Darling of the ice Peggy Fleming made a visit to her childhood stomping grounds Monday morning at Oakwood Country School in Morgan Hill, kicking off the opening ceremonies of the school’s annual Olympic Game Days.
Pointing to the hills behind the school, Fleming explained she lived on 10 acres in the Uvas area as a young child. She later moved to Walnut Creek, where she was introduced to skating by her father when she was 9.
Penny Ciraulo, Oakwood’s physical education director, greeted Fleming breathless with excitement and admiration. Oakwood mom Debbie Creer, co-chair of the event, coordinated placement of flags and an Olympic spirit motif in the school gym in anticipation of the honorable guest speaker. Students, teachers and parents marched into the gym in a parade of colors representing various countries, some in the traditional dress of their assigned homeland.
After the lighting of the tiki torch, Fleming ascended the stairs to the podium and shared a brief video clip of her life in synopsis. The students began to realize why their parents were excited to see and hear this beautiful lady after hearing Fleming had won an Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1968, the only gold medal the United States brought home from Grenoble.
Consistency and hard work are two traits I admire most in others, traits I think set an individual apart from the inconsistent masses (of which I have membership). To be an athlete of Olympic status, consistency and hard work are woven into the fabric of the athlete’s every sinew.
“When the cameras are on and the pressure to perform in front of thousands of spectators is real, thank goodness for muscle memory and all those hours of practice,” Fleming said.
Three Oakwood students in the audience who could relate to the story of dedication to a sport included Elliot Picone, a young figure skater; tennis player Samantha Polayes, who ranks No. 1 in the Northern California division for 12-year-olds and No. 105 nationally; and gymnast Jennifer Donn, who sees the rings of the Olympiad as an attainable goal. Donn recently competed at the Western Regionals, held in southern California, and found the visit by Fleming “really cool. I look up to her because she is a famous athlete, and I want to be a famous athlete someday. I really like that she leads a normal life and she does things to help charities.”
Fleming encouraged the students to try many things and discover their gifts, then work at developing them. During the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, a student asked Fleming what she liked best about skating. Fleming remarked she had to admit she liked the beautiful costumes and misses the Vera Wang costumes she began to wear at the end of her skating career. Fleming went on to explain that Vera Wang had been a fellow competitor in the ’68 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Even the fashion mavens in the audience learned something.
“When you jump, how do you land on your feet?” asked another astute student.
Fleming laughed and answered, “Practice!” Then she added, “You start with small jumps, perfect those, then move on to bigger and bigger jumps.”
The wall of the Oakwood gym included a quote from Fleming that read, “A sport can grant you strength, a sport can inspire your spirit, and sometimes if you’re lucky, it can do both.” On with the games!
Ciao for now.