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Davis Tarwater lived out a dream when he won a gold medal in the 4x200 freestyle relay at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Now the former Webb School of Knoxville star is encouraging children to do the same, and that’s just what he told the students at Midtown Elementary Friday morning.
“I want them to understand that every day is a path to the gold,” he said.
“I want them to know that they need to make responsible decisions every day and that’s it’s OK to have a big dream. Sometimes your goals don’t work out, but it’s important to keep working and to do the right thing every day.”
Tarwater’s visit was a culmination of the school’s focus on positive behavior that ended in an end-of-semester dance.
“He hit the nail right on the head,” Midtown school counselor Heather Dyer said.
“We have a bash every nine weeks, and our theme this year has been the Olympics, so having him here was great,” she added.
“It’s great for these kids to see that you can accomplish anything — even if it’s a struggle at first.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for them.”
While Tarwater told the students that dreams come true, he also let them know it’s not always easy.
He shared his story of trying out for the Olympics on three different occasions before finally qualifying for the 2012 games at the U.S. Trials in June in Omaha, Neb.
“I was devastated the first three times I missed it,” he admitted. “I came back this time and changed everything. I went back to the drawing board and changed my attitude and my focus. I went back to the purity of the dream I had when I was a kid. Those changes paid big dividends as I was more focused every day.”
Tarwater also encouraged Midtown’s students to work hard and pay attention at school.
“Listen to your teachers and coaches every day,” he said. “A gold medal is a culmination to living right every day. It’s an end to a lot of smaller gold medals.”