Marianna Tolo still remembers the moment Australian sporting legend Cathy Freeman walked through the door of her school, inspiring the young student to pursue her dream of representing her country at the Olympics.
Now the Opals and Canberra Capitals star wants to follow in the footsteps of her idol and inspire the next generation of athletes.
Tolo and 29 other Olympians will share their Olympic spirit in schools across the nation’s capital with a new program Olympics Unleashed in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020.
As part of the program, the athletes will visit 135 primary and secondary schools over the next 12 months to share their stories and life lessons.
Through 45-minute presentations, the athletes will cover topics such as self-awareness, focus and motivation and promote the benefits of living an active, healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Tolo’s story will share the highs and lows of her career, which she hopes will normalise failure as part of the journey to success.
“We need to acknowledge that everyone goes through different challenging parts in their lives,” Tolo shared. “For me, I have had many injuries, I have missed out on selection, I have had to live away from family and friends, but that is part of life and part of being a human being.
“I hope my story can show students that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is, if you keep turning up and working hard you can achieve anything you set your mind to – whether that’s sport, academics, music, whatever you set your mind to.
“Hopefully, we can pass on that inspiration and unleash the potential of every aspiring Olympian or expert in any field.”
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said the program, which has been rolled out across Queensland and New South Wales, was more than about inspiring kids on the sporting fields.
“Olympians have inspiring stories that go beyond sport,” Mr Carroll said. “They bring to life the importance of finding a passion, setting goals and building resilience to overcome challenges.
“An Olympic journey is never a straight line – having athletes sharing their stories, including the challenges and how they overcame them, is a vital lesson that can help young people no matter what their passion.
“Teachers have told us having an Olympian face to face in the classroom is a powerful way to engage students about what you can achieve when you have a goal and work towards it.
“This message can help young Australians be the best version of themselves – whether that’s in the classroom, the playground, the sporting field or at home.”
The first session will be held in the coming weeks, and schools can register for an Olympian to visit their school by clicking here.