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Hometown Olympian Shares Her Triumph

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Hometown Olympian shares her triumph

Eberwhite, Pioneer graduate Gregorka returns to inspire kids


The Ann Arbor News

When hometown water polo Olympian Alison Gregorka held up the swimsuit she wore in Beijing before a crowd of Eberwhite Elementary School students Friday, they gasped.

The students weren’t transfixed on the garment’s special zippered back or its durable material - they were focused on three little block letters on the suit’s front.

“USA!” a few shouted with a mixture of pride and awe.

Gregorka, who spoke to her former Ann Arbor school about her Olympic experience, grinned and nodded.

“One of the best things about being on the (Olympic) team is that you’re all working toward a common goal,” she told the students. “Kind of like your classrooms are a team, and you’re all working together.”

One of 13 members of the silver medal team, Gregorka tied her experiences in water polo to her past as an Ann Arbor native who graduated from Pioneer High School and swam in the Huron Valley Swim Club.

The assembly at Eberwhite was the first of several talks Gregorka will give at local schools before she returns to Stanford University in California for another year. She plans to become an elementary teacher.

“It’s so great to be able to come back to a city that’s so supportive,” Gregorka, 23, said after the assembly. “This is the place where it all started for me. ... I want to hopefully connect with some Ann Arbor kids and let them know that they can do anything.”

Gregorka told the students that hard work at the elementary level helped her get into a good university and prepared her for the Olympic team’s grueling practices.

Gregorka showed students photos from Beijing and answered their questions.

“Did you meet Michael Phelps?” one boy shouted.

“I haven’t actually met him,” said Gregorka, who counted several basketball stars and Olympic volleyball duo Misty May-Traenor and Kerri Walsh among those she did meet. “But... after the Olympics, Oprah (Winfrey) invited us on her show” along with other American medalists.

Cue the gasps.

After the assembly, Gregorka was mobbed by students who gave her high-fives, examined her medal and begged for her autograph.

Superintendent Todd Roberts called Gregorka’s poise and professionalism a shining example for the district’s students.

And before Roberts left the gymnasium, he turned to the crowd and asked, “Is anyone else going to follow Alison’s example and become an Olympic polo player?”

Nearly every hand in the room shot up.

Looking out over the crowd, Gregorka again grinned.

Reporter Amanda Hamon can be reached at 734-994-6852 or ahamon@annarbornews. com.

Alison Gregorka shows the silver medal she won as part of the U.S. women's water polo team at the Beijing Olympics to students at Eberwhite Elementary School on Friday. Gregorka was a student at the school.

Presley Koepp, right, claps along with classmates Mateo Wakeman, center, and Amelia Holl as they listen to Gregorka talk about winning a silver medal at the Olympic water polo games.