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Barb's Olympic Adventure Continues
Posting 6: Olympism and Equestrian Medals

Curriculum CenterBarbara Taddeo is at the Olympic Games -- and she is sharing the experience with Education World readers! Taddeo, a middle school special education teacher from San Mateo, California, will share her observations -- and some activities too. Follow Taddeo's journey through her reports from Sydney!

If you have questions or comments for Barbara Taddeo, visit the Education World message board.

Today's lesson introduces students to Olympism, the philosophy of the Olympic movement. The modern Olympics were developed by Pierre de Coubertin to promote physical and moral development through athletic competition. Competitors are trained not to give up when the chips may be down. The philosophy is if you give up, you will not reach your goal.

It is also important to teach students that you can achieve your goal drug-free. When the athletes recited the Olympic oath at the Opening Ceremony, part of the oath states that they will compete drug-free. Drugs of any kind are banned at the Olympics. Several athletes were sent home because they tested positive for drugs. Those athletes are banned from participating in any Olympic events forever.

All athletes must submit to drug testing throughout the Games. Immediately after each competition, athletes are tested for drugs. The drug testers follow the athletes to the medal ceremonies and to their news conferences. The athletes' awards are not considered final until they pass their drug tests. So far in this year's Games, a weight lifter and a hammer thrower have lost their silver medals because they flunked their drug tests. Others withdrew from the Games for fear that they would test positive for drugs and be banned for life from the Olympics.

Drug testing officially begin in 1968. Prior to that, some athletes used steroids to enhance their performances, giving them an unfair advantage over athletes who competed without using drugs. The use of performance-enhancing drugs was particular problem with weight lifters and runners.

Teachers: This is an important science lesson, which can lead to discussions on drug abuse. Have students brainstorm lists of the short-term and long-term affects of different drugs on the body.


This was an extraordinary two days at the horse park. More than 50,000 people came out to cheer the Australian three-day team on to winning a third gold medal. (The Australian team also won three-day medals at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games.) No other three-day team in history has accomplished that feat. The three-day team is made up of four team members. All four members must compete in three events -- dressage, cross country, and show jumping. After all of the members have competed, the top three scores are counted toward the final team score. (See Posting 4: The Equestrian Center for more information about these events.)

At the end of the cross-country event on Tuesday, September 19, the United States team was in fourth place.

Team member Linden Wiesman was disqualified after her ride in the cross-country portion of the event. Her horse, Anderoo, lost a shoe on the fifth jump of the 32-jump course and had a hard time keeping it's footing on the very difficult course. It is extremely difficult for a horse to run over such a hard terrain with only three shoes. They cannot get the traction required for jumping. On the down hill slope at the first water jump, her horse slipped and fell into the water and Linden fell off. (I was there and saw the fall). Being a courageous rider, Linden did not quit! She got back on in the time allotted and rode off to the cheers of the crowd. But at the next water jump, her horse once again slipped and fell. Since this was Linden's second fall on the course, she was disqualified and she could not compete in the show jumping portion of the event.

With Linden's disqualification, team member Karen O'Connor had to carry the weight of the United States team on her shoulders as she entered the starting box for her cross-country ride. Karen completed her round with only a few time penalty points. Her experience as one of the top three-day event riders for the United States team paid off. (Karen competed in the 1996 Atlanta and 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.)

At the end of the day, the Australians were still in first place. The United States dropped to fourth place after the British and New Zealanders. As a team, the Americans did not give up but worked together to complete the event.

The next day was the show jumping phase of the event. After the morning inspection of the horses, we received surprising news: a member of the New Zealand team withdrew from the competition. This brought their team down to two members and out of the running for the medals. The United States team moved up to third place going into the final day of competition.

The show jumping event was truly exciting. I took my seat in the front row of the press box to watch with the Australians. Our box was right next to the Olympic Family box. In that box, sat Princess Anne, Chelsea Clinton (who I talked to since I was wearing my American flag in my hat), the Prime Minister of Australia, and numerous other dignitaries. We waited for the final event.

The stands were packed with spectators from all over the world. Many were waving the flags of their countries. The chant "Aussie! Aussie!" went up in the crowd. The tension rose. Who would win this historic event?

The Australian team could knock down only two rails to keep their gold. Each rail that was knocked down added four points to the score. The rider was also marked down if he or she used more than the optimal allotted time to complete the event.

The course was a difficult one. Many of the compactors knocked down rails. You could tell that the horses were tired from the previous day's grueling run. The first Australian knocked down a rail, and the British did the same.

Then came Nina Fout for United States team. She had a clean round. The tension increased as David O'Connor, Karen's husband, rode. He too had a clean round.

As the rounds continued, the Australians and British continued to knock down rails. Finally, it was Karen's turn again to help bring home a medal. Unfortunately, she knocked down two rails. The Australians won their third team gold medal and the crowd went crazy. Australian flags were everywhere. People jumped up and down. It was truly amazing to be there.

I am so glad I made all of the sacrifices I did to be able to be here and see the equestrian events in person instead of watching them on television. This is what the Olympics are all about -- moments like this!

After a short break, the teams entered the main arena (the stadium where the opening ceremony was held). Everybody in the crowd was on their feet, cheering the teams as they entered the arena. The noise was deafening -- so much so that it scared some of the horses.

The athletes dismounted and marched to the medal stands, which were located right in front of me and the other dignitaries and press. The athletes received their medals and the flag of Australia was raised on the flagpole. Then the athletes then mounted their horses and rode a victory lap around the arena waving to the cheering crowds. It was wonderful!

I went to the arenas outside of the main arena to congratulate the United States team personally and have my picture taken with them. The members from all three winning teams went to a press conference next to the tent that is my working venue. There, I held all three medals -- gold, silver, and bronze -- in my hand. Yes, I even held an Olympic medal hanging around the neck of one of the athletes. What a wonderful day it was!

The next equestrian events are the individual three-day, team and individual dressage, and team and individual show jumping. All of the events are completely sold out. The individual is always held on the last day of the Olympic Games.


One of the most exciting upcoming Olympic events is the men's 4 X 100 meter track race. More information on different Olympic events and daily scores can be found at the Official Site of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Next week, more than 100,000 people are expected to pass through Olympic Park twice each day on their way to track and field and other events to be held in that arena.

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Barbara Taddeo has created these activities for the students of three schools -- but she has been kind enough to agree to share her daily reports with Education World's readers. We're pleased to be included in these daily mailings to the students in Taddeo's 7th grade class in Room 31 at Borel Middle School in San Mateo, California; Mrs. Hirschmann's class at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Turersville, New Jersey; and Lacey Rhoades' class in Mesa, Arizona.

Barbara Taddeo
Education World®
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