Olympic Athletes Inspire Dunbar.(METROPOLITAN)

Article excerpt

Byline: Vaishali Honawar, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Eboni Nibblett's mother told her not to get too "hyped up" when she went to school yesterday.

The 17-year-old senior at Dunbar Senior High School loves playing basketball and was hoping to meet some Olympic athletes who were visiting her school.

"I've been playing ball since I was little, but my mom was, like, 'You need to focus on school right now,'" said Miss Nibblett.

Nevertheless, her cheers were among the loudest yesterday as she and fellow athletes at the "school of the champions" welcomed three Olympic and Paralympic athletes - including Vonetta Flowers, the first black American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

The athletes, all members of the 2002 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams, were at Dunbar in Northwest and seven other area schools yesterday as part of the Champions in Life program organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The 20-year-old program gives athletes a chance to "talk to students about perseverance, and the importance of having dreams and goals," said spokeswoman Cheryl Herbert.

Mrs. Flowers and two other athletes, Jeremy Teela, who was on the U.S. skiing team in Salt Lake City, and Hannah Pennington, who participated in the slalom and Super-G skiing events at the Paralympics, were among those who visited Dunbar.

Students plied the athletes with questions and begged them for autographs. "What gave you the strength to overcome your disability?" one student asked Ms. Pennington. "Did you ever know you would enter the list of the greatest African-American women?" another asked Mrs. Flowers.

The athletes shared their own stories of perseverance and hard work with the children. "I trained every day for eight years to be the best in the world, and I will train for four more to win a medal at the next Olympics," said Mr. …