Austrian Gymnast wins Athlete Scholarship

Austrian artistic gymnast, Elisa Hämmerle, has been awarded the AISTS Athlete Scholarship to study at the Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration and Technology programme in Switzerland. 

Elisa, a four time World Cup Medalist and an Olympian, first breathed Olympic air at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore when she was a 14 years old. 11 years later, her childhood dream came true and she participated in the summer Olympics in Tokyo. Years of hard work, tireless dedication, and a great passion for her sport earned her the title of OLY. Unfortunately, she sustained a calf injury 48 hours before the competition and as a result, was not able to perform at her best.    

Elisa brings a great passion for sport to her studies at AISTS, and aspires to work at the management level after she graduates. As a former athlete who can understand athletes conditions, she hopes to help improve sport and the Olympic Movement.  

We spent some time speaking with Elisa about her career as an athlete and her upcoming year here at AISTS:

Elisa at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Can you share your background on how you became an athlete?

Step by step, my career has developed from children’s sport towards top sport. At the age of 4, I started artistic gymnastics in a club in my hometown Lustenau, Austria. In Austria, we have a decentralised artistic gymnastics performance sports system, which is why I trained most of the time in the regional performance centre, which is part of the Olympic Center of the Vorarlberg region. 

After I graduated from the sport gymnasium, I moved 180km away from home, to Innsbruck, to be able to combine my studies of economics and sports. To guarantee top athletes financial security and support, Austria is pursuing a support model together with the Austrian Armed Forces, of which I have also been a part since 2017 as a sports soldier. 

In April 2019, I decided to move my main training location to the Netherlands because I saw opportunities to take my gymnastics to a new level. This decision absolutely paid off as 5 months later, I was able to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, as did my two training colleagues, one representing the Netherlands and the other representing Egypt at the Games.  

What attracted you to study for Masters at the AISTS?

With the essence of my experience as an elite athlete enriched by my Bachelor’s degree in Economics, I believe that the tailored AISTS Master’s program with its multidisciplinary approach is an ideal springboard for my next career step. The Master’s program will also allow me to pursue my professional career at the highest level of the sports scene and thus consistently achieve my goals.

Throughout my career, the magic of the Games, the Olympic idea, has ensured that I can push my limits and grow beyond myself. Therefore, I could not imagine a more perfect place and university for a Master’s program than the AISTS, located in Lausanne’s Olympic capital.

Through the Athlete Scholarship, AISTS plays an important part in supporting athletes as they transition from their professional sports careers to their job careers.

What are you most looking forward to?

My classmates, the AISTS staff and alumni network are very diverse, not only in terms of home countries but also in terms of backgrounds and histories. I am very much looking forward to getting to know more of these different experiences and making use of them in the coming months.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge this year? 

On one hand, the program has a strict timetable filled with various courses and exams. On the other hand, the Master is completed by various practice-oriented projects. I see the challenge in particular in carrying out both parts with high quality and excellence and finding an ideal internship or job opportunities on the side.

Elisa Hammerle, Austrian Gymnast
Elisa at the AISTS headquarters

When did you first realise you wanted to work in the sports industry?

It is a special concern of mine to be able to be involved in decisions on how our life and sport should look like in the future. Throughout my 21-year gymnastics career I have not only gotten to know a wide variety of athletes from different sports, but I have also experienced that they are confronted with the similar federation and structural problems, among other things. Unfortunately, sometimes completely clueless and non-sports people in board positions or even in politics make decisions about the future of the sport regarding training facilities, competition calendars, material, and safety. I think this is often not intentional at all, but many things look different from the perspective of a desk in a sports association than they are in reality. At this point, I see a great opportunity for athletes who also have economic and management education to fill this gap of potential for improvement.  

Find out if you qualify for the next Athlete Scholarships.

Experience the world of sport in the Olympic Capital

Participants attend several full-day workshops throughout the programme to experience sport. These sessions are delivered by the sport organisations and federations themselves and provide a unique hands-on experience and well as an ideal opportunity to connect to our alumni and experts working in the industry.