The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Olympic medalist encourages Jacksonwald students to ‘be your best self'


By ethiel@berksmontnews.com">Emily Thiel, News editorethiel@berksmontnews.com

Friday, April 19, 2013

Allison Baver may have won the bronze Olympic medal in the 3000-meter relay speed skating event at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, but even for her, life isn’t just about skating through. The Olympian spoke to the students of Jacksonwald Elementary School, 100 Church Lane Road, Reading, about being your best self, a champion, role model and leader.
The bronze-medalist spoke to the elementary students about her experiences speed skating and why it is so important to live a positive, healthy and drug-free lifestyle.
A graduate of Wilson High School, Baver told the kids she was always active during school and participated in soccer, cheerleading and kept up with getting good grades.
She started inline skating before making her transition to ice as a junior in high school. It wasn’t until she was a junior at Penn State University when she started to train for the Olympics. In 2002, she qualified for her first Olympic games. Baver has competed in the Olympics three times in the speed skating event where she said she skates on a 1.1mm thick blade at 40 m.p.h.
After her injury of a broken leg, Baver said she had to ask herself how bad did she really want to compete? She told the students of Jacksonwald how she had to “eat healthy, stretch longer than ever and practice really, really hard.” Vegetables and fruits help muscles work better, help to breathe better and assists with clear thinking, were some of the benefits of healthy eating Baver mentioned.
Baver focused the discussions with the students on eating healthy and staying off drugs and away from alcohol.
In high school, Baver threw out a pack of cigarettes her friend was smoking. “I don’t want to see you die,” she told her friend. Baver’s own grandmother passed away from lung cancer because she smoked and this is what inspired Baver to steer clear of cigarettes and other drugs. Baver said her friend now thanks her for making that bold year back when they were teenagers. “I started a foundation that helps to get kids more active and bring inline skates to their gym classes,” she said. Baver shared her college experiences of parties where she and her friends wouldn’t participate in drinking. “My friends followed me as a leader,” she said, “You have to stay true to your values.” Baver mentioned dangerous types of drugs, such as tobacco. “As an athlete, you can’t smoke cigarettes,” she said, “You want to be able to breathe.”
Baver promoted a healthy and safe lifestyle to the children and posed how they should react if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. “You can’t be scared to say no,” the Olympian said, as she encouraged the elementary students to walk away and tell their parents if anyone offers them drugs.
“Some athletes feel they have to cheat to win,” she explained about performance enhancing drugs. Baver trains for the Olympics without taking illegal supplements. She wakes up at 5 a.m., eats breakfast, skates for two hours, recovers in an ice bath, gets a massage, eats lunch and then repeats. April 22 is when she will start to train for the next Olympics.
As an Olympian medalist, Baver sees that she is a role model and leader and strives to be her best and healthy self. “My parents have been a huge influence on me,” she said, Baver answered questions the students had and let them take photos with her bronze medal.
When asked if speed skating is fun, Baver replied “I love speed skating, if you like to go fast, then yes, it’s fun.”