In lime green sneakers, khaki shorts and a navy USA jacket with a gold medal around her neck, Olympian Esther Lofgren spoke Thursday afternoon to a packed house.
Mariners Elementary School's third- to sixth-grade students filled the multi-purpose room to hear the gold-medal rower talk about her journey, the importance of having dreams and how to accomplish them.
Talking to groups of students is nothing new for Lofgren, whose made it a point to share her experiences with others.
"The coolest thing about [winning a medal] is really to share it and this journey it represents," said Lofgren, who attended Mariners for kindergarten and graduated from Newport Harbor High School.
A Harvard alumna, Lofgren competed in the women's eight rowing competition in London after seven years on the Olympic training team. It was her first Olympics after being the last athlete cut from the 2008 team that took gold in Beijing.
Her athletic journey started as a child struggling to run and deciding to do something about it, Lofgren told the students. At her dad's suggestion, she started competing in races every week to improve her running and make playing sports more enjoyable.
"I got a little better each time," she said. "Eventually, I could do the whole race."
Lofgren told the students practice could help them with anything they struggle with, like math or science, not just sports.
She also stressed the importance of having a dream — she wrote down in her journal that she wanted to compete in the Olympics after a coach encourage her.
"You need to know that you have that dream and you need to think about it so you can accomplish that dream," Lofgren said.
Fourth-grade student Kristiane Maynard has a similar dream: compete in the Olympics in horseback riding, swimming and volleyball. She said it would mean a lot to her to achieve her goal and Lofgren gave her information on how to accomplish it.
"It's pretty amazing because they've accomplished their dreams," Kristiane said.