Dartmouth’s Secret Olympians
By Angie Cho, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, August 10, 2012
Underneath the Olympic hype sweeping Hanover, there are some among us who aren’t always celebrated for their athletic prowess but should be. Let’s meet some of these “secret” Olympians.
Victoria Rackohn ’14 Sport: Figure skating Major: Neuroscience and pre-med Hometown: Westlake Village, Calif.
Q: When did you start? A: I started skating when I was five. When I was 12, I first made Team USA, the opportunity to represent the United States in international competitions.
Q: What was your skating schedule? A: My rink was 2 hours away. I’d skate for about 3 hours before school and then another hour or two after. I also had off-ice conditioning like Pilates, stretching and lifting.
Q: How did you balance skating with school? A: I was on a special school schedule where I attended half my classes as long as I kept my grades up. One class in sophomore year kept a tally of how many times I came to class and it ended up being 7 times. Junior year, I moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado to be on the Olympic track.
Q: Did you end up graduating from there? A: No, after 3 months I hit the point where I was going to stay in skating and go for the Olympics and give up going to a good college. So when I was 16 I decided that it was more important to get a good education and retired. I graduated from my original high school.
Q: You retired at 16? A: Yeah, most elite skaters end up shelving their education because you can’t really balance Olympic-level skating with academics. I respect professional skaters a lot, but I just had different priorities.
Q: Do you skate at Dartmouth? A: Yeah, I’m really involved in the skating team here. I really like it because it’s fun and you compete as a team, instead of working yourself to the bone and focusing only on the results. The people here on the team don’t care if you fall —they cheer you on.
Q: Do you have any regrets? A: No. I accomplished a lot during my skating career. Making Team USA was definitely a really proud moment.
Fun ice fact: I invented an original spin where my foot is behind my head.
Nicole Swanson ’14 Sport: Skiing Major: Economics Hometown: Los Gatos, Calif.
Q: When did you start skiing? A: I started skiing when I was three and racing when I was seven at Squaw Valley in California. It’s known for its difficult training and has produced a bunch of Olympic-level athletes.
Q: How did you ski if there’s no snow where you live? A: I went to a public school where I attended class three days a week. My dad and I would commute two hours by plane on Thursday night and Monday night to Tahoe.
Q: How did you manage skiing and school? A: Well, my parents always said that if my grades slipped, I would have to give up skiing, so that was good motivation since I really loved racing. I was also looking at private ski academies for the rest of high school.
Q: And how did you rank? A: For my age, I was ranked #2 in downhill, #4 in super G and #7 in slalom. I competed regionally when I was 10 and internationally when I was 15. My coaches thought there was a possibility to send me to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. That was the first time it was a really solid goal, but even at my fifth grade graduation, when I was asked what I want to be when I grow up, I said I wanted to be an Olympian.
Q: So did you end up going to a ski academy? A: No. I herniated two disks in my back in the spring of my sophomore year. There were a lot of physical things I couldn’t do. I needed cortisone injections and couldn’t walk for a while. It would have taken so much to rehabilitate myself, and I lived so far from the mountains, that I gave up racing. I couldn’t ski again until senior year, which was crazy because I was used to skiing 80-100 days a year.
Q: Do you ski at Dartmouth? A: I’m on Ski Patrol, and I really enjoy still being out there. I don’t do club skiing, because it’s so hard to think about getting back on a race course. I know a bunch of kids on the Dartmouth ski team, and it’s hard to not be able to ski at the level they can.
Q: Do you see yourself ever competing again? A: I don’t know, but I’m still very active and try to maintain the same training regiment I had when I was competing. I still love skiing, but I don’t think I have the desire to race because I want to be as good as I was or just not put myself into it.