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Sliding into the Olympic spirit
Students dream of Sochi as Winter Games set to begin
Fair Street School third-graders Nathalie Gonzalez, right, and Cynthia Aguilar, both 8, participate Friday afternoon in a game of hockey inside the school’s gymnasium as students get fired up for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Students at the school have also entered a video into a competition for a chance to meet Erin Hamlin who is competing in the luge event.

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Jonquavies Drinkard knows what’s most important in winning.

“Today we’re playing hockey,” the 9-year-old said. “We gotta cooperate to win this game.”

Drinkard, along with his fellow students at Fair Street School, are practicing in anticipation of the Winter Olympics, beginning Friday in Sochi, Russia. Leading up to the event, they’re participating in all sorts of activities, like painting with ice and learning the Olympic theme song.

The school participates in a program called Classroom Champions, which pairs classrooms with Olympic athletes to receive motivational and inspirational messages.

One of the mentors, Erin Hamlin, will compete in the luge event in Sochi; the sport consists of either one or two people getting into a sled and speeding down a course.

“We just want to inform the kids, get them interested and get them excited,” gym teacher Natalie McGarvey said. “I’ve done the luge with them. I’ve let them get on scooters and push each other around.”

The students are participating in a competition to bring Hamlin to the school, submitting a video entry this week that shows the students cheering her on and featuring Principal Will Campbell singing a song he composed, titled “One Gainesville.”

“We also received a package from her,” teacher Michelle Daily said. “She sent us an autographed racing bib, a sports card and an autographed copy of the book ‘Lucy tries Luge.’”

Second-grade students also got to chat with Hamlin via Google Hangout, getting the opportunity to hear about her Olympic experiences.

Along with hockey and luge, physical education students have participated in curling and the torch relay, among other events.

Arianis Gaona said she loved practicing ice skating, which she got to try by wrapping scarves around her feet and “skating” on the gym floor.

“I kept spinning around because I saw how (the figure skaters) kept spinning around,” she said, laughing. “I kept falling.”

Both Arianis and Jonquavies plan to watch the Olympics in February; Jonquavies said he was only 5 when the last Winter Olympics aired so he can’t wait for it to come on TV.

McGarvey said the Olympic activities also work with Fair Street’s theme of being an International Baccalaureate school, with lessons emphasizing global awareness.

“The students love it,” McGarvey said. “I’m showing short highlight clips of each event every day when they come in. They’re having so much fun with it.”