Laughter erupted from the small audience of about 12 Duanesburg Junior-Senior High School students Friday as they chatted with hometown Olympian Emma White in the school auditorium.
Seventh grader Noah Peterson asked White if she was home cycling around town last summer and fall.
“I’m pretty sure I tried to chase you up East Shore Road,” he said.
White laughed and asked if he cycled too. Yes, Peterson replied.
“You could be here next with a medal around your neck,” White said, while noticing they were both donning red, white and blue sneakers.
White won a bronze medal last year in track cycling at the Tokyo Olympics.
She returned to her alma mater, where for about a half hour she talked and answered questions from 7th and 8th grade athletes. A small group of about 12 students stayed after the conversation to see White’s medal up close and kept asking her questions about her experiences.
She talked about making it to the Olympics and described balancing sports and education. Finding the harmony between the two made her a much better athlete, she said.
She answered questions about her favorite places to visit. One is Scotland. She spoke about being in the Olympics. She unfortunately couldn’t participate in opening or closing ceremonies because of COVID protocols, but got all the gear the other Olympians did.
She also hit on training and what it was like to cycle as a video of a past race against Britain played on the projection screen in the background.
Any questions the kids had she answered.
“She’s like my lord and savior,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he is thinking about getting into the sport competitively. Right now he plays soccer in the fall, bowls in the winter and was thinking about running track in the spring.
Hearing White talk about balancing school and sports was helpful, as he’s struggling a bit with that now.
Peterson said he hopes to be an Olympian one day.
Sitting next to Peterson was 7th grader Shaye Norman-Paniccia, who was awestruck by White.
“I’m really in shock,” she said.
Norman-Paniccia, 12, plays for the school’s softball team. Hearing White talk Friday was inspiring.
“Her being here makes me want to work harder to get to the Olympics,” she said.
Girls basketball player and senior Madison Meyer also said White has motivated her.
“She is a powerful woman,” Meyer said, adding that White’s accomplishment proves women can do anything. “We can get the exposure and everything we want.”
She also loved following White’s journey as she pushed through the COVID pandemic to make it to the Olympics.
“It helped me persevere through COVID,” she said.
Before leaving, the students got an opportunity to take photos with White.
Norma-Paniccia teared up as she stood next to White for a photo.
White said seeing how much the students were interested and emotional over her visit was amazing.
“That means the world to me,” she said.
Officially retiring from competing again in the Olympics, White said she now rides just for fun.
“I hope to see you on East Shore Road sometime,” she said to Peterson as he exited the auditorium.