Stina Funke never intended to become an athlete representative. But what started out as a summer job assisting agent Daniel Wessfeldt is now her career.
“I started doing some work there by checking the fax machine,” explains the Swede, a former national-level long and triple jumper. “This was before the computer era.
“I never really planned to stay for this long, but I started to work more and more,” she adds. “And because I’m so interested in athletics, it was very interesting to see how everything worked.”
Fast forward several years and Funke is now an established agent with clients of her own. Most of her athletes are from Sweden but she also has some from Qatar, Norway and Great Britain. As is protocol, the national federation of each athlete she represents needs to approve her and give her a license to work as an agent.
Aside from the day-to-day admin work, there are also many practical responsibilities an agent has to undertake.
“There could also be a prize ceremony or a doping control where it could be nice to follow the athletes so they don’t have to be alone,” she explains. “It could be a press conference and some journalists will call me when they’re not on site.”
Funke was speaking at the recent IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018, where several of her athletes were competing. Her day had started by going to a hotel to pick up shoes for two of her clients because their sponsor wanted them to wear those on the podium if they won a medal.
The job also requires many meetings with various competition organisers. During her time in Birmingham, Funke met with the organisers of the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Doha and Shanghai to sort out as much as possible ahead of the events there.
“That’s one of our main tasks – the events,” she says. “It’s up to us to get the clients to the events they want to go to because they are not doing the registration themselves. In some cases it’s easy, but if an athlete is ranked in the top 15 and there are only eight participants, it could be more difficult and it could require a lot of contact. You need to have a good relationship with all the organisers.”
Together with her colleague, Funke has decided to not work with too many clients because that could harm her job. She has also taken a different approach to working as an agent compared to others.
“We’re not at youth championships, trying to get in touch with new promising athletes,” she says. “I’m pretty lucky because most of the athletes get in touch with me, not the other way around.”
Most years Funke will travel for about 50-60 days to attend different events around the world. She looks back fondly on her experience of going to the 2012 Olympics in London, but after a while all the travelling becomes part of her normal routine.
“It’s fun, but it’s also a job,” she says. “If the event is on a Thursday, I usually travel on Wednesday and then go back home on Friday, so I get to see the hotel and the stadium and sometimes more than that. It’s not as glamorous as people tend to think.”
There’s one future event, though, that she is really looking forward to: the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I’ve never been to Japan before,” she says. “I have kids at home, which is the main reason I didn’t go to Rio. But the Olympics are very special and I’m definitely going to Tokyo.”
Karl Sundström (AIPS young reporters) for the IAAF