopestyle, figure skating mixed team event, ice hockey skills challenge and women's ski jumping.

In addition to mixed gender events there will also be mixed National Olympic Committee competitions for the athletes as well as a Culture and Education Programme (CEP) for them featuring activities designed to provide guidance on a wide range of topics, including the Olympic values, the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle and preventing sports injuries.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
April 2011: Vonn unveiled as first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games Ambassador