February 17, 2006
Bronze baby!
Eckville area swells with pride over Olympic medallist
CARY CASTAGNA -- Edmonton Sun

Students at Leslieville elementary school competed in their own version of the Winter Olympics yesterday, before cheering on former pupil Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards in the real thing.

Alberta's Hollingsworth-Richards captured a bronze medal in the women's skeleton, giving the nearly 200 students - who watched her make Olympic history on a big screen set up in the school gym - plenty to cheer about.

"It was electric in the gymnasium," said principal Stanton Swain.

"During that second run, the noise level was just crazy."

Earlier in the day, students at the school in the community 194 km southwest of Edmonton competed in a variety of Olympic events, including an indoor version of the skeleton event.

"You never know when you might be inspiring the next Olympian," Swain said.

Students at Hollingsworth-Richards' former high school, David Thompson high school in Leslieville, also caught the inspirational bronze medal-winning performance on TV.

"Isn't it wonderful that an athlete from a small rural school in central Alberta would be able to find such global success?" asked principal Kevin Wood.

Teacher Daryl Snider said he's proud of his former student, always a competitive and focused athlete with a "broad beaming smile."

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Eckville, Hollingsworth-Richards' hometown, dozens of residents crammed into an antique shop and crowded around a 27-inch TV suspended from the ceiling over the coffee bar in the back of the store.

"The whole world is watching our girl. She's our girl. She belongs to the whole town. We're all watching our girl win. It's pretty great," said Sherri Stuart, owner of In the Beginning Antiques and Collectibles, in the town of about 1,000.

Eckville Mayor Helen Posti added: "It's probably the most exciting thing that's ever happened here.

"We're proud that she believed in herself and went after her dream. She's a wonderful role model for the young and old alike - the fact that if you really want something you can go after it and get it."

Aunt Gena Hollingsworth said her family's only hope was that Mellisa would be in medal contention.

"She's worked a long time for this," the proud aunt added.

"She's very deserving of this."