Olympics Leave Kids With Gold Medal Aspirations

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are inspiring Vermont children to get more excited about athletics.

For the Greater Burlington YMCA, the attention on swimming during the 2016 Games seems to have reminded parents to sign up their kids for swim lessons, the non-profit said.

"The excitement is out there," said Jaime Held, the Y's aquatic director. "The Olympics have been a great segue for us to be able to build on our membership and on our programming."

Gold medal performances from Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky have also turned 7-year-old Marina Abdallah into a big fan. She was taking a swim lesson at the Y Wednesday.

"My dad told me about it, and I was like, 'seriously?'" Aballah said, indicating she initially didn't think she would enjoy the telecasts of the races. "Then I watched it and I was like, 'seriously, that's awesome."

In Burlington's Old North End, the Robin's Nest Children's Center is holding a kids' version of the Olympics this week and next week. Wednesday, the kids were competing in the discus throw and in short sprints.

Asked how much practice it would take her to one day become an Olympian, 4-year-old Stella Parent responded, "A lot!"

Robin's Nest has a wall with a gold medal tally, which the children use to practice their counting skills.

Outside, the kid-sized Olympic events stress sportsmanship.

"It's important, especially with our kindergarteners,” Kara Thomas of the Robin's Nest Children's Center said of encouraging good sportsmanlike conduct. “We get them to see other people win sometimes, and that's totally fine."

At Williston's Green Mountain Gymnastics, young athletes told necn they now have new role models on Team USA, namely Simone Biles and New England's own Aly Raisman.

"It kind of sets goals in your head of what you want to do later on, and it gives you someone to look up to," said Gianna Coryea, 11. "I wish them the best of luck in the Olympics."

The coaches at the training center said they are using national broadcasts of gymnastics routines for training opportunities.

"Even if it's the smallest mistake, keep going, battle back, rebound, and finish strong," said coach Ashley Neary, describing one lesson young gymnasts can take away from watching competitors in the Olympics.

The young people necn talked to said they were looking forward to watching the rest of the Olympics in Rio, which run until August 21.

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