BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Several Olympic gold medalists visited local schoolchildren last week and motivated them to pursue their dreams.
Allyson Felix and Aries Merritt appeared at Campbell Middle School in Daytona Beach and spoke with eighth-grade honor roll students on Nov. 30. Joanna Hayes, a 2004 gold medalist, also joined them.
The event was part of the USA Track and Field’s “Win with Integrity’’ program, which travels the nation speaking to youngsters in schools.
Enjoy giving back
The athletes also were in town for the USA Track and Field annual meeting, which took place at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2
“It’s really cool for us. We spend so much time on the track. We love to come and spend time with the community and give back. It’s a lot of fun and it’s important to us,” commented Felix.
Merritt agreed, “It’s always a pleasure to give back to the community and share my life experiences.”
Felix is a six-time Olympic medalist. She won three gold medals in the 2012 Olympics (200-meter dash, 4×100 relay, 4×400 relay) becoming the first American female to do so since 1988. Felix also won silver medals in 200-meter dash at the 2004 and 2004 Olympics.
Merritt set a world record in the 110-meter hurdles and took gold in the 2012 Olympics.
Hayes also won a gold in the 110-meter hurdles in 2004.
Felix and Merritt also reflected on their recent Olympic experiences.
“It was a dream come true for me. It was my third time, and I finally won gold. It finally worked out,” stated Felix.
Merritt mentioned,” It was a great experience. It started in the World Championships Indoor in Istanbul and it carried over to the Olympics. I beat the world record holder and Olympic champion. It was great – something I wanted to do and it was great to do it.”
On reaching youth
The athletes also are aware of the importance of reaching out and encouraging kids in the Black community.
“It’s very hard to be a Black male, but if you’re educated you prove a lot of people wrong like I did. You can achieve in life,” expressed Merritt.
Felix added, “It is important to show our kids that there is a different and correct route whether it is sports or academics. We have to give them a sense of belonging and a sense of respect at a young age.”
Although they were professional athletes, they stressed the importance of education.
“It’s very important to be dedicated in both. You need to have that degree. I was able to attain mine. I graduated from college. The classroom helps you with your skills in sports,” stressed Merritt.
Felix emphasized, “It’s important to get them at a young age and teach them about winning the right way and about integrity. We get them now they are more likely to go on the right path.”
The children even got to ask the athletes questions and touch a gold medal during the event. At the end, there was a brief autograph section.
“I enjoyed this experience today because it encouraged me to be the best that I can be,’’ said 13-year-old Keara Floyd.
Sananda Muhammad 14, agreed, “This is one of the best experiences of my life. I got to meet people who are overachievers.”