Games close with celebration, a look to 2022; Paralympian Mannella ’18 skis next month
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The 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang concluded on March 18 with Team USA finishing with the top overall medal count at 36, and Dartmouth undergraduate Staci Mannella ’18 finishing in the top ten in three of her four Alpine events.
Mannella competed in the super-G on March 11, where she finished 10th; the super combined on March 13, where she did not finish; giant slalom on March 14, where she finished 10th; and the slalom on March 18, where she took ninth.
Mannella races with guide Sadie DeBaun in the visually impaired women’s Alpine category because she was born with achromatopsia, which limits her visual acuity to three feet and causes extreme sensitivity to light.
Clocking their 10th-place finish in the giant slalom on March 14 had added meaning for Mannella and DeBaun, the youngest members of the U.S. Alpine Paralympic ski team. The duo finished just behind veteran U.S. competitor Danelle Umstead who came in eighth. Umstead is the duo’s mutual friend and mentor.
Alumna Kristina Trygstad-Saari ’07, was a guide to Team USA’s Mia Zutter, a visually impaired Paralympian who competes in cross-country and biathlon. At Dartmouth, Trygstad-Saari was a member of the women’s Nordic team and was recognized for her team leadership in 2006 with the Spirit of Skiing Award. Zutter did not record a finish at the games.
As Jessie Diggins, the first American ever to win an Olympic gold medal in Nordic skiing, carried the flag leading Team USA into the closing ceremony Sunday, she was beaming, surrounded by her teammates.
Diggins and co-gold-medalist in the women’s team sprint, Kikkan Randall, had said from the beginning of the games that the team spirit in women’s cross-country was pushing everyone to unprecedented success.
In fact, Team USA cross-country, led by coach Chris Grover ’93 and including five Dartmouth skiers, achieved half a dozen firsts, capped off with the gold medals. Sophie Caldwell ’12, who raced with Diggins and Randall in the 4x5km cross country relay, led off the race that gave the team a fifth-place finish, a best ever in the event for the Americans. Caldwell also tied Diggins at sixth in the sprint, a record for U.S. skiers in that race.
Looking back on the 4x5km relay at the close of the games, Christa Case Bryant of the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “I saw it in the finish line hugs and smiles of the U.S. women’s cross-country ski team, which had been dreaming of a medal in the 4x5 km relay for years, but never recovered from a 1-minute deficit after the first leg. Their embrace of Sophie Caldwell, who skied a brave but tough opening leg, was a beautiful expression of the team culture that yielded America’s first gold medal in the sport just a few days later.”
The only medal for a Dartmouth athlete at the Pyeongchang Olympics was silver for Laura Stacey ’16, a forward on the Canada women’s hockey team, in one of the most talked-about events in this year’s Winter Games. A 3-2 shoot-out win for Team USA ended Canada’s 20-year gold medal streak.
The Canadians were not really celebrating their medal, said coach Laura Schuler, who took a leave from leading Dartmouth women’s hockey to head Team Canada.
“Whenever you commit the way that our girls commit to excellence and you just fall short and just get so close, it’s tough,” Schuler told the Toronto Sun. “Hopefully one day they’ll be able to be proud of their efforts and know they gave everything they had.”
It was a tough year for the Americans and for Dartmouth in Alpine skiing, as well. Mikaela Shiffrin, whose father, Jeff Shiffrin ’76, introduced her to skiing at the Dartmouth Skiway, won gold and silver, and Lindsey Vonn won bronze, accounting for all the U.S. Alpine medals for both men and women this year. But Team USA highlighted a number of first-time Olympians in Pyeongchang as future Winter Games medal contenders, including Alice Merryweather ’21, who is starting at Dartmouth in the spring.
Merryweather finished 15th in the women’s combined, just 5 seconds behind Shiffrin, who took silver, and ahead of Vonn, who did not finish.
Biathletes Emily Dreissigacker ’11 and Susan Dunklee ’08 both attracted a lot of media attention heading into the Olympics. Dunklee, for example, was the focus of a New York Times Magazine essay explaining the skiing and shooting sport to readers. But high winds and icy conditions in early races hindered both athletes, disqualifying them for some other contests. Dunklee later led off the U.S. mixed relay team’s 15th place finish, and Dunklee and Dreissigacker represented Team USA in the women’s 4x6 kilometer relay, finishing 13th.
Tucker Murphy ’04, a Dartmouth Rhodes Scholar and the lone member of Bermuda’s Winter Olympics team, achieved exactly what he set out to do. He skied his best in his third trip to the Olympics, finishing 104th out of 116 in the men’s 15 km freestyle cross-country race.
Murphy told New England Cable News that he fell in love with cross-country skiing at Dartmouth and later trained at Vermont’s Craftsbury Outdoor Center, run by Dreissigacker’s parents, Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to represent your country,” Murphy told necn. "You’re part of a much bigger, diverse, and fascinating world.”
As some Olympians are saying goodbye to Pyeongchang, others, including Dartmouth’s Staci Mannella ’18, are saying hello to the Paralympic Winter Games, March 9 through 18.
Mannella was born with achromatopsia, which severely limits her visual acuity to about three feet, and causes sensitivity to light, but that hasn’t held her back on the slopes. She started ski racing through the Adaptive Sports Foundation when she was 5, and competed in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
She’ll race in South Korea with a guide, Sadie De Baun, who skies about 10 feet in front of her. They communicate about course conditions using a Bluetooth headset attached to their helmets. On a slalom course, Mannella says, she can see DeBaun as a shadowy shape navigating the gates.
“I can’t see the terrain, I can’t see what she is doing with her skis to slow herself down, but I do see where she is, and sometimes I can see her get past the gate. Her goal is to find a speed that will push me to ski as fast as I can, but not so fast that I am uncomfortable and skiing poorly because I can’t see her.”
Mannella says her close, year-round friendship with DeBaun is crucial to their success on snow.
“Most of the time, when people think of ski racing, they think of an individual sport. For us it’s a team sport, and that brings a new dynamic to it,” says Mannella.
The partners won bronze in super combined in Mannella’s world championship debut in 2017. Reaching the podium next month, says Mannella, would be “incredible, but definitely within our reach.”
The legendary Canada-U.S. women’s hockey rivalry added another thrilling chapter Thursday in Pyeongchang with a 3-2 win for Team USA, ending Canada’s 20-year gold medal streak in a shoot-out.
Team Canada—led by Dartmouth hockey coach Laura Schuler and featuring former Big Green forward Laura Stacey ’16—and Team USA battled to a tie after 60 minutes of regulation play, 20 minutes of sudden death overtime, and five rounds of a penalty shootout, where one player from each team gets one shot against the opposing goalie.
“But when Jocelyne Lamoureux beat Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados in Round 6 and one of the greatest scorers in Olympic history, Canada’s Meghan Agosta, was denied, it finally ended,” wrote the Toronto Sun.
The silver medal was little consolation to Canada’s players, Schuler told the Sun.
“It’s hard because honestly the immediate effect right after a game is you are disappointed and you feel like you’ve let a country down,” Schuler said. “Whenever you commit the way that our girls commit to excellence and you just fall short and just get so close ... it was a natural emotion to have.
“Hopefully one day they’ll be able to be proud of their efforts and know they gave everything they had.”
Alice Merryweather ’21 caught the attention of NBC commentators Dan Hicks and gold-medal skier Bode Miller as she entered the gate for the slalom run of the women’s combined race on Thursday.
Hicks observed that Merryweather is starting at Dartmouth in the spring; she made Team USA just a week before the opening games. Now she is racing with legends like Lindsey Vonn, Hicks said.
Merryweather, who won gold in downhill in the junior World Cup in January, hit the slalom hard and finished the race at the top of the leaderboard with Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin still to come. In the end, Shiffrin finished with the silver medal one second behind Swiss gold medalist Michelle Gisin, whose combined time was 2 minutes and 20.9 seconds. Merryweather finished 15th, just over 4 seconds from the bronze medal, outskiing Vonn, who hooked her ski on a gate and did not finish.
In the men’s slalom Thursday, two-time Olympian David Chodounsky ’08 led the American team, finishing 18th with a time of 1:40.84. Nolan Kasper ’14, three-time Olympian, ranked 34th after the first run but did not finish the second.
Tonight’s the night to tune into the Winter Games to watch Dartmouth Olympians go for the gold.
In addition to the women’s hockey final pitting Team USA against arch rival Canada—led by Dartmouth hockey coach Laura Schuler and featuring former Big Green forward Laura Stacey ’16—College Alpine skiers Nolan Kasper ’14, Dave Chodounsky ’08, and Alice Merryweather ’21 will be racing. Watch the action on NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast Wednesday night. Also, biathletes Susan Dunklee ’08 and Emily Dreissigacker ’11 will have their last shots at medaling early Thursday morning Eastern time.
Kasper and Chodounsky are racing in the men’s slalom. The first run begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time, with the second run scheduled to start at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Merryweather is racing in the women’s combined downhill along with U.S. teammates Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn. The first run begins at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, with the second run at 1 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Feb. 22.
The women’s hockey gold medal match will be shown at 11:10 p.m. Wednesday on NBCSN.
When an exhausted Jessie Diggins crossed the finish line in the women’s cross-country sprint Wednesday, she and her relay teammate, Kikkan Randal, made sports history. They are the first women’s cross-country ski team ever to win an Olympic medal—and it’s gold.
Diggins’ father told the Associated Press, “The entire American women’s cross-country team came out to practice on Tuesday morning with Diggins and Randall.” Three of those other team members are Dartmouth’s Sophie Caldwell ’12, Ida Sargent ’11, and Rosie Brennan ’11.
“There were only two of them skiing today, but the entire team came out to support them—practicing tags and everything,” Clay Diggins told the AP. “That to me is pretty cool. They wanted to be there for them, for the team. And I think Kikkan and Jess felt that (support) on the course.”
Canada and the U.S., fierce women’s hockey rivals, will meet again in Pyeongchang as they fight it out for the gold.
Team Canada, led by Dartmouth hockey coach Laura Schuler and featuring former Big Green leader Laura Stacey ’16, secured their chance to play for a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal when they pulled off a 5-0 victory over Olympic Athletes from Russia in a semifinal on Monday. It was Canada’s 24 th straight Olympic win.
‘‘Everyone’s plans are falling into place, and you have two great opponents at the end,’’ Schuler told The Boston Globe Tuesday.
It is the third straight time Canada will face the United States in the final. Team USA, the reigning champions in non-Olympic international competition, are seeking their first Olympic gold in 20 years, since the inaugural women's event in 1998 at Nagano.
The two teams met in the first round of the Winter Games after both had already secured spots in the semifinals, but the game was far from meaningless. It was marked by intense play, dozens of shots on goal by both teams, and a scuffle in the third period (which included Stacey).
The Canada-USA women’s championship game will be televised on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time on NBCSN.
It turns out, even if you fall in an Olympic skiing event, and lose the opportunity to advance, you get an unpredictable second chance to grab gold. Tricia Mangan ’19, who skidded off the women’s giant slalom course last week, was, luckily, unhurt, and therefore able to enter another race.
Mangan was one of five Olympians who gathered with their inflated tubes at the top of an icy hill in Pyeongchang to test their mettle against ABC broadcaster Matt Gutman, who, tongue-in-cheek on “Good Morning America,” announced the formation of the “international snow tubing federation.”
The other Team USA medal contenders: Alpine skiers Nolan Kasper ’14 and Mark Engel, speed skater Erin Jackson, and snowboarder Arielle Gold, who won bronze in women’s halfpipe.
With two Dartmouth racers on the roster, the odds favored a Big Green win. Still, Mangan and Kasper flinched a bit when Gold quipped, “That event that I got the bronze in was just a warm-up for this.”
When Gutman asked Mangan if she was intimidated by him, she answered, “I hate to say this, but—no.”
Kasper seemed equally confident as he and Engel melodramatically tore off their jackets to reveal sleek white spandex one-piece speed suits. (Engel admitted, though, “We’re totally unprepared.”)
Apparently preparation is not necessarily a prerequisite for skilled tubing. From the start, Kasper took a commanding lead and shot ahead of the pinballing pack to win the race.
As Gutman hung a doughnut-sized gold metallic snow tube on a ribbon around Kasper’s neck, the winner was modest. “It was a good competition with really strong defenders. I’m psyched,” he said.
Best case scenario: Kasper, a three-time Olympian, matches his gold-medal tubing performance in his next “real” event, men’s slalom, at 8 p.m. Wednesday Eastern Time.
Susan Dunklee ’08 led off the U.S. mixed relay with a strong first leg Tuesday, with the four-member U.S. biathlon relay team taking 15th place overall.
Dunklee and teammates Joanne Reid, Tim Burke, and Lowell Bailey Starting toward the back of the field in the 18th position, but Dunklee maintained a strong pace, finishing her leg of the race in fifth place, 23.8 seconds off the lead despite two misses shooting from the prone position.
“It was fun to be right in the mix,” Dunklee told Team USA writer Bill Kellick after the race Tuesday. “I was closing on the lead group for the first k or so, then by the top of the big hill I kind of ran out of steam a little bit.”
Reid and Burke both had misses in their standing target phases that set the team back in the pack, then a strong final leg by Bailey, with a second-fastest range time that included only one miss from the standing position, moved the team back up to the 15th place finish.
Dunklee’s last shot at a medal in the 2018 Winter Games comes Thursday with the women’s 4x6km relay beginning at 6:15 a.m. Eastern time. The race will be streamed live at http://stream.nbcolympics.com/.
Sophie Caldwell ’12 takes off on the first leg of the women’s 4X5km cross-country relay at the Winter Olympics on Saturday, Feb. 17. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard Photo)
Sophie Caldwell ’12 led off for Team USA in the 4x5km cross country relay on Saturday, a race that concluded with a sprint by teammate Jessie Diggins to take fifth place, the best ever finish for the American women at the Olympic Games.
Caldwell, along with Kikkan Randall, Sadie Bjornsen, and Diggins, finished just 36.8 seconds from what many had hoped would be the first women’s Nordic medal in modern Olympic history.
“While we tend to be really focused on the medals, we know deep in our hearts it’s so possible,” said Randall, a five-time Olympian who is competing at her last Games. “I still think it was amazing to put together four strong legs today and to get that best ever result and keep the pathway going forward.”
The skiers of the U.S. women’s 4X5 relay team, from left, Sadie Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell ’12 (head down), Jessie Diggins (from back), and Kikkan Randall, embrace after Diggins crosses the finish line. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard Photo)
The four relay team members are picked by the Nordic coaches based on top finishes in races leading up to the event. Coach Chris Grover ’93 named the four U.S. women who had been on a World Cup podium in an individual event this season, with Caldwell and Diggins winning the final World Cup races in January before the Olympic Games began.
“All four athletes are clearly in top shape, and we feel this team is our best chance to bring home a medal for the USA,” Grover said on the eve of the Olympic relay.
After the race, Randall told Team USA writer Peggy Shinn that it was not the end.
“We had to leave something for the next generation to go after,” she said. “I mean, come on, this group, we’ve had a lot of firsts. But there’s a really awesome young group of girls coming up with junior world podiums in the relay.
“So I think there’s high hopes, and we can hopefully leave a good path for them.”
Tommy Ford ’12 finishes sixth in his second run of the men’s giant slalom Saturday. Ford finished 20th overall.
Despite finishing 20th in the men’s giant slalom on Sunday, Tommy Ford ’12 told his hometown newspaper that he’s relishing his return to the Olympics.
Ford finished 26th in the giant slalom in 2010 but missed the 2014 Games after what many considered a career-ending injury.
“I was in Vancouver and pretty overwhelmed, and here I’m able to enjoy it and be a part of it,” he told the Journal Statesman. “It’s definitely a special event and I’ve learned to appreciate that more and more.”
Canada coach Laura Schuler talks to the team during the gold-medal game of the women's world hockey championships in 2017. (AP Photo)
Dartmouth hockey coach Laura Schuler is making history in Pyeongchang. She’s the first Olympic athlete to coach a Canadian team at the Games, having competed on a silver-medal-winning hockey team in Nagano in 1998.
Schuler was a trailblazer at an early age.
As a 10-year old, according to the Toronto Star, she was a leading scorer on a boys’ hockey team in Scarborough, Ontario, but got bounced from the team because, in those days, parents insisted on single-sex teams.
“Feminine Laura Schuler can handle a puck, but boys’ league can’t handle her,” declared one headline reported by the Star. Undeterred, Schuler kept scoring goals of all kinds, including coaching jobs at the University of Massachusetts/Boston, Northeastern University (her alma mater), the University of Minnesota Duluth, Canada’s national women’s team, and most recently, Dartmouth.
Schuler acknowledges encountering the early roadblocks faced by many women hockey players—and aspiring coaches. But, at least in media interviews, she doesn’t complain about them.
“(Coaching) is something that is very male-dominated, but at the same time I’ve been really blessed with the men I’ve had around me,” Schuler told the National Post. “Everyone wants to be the best they can be and help their athletes be at their very best, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a female or male coaching them. What matters is having people who care around you.”
What also matters to her: winning. The Canadian women handily defeated teams from Russia and Finland in preliminary rounds, and bested archrival U.S. in a hotly contested game this week. If both the American and Canadian women win their semi-final games against other countries, they’ll face each other again for gold.
“In terms of confidence, we’re in a good spot,” Schuler says of her team.
Just after their arrival in Pyeongchang, Tricia Mangan ’19, left, Laurenne Ross, a Team USA alpine skier from the University of Oregon, center, and Alice Merryweather ’21 celebrate making it to the Olympics. (Courtesy of Alice Merryweather)
Alice Merryweather ’21 made her Olympic debut Friday in women’s slalom, completing two runs on the treacherous course and finishing 38th, with a time of 1:49.01, in the first run, and 49th, with a time of 1:53.15, on the second run. Faced with icy, wind-swept conditions, 24 skiers did not finish the race; gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin came in fourth place in the race, missing her chance at a second medal in the 2018 games.
Merryweather told Matt Pepin of The Boston Globe after the morning run, “My run was far from perfect, I had a lot of problems, stopped a couple of times, but I was determined to make it down, I wanted to cross the finish line and say I completed an Olympic run and I’m really happy to have done that, it was so fun.”
The icy conditions were also a big factor in the men’s Super-G, wiping out 14 skiers, including past medalist Andrew Weibrecht ’09.
Dartmouth Rhodes scholar and Team Bermuda cross-country skier Tucker Murphy ’04 finished 104th in the men’s 15k freestyle race. Murphy, who also raced cross-country in Sochi in 2014 and in Vancouver in 2010, is the third Bermudan to ever participate in the Winter Olympics, and the first to compete in Nordic skiing.
As the lone Bermudan in the winter games, Muphy is realistic about the competition.
“(My) chances of medaling are none,” he told CTV News. “I’m here to ski the best race I can.”
Speaking about his preparation for the games, Murphy added, “I do a lot of training on the beach, running with poles,” he said. “You have to get up very early, because you don't want to get a reputation as the crazy Bermudian who goes out in cross-country skis on the beach.”
Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Jeff Shiffrin ’76 at the 2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo. (Photo by Getty Images)
On Thursday, Jeff Shiffrin ’76 watched his daughter accomplish what she went to Pyeongchang to do: win the gold. It was a come-from-behind victory for Team USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin in the second run of the giant slalom, which isn’t usually her strongest event.
It was “a validation for all her effort,” Jeff Shiffrin told Time.Com about the go-for-broke victory.
As the New York Times reports, “Surging past the finish, Shiffrin looked over her shoulder to see her name atop the scoreboard. ‘The most amazing, sweetest feeling,’ Shiffrin said. ‘I was determined to push all the way down, and at that moment I really knew where I was.’ ”
Also at that moment, cameras showed her jubilant father in the stands, clapping his hands to his head, saying, “Oh my God!” Afterwards, he spoke with the Associated Press, about Mikaela’s chances in the next three Alpine races. “I don’t think it gets any easier, but I think she can take a deep breath and say, ‘The pressure’s off a little bit. Maybe.’”
Many observers expect Shiffrin to make more trips to the podium before the games are over. She’ll be racing tonight (Friday morning in Korea) in the slalom, which earned her a gold medal at the Sochi Games in 2014. Also in that race will be Team USA latecomer Alice Merryweather ’21, who will begin classes at Dartmouth in the spring.
While Mikaela’s mother, Eileen Shiffrin, coaches and travels with her, Mikaela credits her father with instilling the basics of her technique. A former ski racer for Dartmouth, and, until the family moved West, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Jeff Shiffrin was a formative influence in his daughter’s early years, as she practiced at the Dartmouth Skiway.
In a New Yorker article, “Mikaela Shiffrin, the Best Slalom Skier in the World,” Jeff Shiffrin shares what he learned by studying Austrian skiers, and passed along to his daughter: “Every turn you make, do it right. Don’t get lazy, don’t goof off. Don’t waste any time. If you do, you’ll be retired from racing by the time you get to 10,000 hours.”
Tricia Mangan ’19 also competed in the giant slalom, but lost her balance and skidded into a restraining barrier early into the first run. She walked away, apparently unhurt, and told The Buffalo News, “I’m obviously super bummed to crash, but I actually think I was skiing OK, and I’m glad I was going for it.”
Laura Stacey ’16 plays for the Canadian women’s hockey team, led by Dartmouth coach Laura Schuler. (Photo courtesy of Laura Stacey)
Team Canada’s women’s ice hockey team, led by Dartmouth coach Laura Schuler, completed the preliminary round in Pyeongchang with a 2-1 victory over fierce rival United States on Thursday.
The game was a long-awaited rematch after Team USA lost in a heartbreaker in the 2014 gold medal game in Sochi.
Both the Canadians and Americans were 2-0 heading into the match and had already earned spots in next Monday’s semifinals, but that did not diminish the passion on the ice. The game was marked by intense play, dozens of shots on goal by both teams, and a scuffle in the third period (which included Canada’s Laura Stacey ’16, a Dartmouth hockey standout).
Afterwards, Schuler was asked by The Globe and Mail sportswriter Cathal Kelly about the intensity of a game that would make no difference in the next round.
“It’s good to see. It’s part of the rivalry. It’s a strong, healthy one,” Schuler said.
The victory gives Canada a perfect 3-0 record heading into the playoff round as the team pursues a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
A day after being sidelined by high winds, Susan Dunklee ’08 led Team USA to a top 20 finish in the women’s 15km race in Pyeongchang Thursday.
Recording only two misses in the shooting phase, Dunklee ended with a time of 44:33.5, good for 19th place. She finished 3:26.3 behind gold medalist Hanna Oeberg of Sweden, who crossed the line in 41:07.2, 24.7
Dunklee’s performances was a turnaround from her disappointing finish in Saturday’s sprint where she placed 66th. In Thursday’s 15k, Dunklee cleaned both prone stages and had two misses in standing stages. With a minute added to a racer’s time with each miss on the range, Dunklee finished 3 minutes, 26.3 seconds behind the gold-medalist Oeberg of Sweden, who did not miss a shot.
“I think one of the things that biathlon does is train you how to be resilient and how to pick yourself up over and over again,” Dunklee told Team USA reporter Bill Kellick. That’s what she did after Saturday’s disappointing performance.
“You have to let yourself be sad for a few hours, but then you kind of have to set a deadline and say okay, by this time of day I’m going to start only allowing myself to focus on the positives again and move forward,” Dunklee said.
Emily Dreissigacker ’11 suffered a slow start with two misses on the range but settled down to hit 13 of her remaining 15 targets, finishing the race at 67th.
“I started out with two misses in prone which I really wasn’t happy with,” Dreissigacker said. “That’s kind of unusual for me, usually prone is my stronger position. My skis were really fast again today. Our wax techs did an amazing job again, so that was awesome.”
Emily Dreissigacker ’11 had to put her second Olympic medal attempt on hold Wednesday, Feb. 14, after high winds prompted race officials to postpone the women’s 15k individual biathlon final. (Team USA photo)
High winds and low visibility in Pyeongchang forced the postponement of the women’s biathlon 15-kilometer individual final featuring Emily Dreissigacker ’11 and Susan Dunklee ’08 Wednesday. The 15k will be the second Olympic event for the two Dartmouth athletes, seen by many as U.S. medal contenders.
The competition will now take place on Thursday evening, Feb. 15 (which, in Eastern time, translates to before dawn Thursday).
Also postponed due to weather was the women's alpine slalom competition, featuring Dartmouth newcomer Alice Merryweather ’21 and headliner Mikaela Shiffrin (daughter of Jeff Shiffrin ’76). The competition will now take place the morning of Feb. 16, Korean time, and will be broadcast during NBC’s Thursday night primetime coverage.
Tricia Mangan ’19, another last-minute Dartmouth addition to the U.S. Alpine team, will be skiing in the women’s giant slalom, along with Shiffrin, on Thursday morning, Feb. 15. The event will be televised during NBC’s Primetime Olympic coverage Wednesday night, weather permitting.
The Dartmouth alumni news site recently shared some words of wisdom and inspiration from Dartmouth’s past Olympic athletes with the competitors at this year’s Winter Games. Sara Studebaker-Hall '07, who competed in biathlon in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, summed up the theme that ran through all of the reflections.
“The Olympics are special, and while you might have raced in bigger races, there is nothing like an Olympic race. Rather than treating them like one gigantic, important race (or tournament, or what not), treat them like the experience they are. Soak in the atmosphere, as you’ll never experience anything like that anywhere else.”
Sophie Caldwell ’12 pushes hard over the crest of a hill after a long climb in a World Cup race prior to the Olympics. (Team USA photo)
Sophie Caldwell ’12 advanced to the women’s cross-country sprint classic semifinal Tuesday in Pyeongchang, but was 0.18 seconds shy of making it to the medal round, finishing eighth overall.
Caldwell, a two-time Olympian, finished fourth in her semifinal heat with a time of 3:13.32, clocking the fastest finish of any collegiate U.S. athlete in the sprint classic.
“Any day you make it into the semifinal is a good day,” Caldwell told Team USA reporter Peggy Shinn after the race. “Of course you always want more, especially at the Olympics. But I think it’s important to take a step back and recognize that that was a really good day, especially in classic sprinting. It’s my best result this season.”
Ida Sargent ’11 leans into the home stretch in a World Cup race before the Olympics. (Team USA photo)
U.S. cross-country teammate Ida Sargent ’11 placed 33rd and finished in 3:25.80 in the qualifying round, but did not advance to the quarterfinals. Sargent arrived in Pyeongchang ready to compete despite having had surgery on her left thumb just over a week before, following a training crash on Jan. 27.
“We don’t get many injuries in cross-country skiing, so we’re appreciative that Ida could get back quickly,” Team USA cross-country head coach Chris Grover ’93 said before the start of the Winter Games. Team USA still has high hopes about their Olympic chances, he says.
U.S. teammate Jessie Diggins reached the final heat of the women’s sprint race Tuesday with a final time of 3:14.07, ultimately placing sixth and recording Team USA’s top finish in the race.
The sprint was the second of six cross-country ski races at these Olympics. The competition continues on Thursday, Feb. 15, in the women’s 10k freestyle and February 16 with the men’s 15k freestyle.
The team is especially looking forward to the 4x5-kilometer on Saturday, which Diggins is likely to anchor,” Caldwell said. “I think we’re definitely knocking on the door of a medal. I think we’re very capable of getting one.”
Cross-country ski team members, from left, Pete Althausen ’93, Diana Sabot ’95, Chris Grover ’93, and Brian Jacquet ’95, at practice in 1992. Grover is now head coach of the U.S. cross-country ski team. (Dartmouth Ski Team photo)
The last time a U.S. cross-country skier brought home a medal from the Olympics was 1976, when Bill Koch won silver. This year, reports USA Today, a “budding cross-country powerhouse” could end that drought. And while it is still literally an uphill battle to the podium, the American team is expressing confidence, not only in themselves, but in their coach, Chris Grover ’93.
“Probably no one in the U.S., or anywhere, has been more responsible for how far the U.S. team has come,” veteran skier Andy Newell told Sun Valley Mag.com in December. (Newell is married to another Nordic skier, Erika Flowers Newell ’12.) In the article, Grover said, “Our basic objective is to win medals at the Olympics and world championships. It’s pretty cut and dried. That’s my job description, to win medals at the absolute highest levels.”
That won’t be easy, given the dominance of Norway, which Grover notes spends 15 times as much as the U.S. on training its cross-country team. Still, he says, what leads to victory is not just money, but stability. “In my opinion, it is because we have created a stable platform—the same staff, coaches, some of the same camps—so that the athletes can incrementally build their training and experience from year to year.”
Matt Whitcomb, the U.S. women’s coach, calls Grover “the most professional ski coach on the World Cup.” If the team wins an Olympic medal, he adds, “It’s a medal for Chris Grover, it’s a medal for the U.S. Ski Team, it’s a medal for everyone.”
Emily Dreissigacker ’11 crosses the finish line of the women’s 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games on Saturday. (Team USA photo)
Contending with single-digit temperatures and gusty winds, Emily Dreissigacker ’11 was the top American finisher in the women’s 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint on Saturday, the first weekend of the Winter Games.
Dreissigacker clocked a time of 23:27.2 after hitting nine of 10 targets for 51st place, putting her 2 minutes and 21 seconds behind gold medalist Laura Dahlmeier of Germany. Dreissigacker’s time earned her a spot on the starting line of the women’s 10K pursuit on Monday, where she finished 47th after racking up four shooting penalties through the course of the race.
The wind was a factor, she told USA Today after Saturday’s race. “It was very windy for the shooting. In prone (position) I definitely got kind of lucky and the wind was about the same as what I had zeroed in. And then in standing, I could feel the wind pushing my barrel around a little bit."
Susan Dunklee ’08, the other Dartmouth-linked biathlete in Saturday’s 7.5-kilometer sprint, missed five targets and finished 66th in 24:13.1.
“You work for four years and you have big dreams to see what’s possible and it all comes down to one of these races like this,” Dunklee told USA Today.
Also Saturday, Rosie Brennan ’11 came in 58th in the women’s skiathlon. U.S. teammate Jessie Diggins took fifth place in the women’s skiathlon—the highest Olympic finish ever for a U.S. women's cross-country skier, supplanting Sophie Caldwell ’12, who finished sixth in the sprint in 2014.
On Sunday Patrick Caldwell ’17, a current Dartmouth undergrad and Sophie Caldwell’s cousin, finished 51st in the men’s skiathlon.
The high winds and cold were a factor in all the events this weekend, with several of the Alpine races featuring Dartmouth athletes postponed until later in the week.
Susan Dunklee ’08 races to the finish in the women’s 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint on Saturday, her rifle slung vertically over her back to minimize resistance. (Team USA photo)
When Emily Dreissigacker ’11 skis into the shooting range for the biathlon events at Pyeongchang, she reaches into her shoulder harness for an unusual rifle. Its gunstock—the part to which the barrel is attached, and is held against the shoulder—was designed and built by her brother, Ethan Dreissigacker ’13, Thayer ’15, who has retired from international biathlon competition.
The challenge, in biathlon, is to ski really fast on a cross-country track, and then, either standing or prone, slow down your heart rate enough to hit a target with a steady hand. You need a rifle that touches your shoulder, your trigger finger, and your opposite hand at just the right spots, because there’s no time to adjust position.
“When I was competing, I was always buying new gunstocks—which can be $1,000 each—and modifying them with drills or files or grinders, until I got what I wanted, and I noticed other biathletes were doing the same thing,” says Dreissgacker. So, he thought, why not design a stock that goes together sort of like a LEGO set, “completely modular, really adjustable, that you can adjust and change, and use for more than one rifle?”
Dreissigacker’s versatile gunstock, made of aluminum, plastic, and other composites, can easily be configured for him—a 6-foot-5 elite competitor—and also for the 6-year-olds he now coaches at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, in Vermont. He wants to make it easier and more affordable for young people to enter the sport, using equipment that will grow with them as they get bigger and better.
Craftsbury is also home to Lost Nation R&D, where Driessigacker is making and selling his new product. It’s been successfully field-tested by his two sharp-shooting siblings: first Hannah ’09, Thayer ’10, who competed in Sochi in 2014, and now, Emily.
Dreissigacker says Dartmouth allowed him to pursue twin passions: skiing and engineering. Now he’s rooting not just for his sister at the Olympics, but also for the rifle he hopes will help her hit each mark. “It can feel like a magic thing,” he says, “having a direct effect on an object that is 50 meters away.”
Emily Dreissigacker placed 51st in the 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint—the top American finisher—and moved up to 47th in the 10K pursuit.
“We certainly want to focus 100 percent of our energies on doing well at the Olympics, but at the same time, there's more important things, and one of them is leaving a better world for the next generation," says Dunklee. “That clearly does involve advocating for clean sport at this time.”
Erin Hamlin, a U.S. luger, is flag bearer leading the largest U.S Winter Olympics team ever at the opening ceremony Friday.
The largest-ever contingent of Dartmouth athletes joined the largest-ever U.S. Winter Olympics team as they marched into Pyeongchang Stadium Friday with Korean pop hit Gangnam Style playing over the sound system.
Although the temperatures moderated from the sub-zero forecast, the 35,000 spectators in the open-air stadium were bundled against the 20 degree weather. But the cold didn’t bother the Dartmouth athletes.
“It’s nice to have it finally feel like winter,” Team USA cross-country skier Ida Sargent ’11 told The New York Times. “It’s fun to embrace winter and remember that we’re winter-sports athletes.”
Bermudan cross-country skier Tucker Murphy ’04 carries his country’s flag at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.
Sargent was dressed for the cold, but not Bermudan cross-country skier Tucker Murphy ’04, who got shout-outs for his Bermuda shorts as he carried his country’s flag in the ceremony. (Murphy’s exposed knees were soon eclipsed on the internet by images of bare-chested Tonga cross-country skier Pita Taufatofua carrying his country’s flag).
Dartmouth had 15 athletes and two head coaches in the opening ceremony. All of the Big Green athletes except Murphy, Canadian hockey coach Laura Schuler (who took a leave from coaching Dartmouth women’s hockey for the games), and Canadian hockey player Laura Stacey ’16, were part of the 242-member Team USA, the largest national contingent to take part in a Winter Olympics.
The first full day of competition Saturday will feature Dartmouth athletes in the women’s 7.5 km biathlon sprint and the women’s 7.5×7.5 km cross-country skiathlon. Alpine racing events begin Sunday with the women’s giant slalom.
The last time distance runner Alexi Pappas ’12 participated in the Olympics, she was racing for Greece at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, setting a national record of 31:36:16 in the 10,000-meter run. Now, in Pyeongchang, she has a different reason to live in Olympic Village.
The writer, actress, and filmmaker is one of four Olympic artists-in-residence chosen by the International Olympic Committee to “bring Olympic values to life through art.” Pappas and her partner, Jeremy Teicher ’10, will create a series of short films featuring the actor Nick Kroll, with cameos by current Olympic athletes.
Artists used to compete in the Games. From 1912 to 1948, gold, silver, and bronze medals were given in five categories: painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, and music. The Olympic Committee is reviving the tradition, not as a contest, but “to celebrate the spirit of Olympism through art with a wider audience via the hashtag #OlympicArt.”
Pappas and Teicher scored positive reviews last year for Tracktown, their semi-autobiographical indie comedy. “It feels like my background as an athlete and a filmmaker are coming together at this intersection,” Pappas told the New York Times about the Olympics arts residency. She still races professionally, and will keep a training regimen in South Korea.
Alice Merryweather ’21, left, and Tricia Mangan ’19, were picked by the U.S. Olympic Alpine ski team this week to fill slots that opened up due to injuries. Mangan was the final athlete added to Team USA. (AP Photos)
Merryweather, who plans to start classes at Dartmouth in the spring, and Mangan, a biomechanical engineering student, were finishing up Junior World Cup competitions in Europe when they got word that they had been tapped by the U.S. ski team to fill out competition slots that had opened up due to injuries, according to the Team USA website. Mangan, who got the call on Monday, has the distinction of being the final athlete added to this year’s U.S. Olympic Team.
Mangan, who has been skiing with the U.S. Alpine C team for more than a year, returning to her studies in the spring and summer terms, finished fourth in the super-G at the FIS Junior Ski Championship last weekend in Davos, Switzerland. She replaces Jackie Wiles, who was injured on Feb. 3 in a competition at Germany.
Merryweather, who was accepted into the Class of 2021 but deferred her start until next fall, skis out of the Stratton Mountain School in Vermont. She won downhill gold last season at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships, then broke into the top 20 in downhill at the FIS World Cup Final in Aspen last March. Merryweather replaces Steven Nyman, who was injured on Jan. 26 while competing in Germany.
With the late addition of Alice Merryweather ’21 and Tricia Mangan ’19 to the U.S. Alpine ski team, Dartmouth will have 15 athletes and a head coach marching in tomorrow’s 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the most ever for the College.
And, with Paralympian Staci Mannella ’18 set to compete in Pyeongchang next month, that brings to 17 the total of Dartmouth athletes taking part in the Olympics. Read more.
U.S. Ski Team coach Peter Anderson ’06, left, stands slopeside last month during a World Cup race in Kitzbühel, Austria. (Photo courtesy of Peter Anderson)
The Dartmouth-Olympics connection includes more than athletes. Alumni contribute to the Winter Games in many ways, from coaching to medical support to anti-doping oversight.
Peter Anderson ’06 is assistant coach with the U.S. Men’s Alpine team, working with the skiers in the downhill and Super G races. This is Anderson’s second Winter Olympics. He coached the U.S. women’s slalom and giant slalom at the Sochi games in 2014.
“It is really an honor to be representing the United States in South Korea, but also to be representing Dartmouth College. It has been amazing over the years how many people, both athletes and coaches, have represented Dartmouth at the Olympic Games,” says Anderson, a philosophy major who skied for Dartmouth in the World University Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2005. Anderson was featured, along with two-time Super G medalist Andrew Weibrecht ’09, in a recent Ski Racing Media video, The American Downhiller: Episode 5.
Two doctors with ties to the College, James Watkins ’84 and Ed Merrens ’88, MED ’94, MHCDS ’12, have each served as team doctors for U.S. Olympic skiers for more than a decade. Watkins, a math major and Dartmouth Outing Club lifer, worked with the ski patrol at the Skiway. He is at the 2018 games as a team doctor for the women’s alpine team. Merrens, who served as U.S. Biathlon team physician in four Olympic Games, has recently been elected to the board of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. In the wake of the Russian doping scandal after the Sochi games, Merrens says he is honored to be chosen to the board of the agency that is fighting for the integrity of international sports.
Merrens says his role on the board is to advise and deliberate on scientific and medical questions related to drug testing and the effects of blood doping. Because he is not involved with testing or other clinical protocols at the games, “I continue to cheer for Dartmouth. I am not going to the games, but you can be sure I’ll be watching and rooting for our Dartmouth athletes,” particularly biathletes Emily Dreissigacker ’11 and Susan Dunklee ’08.
The New York Times Magazine’s Olympics issue described the sport of biathlon as a search for stillness in the midst of heart-pumping speed. The story quotes Susan Dunklee ’08 saying that when she races, she’s “in what she calls ‘tunnel mode’—totally closed off to anything except the race.” Dunklee, the Times notes, “is one of Team USA’s top hopes for its first-ever medal in biathlon.” Read more.
The 2018 Winter Olympics seem to have defused tensions—at least temporarily—on the Korean Peninsula, but two Dartmouth professors caution that friendship between sports teams does not necessarily mirror international diplomacy. Read more.
Sophie Caldwell ’12, left, and Ida Sargent ’11, bronze medalists in the women's team sprint at the FIS Cross-Country World Cup 8 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Sputnik via AP)
When the U.S. women’s cross-country ski team members, including three Dartmouth alumnae, race at Pyeongchang next month, they have an excellent chance of racking up medals. That’s the prediction from Peggy Shinn, a free-lance writer based in Rutland, Vt., who reports on the Olympics for TeamUSA.org. “In 28 world cup races to date this season, the U.S. women’s cross-country skiers have finished on the podium in over a third of them,” Shinn writes this week for Team USA.
Her newly published book, World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team, asks why, in 2012, after years of struggle, America’s women suddenly began to shine in cross-country skiing world cup events. She interviewed team members Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen, the now-retired Holly Brooks, and Dartmouth’s own Sophie Caldwell ’12, Ida Sargent ’11, and Rosie Brennan ’11. “They all credited better teamwork,” says Shinn. “That’s what made the difference.”
And, she says, the U.S. team got a boost this year with a new waxing truck. “It’s kind of like a lab on wheels, where skiers and wax techs and coaches can all be in one place as they test out waxes on a variety of different skis that have different flexes and different structures imprinted on the bottoms.” The Americans won’t have the truck in Korea, but neither will other teams. And it has helped them prepare for the games, Shinn says.
Cami Thompson Graves, Dartmouth’s director of skiing and head coach of women’s Nordic skiing, also expects great things from the women’s cross-country Olympic team. “I am very proud of Sophie, Ida, and Rosie, as well as biathlete Susan Dunklee ’08,” she says. “It is a great advantage to be racing fearlessly, rather than defensively. Confidence breeds success!”
And success has also come to two more Dartmouth athletes who, just under the wire, were added to the cross-country team on Friday: Patrick Caldwell ’17 (cousin to Sophie) and Annie Hart ’14.
With 15 competitors headed to the Winter Games, “Dartmouth College’s Olympic skiing reputation continues to grow,” Team USA proclaimed in a headline this week. Two more Dartmouth Nordic skiers were named to Team USA on Friday as the final rosters were announced. Including the 2018 contingent, Dartmouth athletes have earned 147 spots on Winter Olympics team rosters, with athletes from the College competing in every Winter Games since the first one in 1924. To date, Dartmouth athletes have won a total of 13 gold, nine silver, and six bronze medals, more than many countries. Read more.
Add two more names to the long list of Dartmouth athletes soon to test their mettle at the Winter Games. David Chodounsky ’08 and Nolan Kasper ’14 both qualified in men’s slalom at Sunday’s World Cup in Kitzbuehel, Austria. (On Friday, also in Kitzbuehel, Andrew Weibrecht ’09 carved a path to the U.S. team, in super-G.)
Chodounsky finished 15th, rising to the top of the U.S. slalom standings. While Kasper, a two-time Olympian, did not finish in Sunday’s race, he had already racked up 11 points with an impressive showing in Wengen, Austria—his first World Cup in three years, following a string of injuries. In that race, he progressed from a 52nd start position to 20th place. Kasper ranks second on the U.S. world cup slalom ladder.
Headlining this weekend’s announcement on its website, Team USA notes that Chodounsky and Kasper “continue Dartmouth’s strong Olympic pipeline.” The Olympic contingent now numbers 13 competitors with Dartmouth ties. Jeffrey Shiffrin ’76 also has bragging rights: His daughter, Mikaela, described by the Los Angeles Times as “perhaps the best female skier alive,” will be a top competitor in Pyeongchang next month.
It’s going to be a make-or-break weekend for David Chodounsky ’08 and Nolan Kasper ’14. Both slalom skiers get their final chance Sunday to qualify for the Olympic team in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
At Dartmouth, Chodounsky won the NCAA slalom title as a first-year skier on the men’s Alpine team. In 2008, he finished his Big Green career by leading the team to a fourth-place overall NCAA finish. Chodounsky also holds a fistful of U.S. Championship titles. When he joined the U.S. Alpine team for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, he was the only team member with a college degree. He began skiing when he was only 2 years old, when his parents gave him a push down the hill in front of their house. This weekend: different yard, steeper slope, higher stakes.
Nolan Kasper ’14 as a member of the 2013 U.S. ski team.
Kasper is a “comeback kid,” says Ski Racing magazine. He competed in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, was a World Cup silver medalist in 2011, got sidelined for the 2013 season by serious injuries, and came back for the 2014 Games in Sochi, where he was the top American slalom finisher. Then a cartilage tear in his knee robbed him of two more seasons. But he’s back, big-time. Dartmouth, Kasper tells Ski Racing, helped him stay focused on his ultimate goal—returning to the Olympics starting gate. “I think having the outlet with school was really, really key to making sure that I wasn’t getting too mentally down when things weren’t going well.”
Andrew Weibrecht ’09 takes to the air during a 2014 World Cup race at Beaver Creek Mountain Avon, Colo. (Photo by John Risley)
Another Dartmouth star, Andrew Weibrecht ’09, clinched his spot on the 2018 team on Friday by placing 24th in the super-G World Cup in Kitzbuehel. Nicknamed “War Horse,” Weibrecht won a bronze medal at his Olympic debut in 2010, and upset Bode Miller for the silver medal in Sochi.
Tucker Murphy ’04 carries Bermuda’s national flag during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Tucker Murphy ’04, a Dartmouth Rhodes scholar and Big Green Nordic ski team standout, will represent Bermuda in cross-country skiing at this year’s Winter Games.
Murphy, who graduated with a degree in biology modified by anthropology, and studied biomimetics at Oxford University, raced cross-country in Sochi in 2014 and in Vancouver in 2010. At the Vancouver Winter Games, he made quite a splash, carrying the Bermuda flag in the Opening Ceremony wearing the team uniform: a blue blazer, black knee socks, and red Bermuda shorts.
Murphy is the third Bermudan to ever participate in the Winter Olympics, and the first to compete in Nordic skiing. At Dartmouth, he was also on the heavyweight crew team and was an editor and writer for the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science.
Dartmouth has had scores of contenders at the Olympics over the years, so it’s not surprising that the tradition gets passed down from one generation to the next, and from one sibling to another.
For example, when biathlete Emily Dreissigacker ’11 competes in Pyeongchang, she’ll be the standard bearer for an athletic family whose Dartmouth roots run deep. Her mother, Julia “Judy” Geer ’75, transferred to Dartmouth in 1973, the year after the College went co-ed. She was the first women’s crew team captain, and, in ’76 and ’84, rowed for the U.S. at the Summer Games. In 1984, Emily’s aunt Charlotte “Carlie” Geer ’80 became the first Dartmouth woman to earn an Olympic medal—a silver in crew.
Like relatives on their mother’s side, all three Dreissigacker children—Emily, Hannah ’09, and Ethan ’13—went to Dartmouth. Hannah joined the Big Green Nordic ski team and competed in biathlon at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ethan is also a biathlete. Emily started out rowing for Dartmouth, where she was a two-time All-American. After college, she shifted her focus to biathlon and, in January, qualified for the U.S. Olympic team, along with fellow Dartmouth alumna, Susan Dunklee ’08.
Sophie Caldwell ’12 competes in a cross-country skiing event during her time at Dartmouth. (Photo by Paul Bussi)
Sophie Caldwell ’12 also seems to have Olympic ability baked into her DNA. Her grandfather, John Caldwell ’50, raced for the U.S. Nordic ski team at the 1952 Winter Games in Oslo. Her uncle, Tim Caldwell ’77, competed on cross-country skis in four Winter Olympics.
“We pride ourselves on being in the forefront of skiing in the U.S. and internationally,” says Cami Thompson Graves, Dartmouth director of skiing and head coach of women’s Nordic skiing. “It is a tradition that we reinforce with each new class of athletes, and our Olympic participation shows just how far our athletes can go.” Check out the lineup so far of Dartmouth-affiliated athletes who have made Olympic teams. Read more.
Peter Graves, who will be announcing the Alpine ski events in this year’s winter Olympics, also covered the 2014 Sochi Olympics as an announcer.
When Peter Graves of East Thetford, Vt., watches skiers go for the gold in Pyeongchang, his voice will ring out loud and clear—over the public address system. Graves, the husband of Cami Thompson Graves, Dartmouth’s director of skiing and head coach of women’s Nordic skiing, will be announcing Alpine races this year.
“This will be my 11th time covering the games, in one way or another,” Graves said recently over coffee in Hanover. “There’s a beauty to the Olympics movement that moves me to the core, and I feel blessed and humbled to be a part of it.”
Graves does his research before stepping into the booth. “It’s important, not just what you say, but how you say it—your inflections, your word choices, and the true stories you tell about the athletes,” he says. Long before the opening ceremony, Graves spends months gathering information and writing notes about each skier on stacks of 3-by-5 cards. “I’m old school that way,” he says.
“A good announcer educates, inspires, and informs,” says Graves. “I want to tell the story of the kid from a rural New England town, or from a rural and isolated mountain town in Austria, who have dedicated their lives to this movement.”
Drawing on his long experience in front of the microphone, Graves, 65, coaches younger announcers, and he has a lot of history to share. In addition to working at the Olympics, he’s been a radio news director, a cross-country ski coach, and a sports commentator for NBC and ESPN.
“Announcing races feel to me a little like sitting around a campfire. You are reaching the audience that is right in front of you, and that includes everyone from an athlete’s mother to heads of state,” says Graves. “I love my job.”