Johann Olav Koss
Johann Koss is one of the greatest winter athletes of all time. The four-time Olympic Gold Medalist in speed skating made world headlines when he won three Gold Medals at the 1994 Lillehammer Games in the 1,500-, 5,000- and 10,000-metre events. Over the course of his career, he broke a total of 10 world records, won three World All-round Championships, and won numerous World Cups and National Championships.
Johann’s achievements on the ice have since been eclipsed by his efforts on behalf of Right To Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play as a tool for development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Johann first became involved with Right To Play (then known as Olympic Aid) in 1993 when he visited the African country of Eritrea. He was profoundly moved by the plight of the children. At Lillehammer, Johann donated the prize money from his 1500m victory to Olympic Aid and challenged other athletes to do the same.
Since Lillehammer, Johann has dedicated himself to growing Right To Play into an internationally recognized non-government organization (NGO) and a leader in Sport for Development. Sport for Development uses sport and play to enhance the healthy physical and psycho-social development of children and build stronger communities. Today, Right To Play develops and implements child and community development programs in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, working with the UN and other agencies, including UNICEF, UNHCR, GAVI and WHO.
Outside his role as President and CEO of Right To Play, Johann is active in a number of sport and Olympic causes. In 1997, Johann was appointed Chairman of the Norwegian Government Forum against Drugs and Doping. He is also on the board of an organization called “MOT” (Courage) that mobilizes Norwegian athletes in the fight against drugs and doping. He was a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athlete’s Commission from 1998 to 2002 and was on the Medical Commission and the executive board of the IOC 2000 Commission handling issues of reform. He also served as a founding board and executive board member of the World Anti-Doping Agency (2000 to 2002) where he initiated the Athlete anti-doping passport. In 1994, Johann was appointed Special Representative for Sport for UNICEF International.
The people of Norway awarded Johann the distinction of “Best Norwegian Olympian Ever” in 1994 and he received the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s highest award – The Fearnleys Honorary Award. Johann is also a recipient of numerous international awards including Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated, the Jesse Owens Award, the International Athletic Foundation Award in Los Angeles, and the Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award. Johann was given the Child Survival Award in 1996 by the Carter Center in Atlanta and, later that year during the celebration of UNICEF’s 50th anniversary, he was given UNICEF’s Honorary Award.
Johann was declared “One of 100 Future Leaders of Tomorrow” by TIME Magazine, and “One of 1,000 Global Leaders” by the World Economic Forum. Johann completed his undergraduate medical training at the University of Queensland, and completed his executive MBA at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. In June 2005, Johann received a Doctor of Laws Honorary Degree from Brock University, and in 2009 he received a second Doctor of Laws Honorary Degree from the University of Calgary. In January 2006, the World Economic Forum named Johann a Young Global Leader. Johann lives in Toronto, Ontario with his wife Jennifer and their son, Aksel.
Right To Play’s International Headquarters are in Toronto, Canada with National Offices in Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.