Fifth-grader Lucas Podstupka, wearing a red T-shirt with a Swiss white cross on it to represent the country’s flag, joined his William Floyd Elementary School classmates in a Russian folk dance, linking arms and twirling about.
To coincide with the opening ceremonies of the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, students at the Shirley school celebrated through singing, dancing and parading through their gymnasium Friday.
“We learned the Olympic Creed in school,” said Lucas, 10, of Shirley. “I learned that if you try your hardest you can conquer all your goals. Someday I’ll go to the Olympics.”
To experience the spirit of the games, students — representing nations present at this year’s games — marched into the school’s gymnasium holding banners and flags during their own “Parade of Nations,” jumpstarting their school’s “opening ceremony.”
The school’s principal, Keith Fasciana, said the school held its first Olympic celebration for the Vancouver Games four years ago, but wanted to make this year’s bigger and better. Some 750 students participated.
“We wanted to replicate what the kids would be watching,” Fasciana said. “We’re trying to give them the overall Olympic experience because it’s such a worldly event.”
It was announced during the ceremony that Lucas won the school’s essay contest in which students wrote their own Olympic Creed. He recited his Friday, noting the “journey of how one gets to where they are today.”
Snowboarder Joseph Mensch, a former William Floyd student and 2014 Winter Olympics hopeful who fell short of qualifying for the games, presented the students with one of his snowboards and offered insight into the games.
“I wish I had this when I was little, but I always had an appreciation of the Olympics as a little kid,” said Mensch, 22, of Mastic Beach. “It’s the biggest stage for athletes and I always wanted to be a part of that. To come here and see such a big event… It’s such a good thing for them to learn culturally. It’s good experience being able to share my dream with them, and hopefully someday they’ll be able to be a part of it.”
In between students chanting the countries they represented, the school’s chorus sang along to Katy Perry’s hit “Roar,” used in NBC’s Olympics promos.
After nearly a month of handing off a handmade Olympic torch from student to student throughout the school, the torch relay culminated in “lighting” their own Olympic cauldron -- fitted with a light, fan and loose sheet for the perfect faux flickering flame.