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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Former YFU Exchange Student Goes for Gold in London!


The YFU exchange community is extraordinary. Our families, students, volunteers and staff positively impact society through everyday actions large and small.  This Thursday, we cheer for Thomas Schneider, YFU Alumnus and exchange son of YFU Field Director, Jim Miller, as he races in the London Olympics!Join us as we share in the global spirit of the Games, cheering on our fellow YFU community member as he represents his home country of Germany!

When Thomas Schneider came to the U.S. from Germany six years ago, he had never seriously thought about running competitively. But this week he will represent his country in the 2012 Olympics in the men’s 4x400 meter relay.  And that passion that led him all the way to London was found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a YFU exchange in 2006.

Thomas took up soccer as soon as he arrived in the US, but he became interested in track after running around the school for soccer practices. He joined the outdoor track team in the spring, where Coach Doug Norton immediately noticed his potential. However Thomas was not easily persuaded to give up soccer.

“He kept saying ‘Coach, I’m a soccer player. I’m a soccer player!’” Norton recalled. “Finally I pulled him aside and I said you know you are a better runner than you are soccer player.”

Though Thomas had only trained for a few months, he placed third in the state tournament against many veteran high school track runners. Norton said with a little more training, he could have won first.

After returning to Germany, Thomas took his coach’s advice and enrolled in a special sports school that helped him to develop running skills. Over the years, Norton and Thomas’s host parents Jim and Joanne Miller, lost touch with him until Thomas emailed Coach Norton in 2008 to tell him that he had almost made the Bejjing Olympics.

A few years later the Miller’s granddaughter spotted Thomas running in a televised track meet and Norton realized that Thomas had made the 2012 team. “Its really cool. He was a hard worker and I didn’t know that he would go as far as he has gone,” Norton said. “You always have hopes that he would do something like that but you rarely see that happen.”

Host mother Joanne said Thomas told her he was surprised that he enjoyed running so much with his Wisconsin team in the US, because he had never been able to get into it in Germany. She is looking forward to watching him in Olympics on August 9.

“He was a good all around exchange student,” Joanne said of Thomas. “I know he enjoyed what he was doing with the team.”

*Photo source

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