The former Irish League goalkeeper playing a key role in delivering this summer's Olympic Games

Yohann Lacroix in action for Ballymena United during a Premiership match against Ballinamallard United in January 2014. PIC: Darren Kidd/Presseye.comYohann Lacroix in action for Ballymena United during a Premiership match against Ballinamallard United in January 2014. PIC: Darren Kidd/
Yohann Lacroix in action for Ballymena United during a Premiership match against Ballinamallard United in January 2014. PIC: Darren Kidd/
A decade may have now passed since Yohann Lacroix last donned a pair of goalkeeper gloves in the Irish League with Crusaders, but the 39-year-old is still using skills developed from his previous career in a new venture with the International Olympic Committee.

Lacroix, born in France, progressed through the ranks at Lille before signing a professional contract in 2005 after making his debut in a UEFA Intertoto Cup clash against Dinamo Minsk the previous year.

Upon departing the French giants, Lacroix’s career brought him to Greece, Singapore and Northern Ireland, which is where his professional journey of another kind began, studying a Master’s in Sports Management at the Ulster University Business School.

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Fast forward nearly 10 years later and he’s now Senior Manager of Media Rights at the IOC, playing a key role in delivering the Tokyo Olympics for worldwide audiences through challenging circumstances and is looking forward to another Games this month – an event which will hold special significance given it’s being held less than 600km away from where Lacroix was born.

From the outside, it seems like a very different challenge than trying to keep Irish League strikers at bay, but Lacroix insists many of the skills have been transferable into the business arena.

"When you're playing football sometimes people think that's all you can do and I had a few comments throughout my career where people told me it would be difficult after you stop playing,” he said. “The motivation for me was to represent football players and show that we've qualities outside of the pitch.

"Not only can we transition into coaching, but we can use skills learnt on the pitch like dealing with pressure, leadership, communication, dealing with people and I've managed to translate that into the business environment. I'm far from the pitch now, but I'm using things I learned on it."

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Lacroix only spent two years in Northern Ireland, but that time had a significant impact on setting him up for the next chapter of his life and he returned last year to walk the familiar streets and visit some special places, including Seaview in North Belfast, where he made 28 appearances – starting with an Irish Cup victory over Linfield in January 2013.

"I will never forget my time in Northern Ireland,” he added. “It's where I got my Masters degree and my education that kickstarted my new career and path.

"I had a fantastic time both on and off the pitch in Northern Ireland meeting so many nice people and I'm still in touch with a lot of people from the sports business industry in Northern Ireland.

"I talk to Geoff Wilson, who was Commercial Director at the Irish FA, every six months and I was back in Belfast last year. I went back to Seaview and took some pictures, but nobody was there unfortunately. Northern Ireland and Belfast played a big part in helping me get to where I am today."

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There is no sporting event quite like the Olympics – more then 200 countries and territories broadcasted the Tokyo Games and reached a total global broadcast audience of more than three billion people across linear TV and digital platforms, a record which Lacroix played his part in delivering – with 17 days of exhilarating action set to get underway on July 26.

With the whole world – literally – watching, it helps Lacroix fill that pursuit of adrenaline that was once served by football.

"The pressure is why I chose this path after playing football,” he said. “I like the pressure and excitement and there's no bigger event than the Olympic Games so it's an honour to be able to work on it.

"It's also a big responsibility because our programme with the media rights holders has a significant impact on the financing of the Olympic Movement (ie $4.6 billion per cycle) so it's a lot of pressure to handle, but it's fun.

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"I joined the IOC ahead of the Tokyo Games during Covid so I'm looking forward to enjoying the Games under normal circumstances with fans.”

Lacroix can still vividly recall one lesson at the Ulster Business School in which the lecturer asked: ‘Where would you like to be in 10 years?’.

His answer? “I want to be an influential person in sports media rights”. Mission accomplished.

"It was very clear for me what I wanted to do next,” he adds. “I'm on the path where I wanted to be when sitting at the Ulster Business School.

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"It will be satisfying after the closing ceremony and everything has gone well! I'm excited but also still focused to make sure we deliver a high-level Games.

"I'm not at the satisfaction stage yet but I'm sure I will be when the Games are over. I'm passionate about what I do and I feel very privileged to be in this position."

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