World-class skiers go back to school
Last Friday will likely be one of the most memorable days for the 650 students at Truckee Elementary, as five of Tahoe’s finest skiers offered advice on achieving goals, staying calm and sticking 40-foot jumps.”If there is one day everyone is going to remember about school, it is going to be today,” said Mike Pyle, a PE coach at the school.On Friday, Candace Cable, Kristin Krone-Vallant, Tamara McKinney, Jeff Hamilton, and Shane McConkey hit the gym of Truckee Elementary to share stories with some of their wide-eyed, 7-12 year-old neighbors. Each skier presented a short film and followed with some inspirational remarks for the children. For many, that meant a highlight reel and a subsequent talk about working hard to achieve dreams, adding in a touch of the local to make it all that more salient for the students. “If there’s something you really like to do, you see us up here,” said Olympic medal winner McKinney, “and we’re not that different from you. Follow your dreams, whatever they may be.”Cable, a para-Olympian cross-country skier, deviated from the other speakers and showed clips that presented the range of adaptive sports – from wheelchair basketball to wheelchair freestyling. Her video drew some of the loudest applause of the whole assembly. Cable, who broke her back in a car accident when she was still in high school, said, “It doesn’t matter what happens, you always have options…If you’re having fun, that’s successful.”Krone-Vallant, a Truckee Elementary alumna, also used her time on stage differently. Instead of focusing on achieving goals, she talked about keeping cool in pressure situations. The video she showed focused on her crashes, specifically her fall at the 1992 Olympics. She talked to the students about how that was a much more satisfying experience than her nerve-addled performance in 1988.”Race day, I decided that I’m getting everything I have to get,” she said, “but I tell you what, I was so happy that I tried my best. It felt a lot better than letting my nerves get to me.”Students and teachers alike raved about the event.”Even as a teacher, I remember the last time we brought Olympic athletes to school 10 years ago,” said fifth-grade teacher Nancy Schaeffer.”It’s definitely a day I’m going to remember,” said fifth-grader Connor Marshall. “Even though I’ve met two or three of them, it was great seeing the kids get autographs.”The skiers also enjoyed the experience. “I wished they would have asked me a long time ago to do this. I loved growing up here and it’s great coming home,” Krone-Vallant said.The event was organized by Margie Englert and Pyle.”This is a great way to honor our area athletes, and impress on the children how these people grew up in Tahoe-Truckee and reached the pinnacle in their sports,” Pyle said. Of the five skiers, four were Olympians or para-Olympian, and McConkey is an X-Games champion.Pyle also said that a curriculum was put together to accompany the event. In computer classes, students studied where the athletes came from and in gym classes students watched videos of the skiers and did various activities to simulate the experience of the sport. After the assembly ended, students burst from their single-file lines to get autographs from the stars. The skiers took that time to show off some of the goods from their sports. Students got to check out a few of McKinney’s Olympic medals and the 8-foot skis that Jeff Hamilton used to hit 151 mph. They also got a kick out of trying on Hamilton’s space-like speedskiing helmet.