A Swiss Guard is to swap his halberd for running shoes as he represents the Vatican at the upcoming Games of the Small States of Europe external link(GSSE).
The 23-year-old long distance runner, Thierry Roch from canton Fribourg, is part of the historic, highly trained unit of soldiers that protects the Pope. He's training hard for the GSSE competition, which starts on May 27 and runs until June 1.
The Vatican track team was launched in January 2019 after being recognised by the Italian Olympic Committee. About 60 Holy See runners – Swiss Guards, priests, nuns, pharmacists and even a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican’s Apostolic Library – are the first accredited members of Vatican Athletics. The Holy See wants to promote sport as an instrument of dialogue, peace and solidarity.
The Games of the Small States
GSSE is an Olympic, multi-sport competition featuring athletes from European countries with fewer than a million inhabitants, including Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, San Marino, Malta, Monaco, Cyprus and Montenegro. Since 1985, the GSSE games have been held every two years.
The GSSE games were founded in 1984, during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The initiative was supported by then-president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who saw it as a unique opportunity to spread the spirit and vision of the Olympic movement. More than a thousand contestants are expected at this year’s event in Budva - the first multi-sport competition to be held in Montenegro.