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Olympian connects with local students
US bobsledder Steve Mesler adopts classes at New Holland academy
Third-graders at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy wave Wednesday to U.S. Olympic bobsledder Steve Mesler during a video chat. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
Steve Mesler
Age: 31
Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.
Event: Four-man bobsled, which competes Feb. 26-27 in Vancouver
Career highlights: Placed seventh in the four-man at 2006 Games in Torino. Won gold in the four-man at 2009 World Championships.

Winter Olympics: Get the latest news and more information on the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

Even when speaking with an Olympic athlete vying for gold in the 2010 Winter Games, kids still say the darnedest things.

And the New Holland Core Knowledge Academy students who sat down Wednesday morning to chat live with Steve Mesler took full advantage of their opportunity to riddle the world champion bobsledder with questions on his sport, what he’ll do after the games and, yes, his love life, too.

“What did you do on Valentine’s Day?” asked third-grader Kayla Treadwell, drawing giggles from the nearly 20 students crowded around a projection screen in the school library.

“Unfortunately for me I don’t have a girlfriend, so I just hung out in the Olympic village,” said a laughing Mesler, who called via Skype.

A Buffalo, N.Y., native, Mesler is a two-time Olympic athlete set to make a run for the gold medal in bobsledding next week. As part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games Back to School Project, he picked 10 classes from the U.S. to follow his journey from training all the way to the finish line, including students from Michelle Lanz’s and Laura Wingo’s third-grade and ESL classes.

For the past two months, the children wrote good luck letters to Mesler and sent him video messages. Mesler responded in turn with autographed posters and personal messages of his own, Lanz said.

“He embodies the values and the goals that we strive to instill in children and in ourselves,” she said. “I think it’s very important for (the children) to relate to that and actually correspond with him.”

Due to a technical glitch with Mesler’s computer, he called about 20 minutes later than planned from the Olympic Village in Whistler, about two hours from Vancouver. Mesler said he would practice on the bobsled run for the first time Wednesday evening since arriving about six days before.

Mesler and the Team USA four-man Night Train team will compete Feb. 26-27.

The students waited patiently for his arrival, each clutching a miniature U.S. flag to wave and a hand-written question they took turns asking Mesler for about a half hour.

“How does it feel to go really fast and have you ever fallen out of the bobsled?” Hoffer Pachceo asked.

“When we go down the bobsled track tonight, we’re gonna go 95 miles per hour,” said Mesler. “It’s pretty amazing how fast we go. I have fallen out of a sled and it’s no fun.”

Students got an exclusive glimpse of the Olympic Village when Mesler turned his web cam on the ring of snow-capped mountains behind him and pointed out a large display of the Olympic rings.

“It’s so cool to get to talk to you guys,” he said. “All the videos you guys sent has been so much for myself and my team to watch.”
Rather than ask questions, a few simply told Mesler to go for gold.

“Keeping trying, never give up and go get that gold medal,” said Charisma Cheeks. “Don’t forget you’re always No. 1.”

On his chances for gold, Mesler seemed confident.

“I think we’re going to do very well,” he said. “It’s fun to win medals, but at the same time it’s so much fun to be here. It’s so much fun for us to get to compete and hang out with all these athletes from all over the world. That’s the neat part for us.”

When asked if he had plans to participate in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, he was less certain.

“Sometimes it’s really good just to enjoy what you’re doing and have fun in the middle of it all,” he said. “It’s taken us so long to get here and we’ve worked so hard to get this far. We don’t want to look too (far) past this. We just wanna be able to live it and have a lot of fun while we’re here.”