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Olympic athletes relate dreams to youngsters

Published September 10, 2010 1:30 pm

Athletes • Olympic torch dances before children's eyes at Boys & Girls Clubs.
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She came from a family without a lot of money.

He didn't start pursuing his sport until his 40s.



But that didn't stop moguls skier Jillian Vogtli or skeleton racer Steve Jackson from pursuing their dreams of becoming Olympic athletes, they told a group of students Thursday at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake's Lied Club.

The two were among four athletes who visited the club Thursday to inspire children to pursue their dreams in honor of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. The athletes, including two Olympians, are part of Athletes for Hope, a national group that encourages members to give back to their communities.

"I think, for us as athletes, representing the nation is a great feeling, and I think, in some ways, we all realize the small part we can play in inspiring and helping others," said Jeremy Holm, a Utah native and professional bobsledder. "We think of the heroes from 9/11 — firefighters, police officers, service workers — we think of those heroes and the inspiration they gave to all of us, and I think, as athletes, we just do our best to give back."

Vogtli and biathlete Bill Spencer told the group of about 30 children in the club's after-school program all about the Olympics. Spencer, a two-time Olympic athlete, talked about the difficulty of skiing fast and shooting straight in the biathlon. Vogtli told students about her dream and the hard work it took to get there.

She said she decided to become an Olympic athlete when she was 11 years old after reading a book about it that her mom bought for her. Her family didn't have a lot of money, but she was determined.

"I just had this great big dream," Vogtli said. "I didn't know if I could do it, and I didn't know how I would."

But with time, practice and persistence, she made it to the Olympics — twice.

"It's one thing to say you want to do it," Vogtli said. "It's a whole other thing to do it."

Jackson hasn't yet made it to the Olympics, but if he has his way, he will be shooting down a frozen track, headfirst, in 3 1/2 years. Though Jackson just started training this year, he said he is determined to make his dream come true, despite his age.

"I'm a little older than most athletes, but that doesn't matter because I have a dream," the Murray resident told the children.

Though the students asked a lot of questions about crashes and injuries, many said they felt inspired while listening to the athletes.

"They do a lot of effort, and it's hard for them," said Michael Galvan, 10. "They went for their dreams."

Zoe Canham, 10, said the sports look fun.

"It's cool these people have really been in the Olympics," Zoe said. "I'd want to try skeleton."

"I wouldn't!" Maria Beteran, 11, interjected, noting the danger.

Julie Trujillo, the club's director, said it meant a lot for the children, who pay $10 a year for the after-school program, to meet real athletes who achieved real goals.

"I think it's important for our kids to know there are other people who have come from hard situations, and they've been able to find avenues and follow a dream," Trujillo said.

lschencker@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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