The Olympic Athlete: A Gold-Medal Writing Project
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The Olympics isn’t just a portrayal of athleticism at its best, it’s also a well-played drama where personalities clash, challenges are overcome, and the determination of the human spirit serves as an inspiration to all.
The best part is: These stories are real. The Olympic Games provides a great opportunity for your child to practice her writing and research skills.
If your little one is fascinated by the pure beauty of figure skating, she might be interested in a duo on the U.S. team, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They've been partnered together for thirteen years, and were just 0.4 points away from winning an Olympic medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Your child may be captivated by the story of runner Lopez Lomong, who was one of the 27,000 boys displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War, eventually moving to the United States as a refugee. He carried the American flag at the 2008 Opening Ceremonies, and ran the 1,500 meter race in his first international appearance.
Whichever athlete, team or event catches your child’s attention, encourage her to take on the role of a sports journalist! Here’s a guide to a fun writing project, Olympic-style:
Step 1 If your child has an interest in a particular sport, you may want to start your research there. The Official Web Site of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics has statistics for all of the athletes participating in the games, searchable by sport. The site includes photos, occupation, level of education, and the athlete’s results in the last Olympic cycle, among other information. Some key questions to ask are:
- Who is favored to win this event and why?
- In your opinion, which athlete in this event has overcome the greatest challenges to get to the Vancouver Olympics?
- Which team or athlete do you think best portrays the Olympic spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play?
Step 2 Once your child narrows down her field of interest, encourage her to choose one athlete to research. The information about the athletes on the official web site of the games is fairly limited to statistics. Luckily, many of these athletes have started their own websites, rich with information about where they grew up, what drew them to the sport, and what keeps them going. Your child should write down some basic biographical facts about each athlete that she comes across in her research, such as where and when the athlete was born, events from their childhood that may have lead to their academic success, and data about their past performance. It might be worth searching on YouTube for a video of former competitions that the particular athlete participated in. How does this compare to the athlete's current abilities? How has the athlete's performance developed? Ask your child to write the answers down in her notebook. Other questions to answer are:
- What are this athlete's greatest strengths and challenges during these Olympic Games?
- Who are his or her primary opponents, and do they have a strategy for staying cool under the pressure of competition?
- To whom or what do you think these athletes are dedicating their performance?