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Sports: U.S. Olympian Laura Spector ’10

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Straight shooter makes biathlon team

When you’re pursuing an Ivy League education and an Olympic dream you have to plan your days very carefully. And when you’re a biathlete like Laura Spector ’10 you’re not simply squeezing in three to five hours of daily running, skiing and/or rollerskiing between classes and homework; you also have to schedule time at the shooting range. For Spector, this entailed a 90-minute weekly drive after class every Friday to Jericho, Vt., where she trained at the Vermont National Guard’s firing range with a nearby coach until Sunday afternoon.

Laura Spector '10

Six years of dedication to her Olympic goals have paid off for Laura Spector ’10. (photo by Viktoria Franke/US Biathlon)

“When I’m on campus, I’m doing something, whether it’s training or doing an assignment, literally every minute of the day,” says Spector, who took off the summer, fall, and winter terms of 2009-2010 to train and compete full time with the U.S. national biathlon team. “Even during meals I have to be doing work, because I won’t have time to finish it otherwise. I feel like I’m running on this clock that’s just spinning around and around, and time is just not going to stop for me until I get to the end of the term.”

But all the hard work paid off in January for this Lenox, Mass., native when she was named to the U.S. Olympic biathlon team. “I’ve been working toward this goal for six years, so it’s really exciting,” Spector says. “You put in so much time, and there are four years between every Olympics, which is a long time to keep working that hard. But it’s really rewarding and gratifying to accomplish what you set out to do.”

More on Laura Spector’s journey:

“Taking dead aim: Dartmouth’s Spector has her sights set on making biathlon team” (The Boston Globe, December 25, 2009)

“Driven: Spector Aims for 2010 Olympics” (Dartmouth Life, June 2008)

While it’s not uncommon for Ivy League hockey players or skiers to balance academics and Olympic-level competition, it’s extremely rare for an athlete who participates in an individual sport like biathlon and who doesn’t receive coaching and training as a member of a collegiate team. But thanks to regular contact with her U.S. national team coaches and the flexibility of the D-Plan, Spector hammered out an academic schedule and a self-directed training program that enabled her to succeed.

“I went to summer term the first two years, and I’ll go back this spring, summer, and fall. But the past two years I’ve been able to take the fall and winter term off so I could get in a full race season every year,” she says. “I’m glad Dartmouth has the D-Plan and that the College has been so supportive in allowing me to pursue my dreams.”

Spector acknowledges that most of her peers take the online schooling route, which enables them to focus more fully on training and competing. But the biological sciences major and Jewish studies minor never considered this option. “Being at Dartmouth and having that firsthand experience of being on a college campus is really important to me,” says Spector, a Rufus Choate scholar who plans to do genetics research someday. “I really look forward to going back to Dartmouth every spring. It’s hard to spend a whole year only training and thinking about biathlon. It’s nice to be at school and to be using my brain in other ways.”

Although her Olympic race schedule precluded her from participating in the opening ceremonies in Vancouver, she’s looking forward to meeting her fellow athletes on Team USA and to competing in front of biathlon’s enthusiastic fans. “They’re so excited about watching you race,” says Spector, who notes that crowds of 20,000 are common at races in Europe. “They’re yelling, they’re ringing the bells, they’re waving the clappers, blowing the horns and whistles, and wearing costumes. It’s great. That atmosphere makes it really, really fun.”

By BONNIE BARBER

 

Last Updated: 3/10/10