REDDING, Conn. – Students and staff at Joel Barlow High School in Redding gave hometown figure skater Brooklee Han a spirited sendoff to Sochi at the school's auditorium Tuesday morning.
Han, a June 2013 graduate of the high school, will represent Australia in the winter Olympics, which begin next week in Russia. She was named to the team last month after winning the Australian national figure skating championship. Her father is a native of Australia and she is a citizen.
Students and staff at Barlow sent off Han with speeches, a song and a little humor as she gets ready for the most important competition of her career.
“We wanted to show our support for her,’’ said Katherine Nuzzo, a chemistry teacher who planned many of the details for the 45-minute tribute to Han. “We’ve been working on it since we found out she was going. We wanted to get behind her.”
The support from her former classmates and teachers touched Han. “Barlow has been so supportive of me all the way through,’’ she said. “It’s so nice to see all these people pulling for me. I was overwhelmed at all the support.”
Nuzzo said Han’s work at Barlow helped her to learn as well. Even with her all training and competitions, overseas and elsewhere, Han made it a priority to complete her schoolwork. “She taught us,’’ Nuzzo said. “She showed how we could use technology. Learning doesn’t have to be done in a classroom. I definitely learned from her about technology. Now I use technology all the time.”
The celebration included members of Falcon Nation, the school spirit group at Barlow, led by Ryan Swift, Joe Sopko and Ryan Paoli. The assembly also watched Han’s performance at last fall’s Nebelhorn competition, where her fifth place finish clinched a berth in the Olympics for Australia.
There was a spoof of Russia president Vladimir Putin, the Australian national anthem, speeches from a Latin class and Han’s mother, Pinky, and the school’s A Capella Club sang "Roar."
Sochi will feel a million miles away from Redding, but Han knows she has the support of her former teachers and classmates.
“I’m still getting used to the attention,’’ Han said. “But I feel like I’m ready to go now and give it my best shot.”