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Olympics take over Valencia Valley Elementary

School’s event featured a pep talk from former 1992 Olympian Chris Waller of Valencia

Posted: June 3, 2008 2:48 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Even though the official Summer Olympics will be held thousands of miles away in Beijing, China, the kids of Valencia Valley Elementary School got into the Olympic spirit by hosting their own ceremonies on Thursday.

The all-day celebration, which brought together roughly 500 of the school's students, was complete with opening and closing ceremonies, kid-friendly sports competitions, academic challenges and even a pep talk from a former Olympian.

During the opening ceremony, the 12 teams of students representing countries all over the world gathered to watch their classmates perform, listen to school leaders and officials speak and, of course, take the Olympic Oath.

Chris Waller, a Valencia Valley parent and 1992 Olympian, pumped the hundreds of youngsters sitting with their legs crossed on the black top.

"All of you can be winners," Willer, who has a background in gymnastics and coaching, told the students.
He explained the key traits to being a winner, which include trying, believing in yourself and being a good sportsman.

"I remember walking out to the Olympics and feeling an incredible sense of pride," said Waller, who also led the team captains in taking the Olympic Oath.

He noted that he was proud to be able to represent his country and teammates during the competition.
But Waller recalled not only being pleased for himself during the 1992 Olympics, but also feeling inspired to do something for the countries and teammates showcasing their skills, he said.

The opening ceremonies also included an official Olympic Torch (hand-made and topped off with flames made from red, yellow and orange tissue paper) entertainment by various classrooms like the the kindergarteners and first graders, who "lettercized" by running in place and jump roping while sounding out the letters of the alphabelt.

With the opening ceremonies over, the games officially began as the children spread all over campus to start their day of events.

Judi Hayward, sixth grade teacher and coordinator of the Olympics, said the event was the culmination of competitions that began in January. Historically, the school has tried to hold its own Olympics every four years to coincide with the international festivities.

Along with Friday's games, students also took part in individual academic events the day before. After all the competitions, the teams and individuals were awarded their medals during Monday's closing ceremonies.

Hayward, who will be retiring this year after 44 years of teaching, said the Olympics give students a chance to understand team work while learning about foreign countries.

As for the primary goal, she said, "We wanted them to watch the Olympics."

Inbetween games on Friday, students participated in everything from doing situps and soccer to volleyball and handball. Hayward said the students were given the opportunity to choose the sports they wanted to particiapte in.

Sixth grader Himani Sharma was representing Australia during the competition.

While she was gearing up to participate in the sprints and jump rope competition, she was looking forward to conquering at the spelling bee.

"I practiced last night for an hour," said the 11-year-old.

Twelve-year-old Kevin Moore was sporting a pink shirt for team France.

As team captain, Moore said the experience was "ego-boosting" and said it was fun to be able to encourage his teammates.

Annie Forbes, 11, was decked in a green shirt to represent Egypt. The sixth-grader was getting ready to compete in the 100-meter dash, 50-meter dash, situps and jumprope competition.

She was excited to do the situps, especially as she set a goal to reach 100 after doing 72 situps for her sixth grade exercise test.

"It's fun," she said. "I like sports."


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