- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Eboni Nibblett's mother told her not to get too "hyped up" when she went to school yesterday.
The 17-year-old senior at Dunbar Senior High School loves playing basketball and was hoping to meet some Olympic athletes who were visiting her school.
"I've been playing ball since I was little, but my mom was, like, 'You need to focus on school right now,'" said Miss Nibblett.
Nevertheless, her cheers were among the loudest yesterday as she and fellow athletes at the "school of the champions" welcomed three Olympic and Paralympic athletes including Vonetta Flowers, the first black American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
The athletes, all members of the 2002 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams, were at Dunbar in Northwest and seven other area schools yesterday as part of the Champions in Life program organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The 20-year-old program gives athletes a chance to "talk to students about perseverance, and the importance of having dreams and goals," said spokeswoman Cheryl Herbert.
Mrs. Flowers and two other athletes, Jeremy Teela, who was on the U.S. skiing team in Salt Lake City, and Hannah Pennington, who participated in the slalom and Super-G skiing events at the Paralympics, were among those who visited Dunbar.
Students plied the athletes with questions and begged them for autographs. "What gave you the strength to overcome your disability?" one student asked Ms. Pennington. "Did you ever know you would enter the list of the greatest African-American women?" another asked Mrs. Flowers.
The athletes shared their own stories of perseverance and hard work with the children. "I trained every day for eight years to be the best in the world, and I will train for four more to win a medal at the next Olympics," said Mr. Teela, who did not win a medal at this year's Salt Lake City games.
"We all have adversities that we have to overcome mine are on the outside. You have to set your goals, and you have to set them high," said Ms. Pennington, who was born with cerebral palsy.
Later, she said overcoming adversity had been the biggest factor for her and her team at the Paralympics. "But it is something you have to learn to overcome at a personal level. You do what you have to do," she said.
Mrs. Flowers, who was a big hit with the gleaming gold medal around her neck, said she hopes the children learn that they can achieve anything they want to. "I hope I encouraged someone today even one person," she said.
After the event, students clamored around her to have their pictures taken. Dunbar Principal Judith C. Richardson said it was inspiring for the school's athletes to meet other, successful ones. "It gives them a chance to learn about overcoming family situations and handicaps," she said.
Students were inspired all right. "If they can do it, I can too," said Monica Stoddard, a senior who plays football.
"The athletes should be very proud of themselves, particularly Mrs. Flowers and Miss Pennington," said Miss Nibblett. "To be female and to accomplish what they have is very inspiring to the rest of us."

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