Bronze medalist Reese Hoffa visits 2 Columbia County schools

On Thursday morning, Jesse Gutierrez and Evan Hoffa scored some serious cool points.

Fresh off his bronze-medal winning performance at the London Olympics, shot putter Reese Hoffa visited his nephews’ classes at Martinez Elementary and Grovetown Middle schools.

“It was for my nephew, it was for Jesse,” the Olympian said after his visit to Myra Smeak’s second-grade class. “Just to help him with his confidence being in school. I think it would always be cool to be able to have someone that you know in the Olympics and it helps that you know an Olympic medalist.”

Smeak found out Tuesday that Hoffa wanted to visit her class but had to keep it a secret.

“I’m a little bit star-struck; he’s an Olympic athlete,” Smeak said. “He’s also a Georgia alumni, and my family are huge Georgia fans. So that was another added bonus and he’s from around here so I’ve been kind of giddy keeping it to myself.”

During his half-hour visit to Martinez Elementary, Hoffa passed around his bronze medal, showed videos on his tablet and helped the 22 pupils hold his 16-pound shot put.

Comments from the students ranged from, “It looks like a giant penny,” about his medal to, “It looks fluffy,” when first shown the shot put and “you’re so big.”

Though impressed with his medal and shot put, pupils clamored for him to juggle, especially after he showed a video of himself juggling three fire sticks. His juggling of three balls received huge applause.

The best part for Tristan Tranum was holding Hoffa’s shot put, which he acknowledged was a little heavy.

“He was awesome,” Tristan said. “He plays sports, he’s an athlete and he can also juggle.”

When asked about his diet, Hoffa said he ate broccoli, which drew protest from the pupils. He quickly got them back on his side by adding he eats pizza and drinks milk shakes.

Hoffa was headed back to Athens, Ga., and is preparing for a trip back to Europe, but said he has plans to come back to the area and visit more schools.

Gutierrez was seemingly more excited to see his uncle than a famous athlete. He did, however, say his uncle might inspire him to be a shot putter.

Though the students and teachers got to meet and hear from an Olympic medalist, it was also beneficial to Hoffa.

“I get some interesting questions and I think it helps with their interacting with older people,” he said. “It helps me being able to speak in front of large groups of people. You always get something out of it.”

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