Emily Shilson (L) and Tiare Ikei (R) spend time with local school children at the U.S. Embassy's Sports Exchange on Oct. 17, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- There isn’t usually a lot of crossover between triathlon and soccer, or wrestling and field hockey, but on Tuesday evening in Buenos Aires, members of Team USA at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 were trying their hand at a few new sports.
While their competitive hopes may be slim in their new sports, it was all in the name of building goodwill, friendship and respect while saying thank you to the people of Buenos Aires for hosting these Games.
Eleven athletes and three coaches participated in a cultural exchange at Polideportivo Pereyra, a multi-sport facility in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires for children and youth in the area. The event was hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Edward C. Prado, and Gastón Buzo, Chief of Staff for the Undersecretary of Sport at the Buenos Aires City Government.
In front of nearly 100 school children, the American athletes spoke on a panel about how they got started in sport, how they handle disappointment and what they’ve sacrificed for their sport. The children asked them questions on which soccer team to cheer for and if they are fans of Lionel Messi.
After the question and answer session, the crowd circled an impromptu wrestling mat as U.S. wrestling coach Sam Barber and athletes Robert Howard, Carson Manville, Emily Shilson and Tiare Ikei put on a short demonstration and taught the children some of the basics of wrestling.
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Team USA athletes and local school children pose for a photo at the U.S. Embassy's Sports Exchange on Oct. 17, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Today’s event was an impactful opportunity for our Youth Olympians to experience diplomacy though sport,” Barber said. “It was an honor and a privilege to be hosted by Ambassador Prado. His work representing the United States of America in Argentina ties with the responsibilities we have as athletics teams who represent our nation with pride and sportsmanship to the greater good of global diplomacy."
“It was great to see our athletes as role models interact with local kids, and the mutually beneficial experience both athlete and young Argentinian had was phenomenal. Hopefully the world will have a few more Olympic hopefuls after today.”
After the more structured portion of the evening, it was the local kids’ turn to teach the Team USA athletes some of their own sports: field hockey and soccer.
While some of the American athletes weren’t sure what the kids meant when they asked, “Do you play hockey?” They were quickly given an education in the sport of field hockey.
Weightlifters Peyton Brown and Jerome Smith joined with wrestlers Shilson, Ikei and Manville and triathlete Parker Albright as they learned the basics of ball handling and passing.
Triathlete Drew Shellenberger and canoeist Robert Healy jumped into a game of soccer with the oldest boys, while windsurfer Dominque Stater and sailor AnaClare Sole played with some of the girls.
“I think it was a really cool experience for the kids, it for sure was a really cool experience for me,” Shellenberger said. “Just to get to know some of the local people and get to see the culture here was amazing.”
Shellenberger understands the important platform that athletes have to give back to others.
“It is important to make yourself personable and participate in events like this,” he said. “I’ve learned over the years from all of my mentors who have helped me out like Hunter Kemper, Seth Rider and Kevin McDowell. They’ve helped me learn the way and help me improve as an athlete and all-around person who can be an ambassador of the sport.”