A Former Olympian Inspires

A Former Olympian Inspires

By: Nikki Kupferman and Beccy Frederick

All of you sophomores, juniors, and seniors remember last year’s assembly on driver safety, right? The one in which we were told we’d die if we entered a moving vehicle? This year, many of us entered the auditorium expecting an equally blunt speech about fire safety, maybe a lesson on the “stop, drop, and roll” technique. Instead, we were surprised with a guest speaker on something far different: Dreams.

The speaker was Mr. Jeff Blatnick, Olympic gold medal winner of the 1984 wrestling competition. He talked to us about his struggles in sports and his drive to succeed, even after having a case of life-threatening cancer and the devastating death of his older brother. He spoke of how these painful experiences in life made him stronger. Some of our teachers and community members recall Blatnick’s triumph from memory. Mrs. Ostrander stated, “My whole family was watching him on TV and it was exciting because we all knew who he was.” She went to his school, Niskayuna High, where the majority had known Blatnick. For them, his gold-medal win had been particularly thrilling and there were few who hadn’t paid notice.

But they were not the only ones affected. Blatnick’s victory was important to his teammates, his country, and, most importantly, himself. He accomplished a dream with overwhelming willpower and mental strength that he hoped to encourage in us in his speech and is a living example of the power of determination who continues to make an influence long after retirement. He uses his influence now as he talks to students about achieving their goals and perusing his dreams. He gave us the story of his life through easy anecdotes that all of us could relate to. Even the most depressing story came out with positive views.

One of the more memorable (and entertaining!) moments was when Mr. Blatnick was showing us how scary it could be to take chances. He asked a student to join him in the front of the auditorium for a demonstration. Treyson Cross (a brave soul) was the lucky volunteer. He stood there and listened to Mr. Blatnick threaten to “pin” him. Much to our and Treyson’s relief he meant “pin” by using an actual pin. So we all walked away knowing that a situation is not always as it seems and Treyson got a pin from someone famous.

Every student should have gotten something out of this assembly even if it wasn’t a recap on how to escape a burning building. We should all have been inspired to work for our goals and never to give up.

So, has he motivated you?