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Olympians Mirela Rahneva, Steve Mesler visit local schools with Classroom Champions

When skeleton athlete and 2018 Canadian Olympian Mirela Rahneva woke up at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, she couldn’t wait to jump on a plane to Fort St. John and spend a couple days visiting students she’s worked all year with through Classroom Champions.

When skeleton athlete and 2018 Canadian Olympian Mirela Rahneva woke up at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, she couldn’t wait to jump on a plane to Fort St. John and spend a couple days visiting students she’s worked all year with through Classroom Champions. The day didn’t disappoint, and Rahneva was still bursting with energy after an afternoon of visiting classrooms.

“It’s been so amazing. You’d think I’d be tired but I’m not, and it’s been an incredible day from the moment I landed,” said Rahneva.

Rahneva, who goes by Mimi, is finishing her second year with Classroom Champions, and first with Fort St. John schools. She kept in touch all year with students and classes from Alwin Holland Elementary, Bert Ambrose Elementary, and Hudson’s Hope Elementary, teaching them lessons she learned through her athletic career and inspiring them to chase their dreams.

“It’s our job to inspire and bring in ideas, but it’s turned around and I’ve been just as inspired. I really love their creativity and involvement,” said Rahneva.

On Thursday, April 4, Rahneva visited Mrs. Hedges Grade 2/3 class and Mrs. Turner-London’s Grade 5/6 class at Alwin Holland, to finally meet the students in person, show them medals she’s won, and sign her autograph.

Rahneva brought two of her medals to show the class, a gold that she won in Calgary, and one she won in Whistler at the World Championships through the team event. Though she didn’t do her best, her team still won, and Rahneva used that as an example of the importance of working as a team.

“One of my biggest goals was to win a world championship medal, and though I didn’t do the best, I still won a medal with my team. It’s OK to know that I didn’t have my best day but we still earned it as a team,” Rahneva said.

She asked the students what their favourite lessons of the year were, and received answers of learning to not give up, how to set goals, how to be a leader, and teamwork.

Rahneva was also joined by Steve Mesler, who won Olympic gold in bobsled at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Mesler, along with his sister, were the athletes who started Classroom Champions, and have been along to see the program become what it is today.

“Originally, we just wanted to find a way to make a more lasting impact than just going to one classroom for a day,” Mesler said.

Today, Classroom Champions works with more than 150 schools in the U.S.A. and Canada and more than 10,000 students a year. Mesler is the President and CEO, and his main responsibilities are to help connect certain athletes with the program.

Both Mesler and Rahneva are only able to visit schools once or twice a year, which makes the experience even more special.

“We only do this once a year, and it makes the whole year worth it,” said Rahneva.

Mesler agreed.

“As soon as we walk into schools and the kids see Mimi’s face, they are so happy, and it’s been great to meet so many friendly and welcoming people today,” Mesler said.

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca