Four Dartmouth men are competing in the Beijing Olympics this month. For shot putter Adam Nelson '97, who already has two Olympic silver medals, nothing but gold will do.
It's all about the game plan.
Adam Nelson '97 is one of four Dartmouth men competing in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing this month. And after winning silver medals in the shot put in two previous Olympics, his plan is simple: win the gold.
Nelson is the seasoned veteran among Dartmouth's 2008 Olympic contingent, but he's not the only one with experience at the Games.
Rower Dominic Seiterle '98 is competing in his second Olympics after a seven-year layoff. Representing his native Canada, Seiterle sits in the heavyweight eight boat. He finished 13th in men's doubles rowing at the Sydney Games of 2000, and more recently, won gold in the World Rowing Championship. In the summer of 1997, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but he recovered to return to Dartmouth and captain the heavyweight crew team in his senior year.
Triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker '04 earned the first spot on the U.S. men's track team with an 11th-place finish at the International Triathlon Union BG Beijing World Cup. The 2005 Under-23 World Champion has extensive experience in international competition, having won the 2006 Haul to the Great Wall Series. Shoemaker was recently featured on a limited-edition Wheaties box. It was the first time he was featured and just the second time a triathlete had appeared on the box.
Soccer player Craig Henderson '09 - the only current undergraduate among the Dartmouth group in Beijing - will play under the flag of his native New Zealand. He competed on New Zealand's Under-23 National Team for Olympic qualifying at the Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in Lautoka, Fiji from March 1-9. His play in the midfield helped New Zealand go 5-0 to seal its first-ever Olympic bid.
Dartmouth has a long and distinguished Olympic history, dating back a century to when Arthur B. Shaw 1908 won a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the Games of the Fourth Olympiad in London in 1908.
Over the years, Dartmouth has sent nearly 150 representatives to the Games, including all but one Summer Olympics since 1908 and every Winter Olympics since the winter Games was founded in 1924. In addition to Nelson, some notable Dartmouth Olympians include four-time Olympian Cammy Myler '92, who competed in luge; 1964 gold medal-winning sprinter Gerald Ashworth '63; and Carlie Geer '80, the first Dartmouth woman to medal, taking the silver in crew at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Dartmouth's Olympic roster also includes 12 coaches, in sports including skiing, kayak, basketball, diving, and ice hockey. Over the years, Dartmouth athletes have claimed 19 gold, 21 silver, and 12 bronze medals.
With two of those silver medals, Nelson is one of Dartmouth's most decorated alumni athletes: he was the 2005 world champion, and world junior champion and NCAA champion as an undergraduate. He was also the first freshman to play football at Dartmouth, in 1993, and was a defensive tackle on the Big Green's unbeaten Ivy League championship team in 1996
He burst onto the international track and field scene in 2000, when he won the silver medal at the Sydney Olympics. It was there that he learned the value of having a plan, and sticking to it. "I was a different athlete then," Nelson says. "I went from being little-known to being the favorite, and didn't cope well. I was pretty easily distracted. It was after the Games that realized the value of having a plan - not just before the games, but after, too."
He cemented his international standing with a personal best 73'10" throw in 2002, and headed to the 2004 Athens Games as one of the favorites. But it wasn't to be.
After a competition-leading throw of 69'5" in his first attempt, Nelson fouled on all five subsequent attempts. Ukrainian Yuriy Bilonog tied Nelson on his last throw, and was awarded the gold on the strength of a superior second throw.
After the Athens Games, Nelson wasn't sure he wanted to complete any longer. Despite the world title in 2005, "I wasn't enjoying it. I was doing it for the money, and I had no passion. It had become a labor." After losing his sponsorships came some clarity about his throwing and his life. "I realized that I do love throwing the shot, especially the physical challenge. But I needed some balance in my life ... some intellectual stimulation." So, sponsorless and newly married, he developed a new plan, enrolling in business school at the University of Virginia, while training and competing.
He tried some creative ways of gaining sponsorship, including "auctioning" himself on eBay, before he regained sponsorship from Nike, the track and field giant, and gained new sponsorship from Atlanta-based Gray Communications. With balance in his life, new funding, and his rediscovered passion for the shot, he began to form his game plan for Beijing.
He qualified third at the US Olympic trials in July, with a long throw of 68'61/2", but he wasn't satisfied with his performance. "I had some issues executing ... I wasn't balanced at the back of the circle." He was good enough, though, to make his third US Olympic team, and he's spent the weeks since the Trials in Europe, competing in warm-up events leading up to Beijing.
And what of the game plan beyond the Games? "I'm pretty short-sighted right now," he says. "Any decisions will be made after August 15. But I'm not sure if I'm ready to give it up yet."
That part of the plan can come later.
Nelson was profiled earlier this year in a National Public Radio series that followed his training for the Olympics. Hear the series on the NPR site You can also visit Nelson's web site, www.throwclean.com. You can follow the progress of all of Dartmouth's Olympians on NBC-TV during the Games, or at the official Beijing Olympics web site.
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Last Updated: 8/19/08