Term: Board Member since inception of board
Johann Koss first became involved with Right To Play (then known as Olympic Aid) in 1993 after visiting the African country of Eritrea. There, he was profoundly moved by the plight of the children, oppressed by drought, poverty and civil war. He made a promise to the children he encountered, that he would return and that somehow he would make a significant difference in their lives.
Being one of the greatest winter athletes of all time, the four-time Olympic Gold Medalist made international headlines when he won three Gold Medals at the 1994 Lillehammer Games in the 1,500-, 5,000- and 10,000-metre speed-skating events. Following his 1500m, he promptly donated the prize money to Olympic Aid and challenged his fellow citizens to donate 10 Norwegian krowns for each gold medal won by Norway.
Over the course of his career, Johann 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. Never forgetting his promise to the Eritrean children who set him on his social philinthropic path, Johann has since dedicated himself to growing Right To Play into an internationally recognized non-government organization (NGO) and a leader in Sport for Development.
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 asked to join 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 Reform Commission. 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 by the Carter Center in Atlanta and, 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, and an Honorary Doctorate from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Belgium. In January 2006, the World Economic Forum named Johann a Young Global Leader. In 2011, Johann received the Newman’s Own Award, which recognizes individuals who have used their professional achievement for significant philanthropic service and/or leadership. Most recently, he received Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year Special Citation award for social entrepreneurship. Johann sits on the board for two publicly traded companies – GNC and Gates & Tompkins Ltd. and lives in Toronto, Ontario with his wife Jennifer and their children, Aksel and Annabelle.
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