As the PyeongChang Olympics draw to a close, we check back in with our six local Vermont Olympians to gather their reflections on the experience. We thank them for taking the time to share their perspectives and wisdom with us! All six are now competing in Europe in the last few World Cups of the season. We wish them well in racing and will continue to follow their results!
The Paralympic Winter Games kick off on March 9 in PyeongChang. We look forward to following more inspirational athletes.
What (briefly) has your Olympic experience meant to you—learnings, realizations, highs and lows, surprises, future goals?
Clare Egan (Biathlon): What strikes me most about my Olympic experience is that it is not just mine. My team, family, friends, community, and country have all shared this experience in a way that feels decidedly collective.
Ida Sargent (Nordic Skiing): These are my second Olympics so I came into the Games with really high goals for a couple specific races. In the weeks leading up I was incredibly focused on the preparations for these events. Then, just about a week before we were supposed to leave for Korea, I fell and broke my hand and everything changed. I was headed in the opposite direction—to get surgery—and wasn't sure if I would even be able to ski, much less race. Being forced to take a step back changed my perspective. When I finally arrived at the Olympics, I was so excited to just be there and experience the Olympics and to live in the moment with my teammates. I fell far short of my result goals but the chase of these goals has left me very motivated to embrace the journey and keep chasing my goals.
Susan Dunklee (Biathlon): I had higher expectations going into PyeongChang than I did in Sochi (I think all of US Biathlon did) and I felt better prepared than ever before. Unfortunately I got sick at an inopportune time. It undoubtebly impacted my racing. I’m disappointed with my results but I’m proud of how I did the best job I could with what I had in me on each given day. It’s also worth noting that the Olympic experience is broader than just three weeks. There are many months (years!) that are part of an Olympic journey. Along my journey I’ve gotten to know an incredible group of people, learned how to be a good teammate, spent many hours in the woods and mountains, and developed my mind and body to be strong and resilient. That’s worth more than any result sheet.
Emily Dreissigacker (Biathlon): This Olympic experience has been really motivational for me. It has really made me hungry for more and it’s made the next step feel that much more attainable.
Kait Miller (Nordic Skiing): I think my biggest takeaway from the Olympics was an overwhelming realization of how many people supported me to get here. The outpouring of messages I received after I was named to the team is something I'll never forget. There were so many people in my life who have contributed to my career and I wouldn't be here without them.
Caitlin Patterson (Nordic Skiing): During the time I spent in the Village and at the Olympic venues, I was struck by the reality that all of us high-profile athletes are just people—people who have dreams, questions, uncertainties, and character quirks. And yet these "just people" have an amazing capacity for hard work and dedication in pursuit of their sport and their goals; the small, unassuming girl I ride the elevator with one day might be a big air snowboarder capable of mind-boggling aerial tricks that I couldn't possibly imagine executing, the man sitting in front of me on the shuttle bus happens to be a multi-gold medalist biathlete. It was important to me that the Olympic experience transcended just sport—people are very focused and serious about their athletic pursuits, but there is also such lightheartedness and camaraderie, curiosity about other sports and people. While the two races that I competed in—the 15k skiathlon and the 30k classic—did not go as well as I was hoping for a variety of reasons, I still came away from the Olympics extremely inspired and motivated to keep racing, get faster than ever, and most of all to stay active and engaged in the skiing world.
What would you say to any young person who may be chasing Olympic dreams, or any dreams, for that matter?
Clare: Let go of how everybody else is doing, and give it all you've got.
Ida: Embrace the process and love the journey! The actual race is such a small part of the whole experience but the process of setting high goals and chasing after them is very exciting.
Susan: Every athlete has a fire burning inside them. It’s their will to compete. It’s the source of motivation to get yourself out the door and train in all types of weather. Fires need air and they need fuel, otherwise they burn out. Give your fire air and fuel. Figure out what you love most about your sport, and never lose sight of that. As my dad always told me: “Keep it fun!"
Emily: I would say to make sure that you’re not too focused on the result, the process is what really matters. If you’re not enjoying the process, you will never make it to the result.
Kait: I never really thought I would make an Olympic team, and becoming an Olympian was never the driving force behind my motivation to pursue skiing. Therefore, I would say so anyone pursuing a dream that you have to love the process. Dream big and set lofty goals, but enjoy the day-to-day process of working to achieve those goals.
Caitlin: I'll never forget my Olympic journey and those weeks in South Korea, and I'll always cherish the way they reinforced my belief that healthy competition fosters peace and community. To everyone out there, find a path and don't be afraid to follow your dreams, even if the road is winding you never know where it might lead!