Team USA star athletes Justin Gatlin, Sanya Richards, Allen Johnson and Brenda Taylor on Thursday spoke to more than 300 students at Gregory Heights Middle School in Portland, Ore., inspiring them to "Be A Champion." The school visit was held in conjunction with USA Track & Field's 2004 Annual Meeting.
The entire Gregory Heights eighth-grade class, as well as selected sixth- and seventh-graders who had written essays explaining why they wanted to attend the school assembly were on hand for the event.
A partnership between USATF and the American College of Sports Medicine, Be A Champion brings elite track & field athletes and school-aged kids together to promote healthy lifestyles, keeping active, and living with integrity.
The trio talked about those topics as well as taking questions about the role that fitness and health have played in their lives. Questions from students included: "Give me some tips on how to get my body in shape. Is exercise a part of your everyday life?" "What is your definition of fair play?" and "What is your job? What do you do when you're not training or competing?"
Athletes spoke about how being fit and healthy is a "24-hour job." "You have to take care of yourself," said Taylor, an Olympic finalist in the women's 400m hurdles. "You have to keep your body fit, get your sleep and watch what you put in your body."
Gatlin, the Olympic men's 100m gold medalist, spoke about the people who had most inspired him in his life and athletic career - his parents. "They've taken care of me since, well, I was born," said the 22-year-old, who recently purchased a new home and a car for his parents. "They have done so much for me and helped me. Now I am able to take care of them, which is important."
The assembly concluded with the students standing to recite the Be A Champion Pledge:
I COMMIT to being physically fit,
and I will lead a HEALTHY lifestyle.
I will have a positive ATTITUDE,
and through strong MOTIVATION,
I will work hard and take PRIDE
in everything I say and do.
I will stay in school, because INTELLIGENCE is power,
and strive to OVERCOME the adversity I will face, and
I will be honest and drug-free, knowing cheaters NEVER win.
I am a Champion!
For more information on Be A Champion on the USATF Annual Meeting, visit www.usatf.org