Tucker Murphy ’04 heads to Sochi as Bermuda’s lone athlete

by Josh Schiefelbein | 2/5/14 5:40pm

Sporting red shorts and a navy blazer, cross-country skier Tucker Murphy ’04, proudly carried the Bermuda flag during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olmypics in Vancouver. This year, he will compete again as the sole member of his home-country’s delegation.

“It’s a rare experience and a stark contrast to being alone in the woods, which is how you spend a lot of your time training for cross-country skiing,” Murphy said in an email, reflecting on the opening ceremonies four years ago. “It also represents the support of a community of people back in Bermuda.”

In Vancouver, Murphy finished 88th in the 15-kilometer freestyle race.

As the sole representative for Bermuda, Murphy will join 17 other athletes in Sochi, Russia who are the only ones representing their respective countries.

“Going alone can sometimes be challenging because you do a lot of training and logistics by yourself that other teams would normally do together, and you also must rely a lot more on the kindness of foreigners,” Murphy said.

When he travels, Murphy often receives rides to remote races or help with wax, training and logistics from teams such as the Brazilians, the Spanish, the British and the Argentinians.

Murphy is one of just three athletes to have represented Bermuda at the Winter Olympics. He also has the triple distinction of being Bermuda’s first Olympic skier, Bermuda’s only athlete to compete in Vancouver and the only Dartmouth student to ever participate under the Bermuda flag.

“It makes sense that, as a small sub-tropical island in the middle of the Atlantic, Bermuda is not well represented at the Winter Olympics,” Murphy said. “That said, the island’s motto is Quo Fata Ferunt, meaning ‘whither the fates carry us.’ It is only by a lot of chances of fate, one being Dartmouth, that I ended up skiing.”

Despite the obvious geographical disadvantage, Murphy said he hopes that his performance can inspire younger Bermudians to follow in his footsteps.

The country launched a ski federation in 2005 and several Bermudians have joined since, mostly in freestyle or alpine, Murphy said.

“Some are pretty young, so hopefully they realize the opportunity and take it further than me,” he said.

In order to qualify for skiing events, athletes must meet one of two different qualifying times classified the ‘A Standard’ and the ‘B Standard.’ Murphy reached the B Standard during a 15-kilometer freestyle race in Chamonix, France, last month.

Murphy’s best career finish was 11th in the National Championships in Spain in 2009. His best finish this season was 22nd in the 15-kilometer in the Switzerland National Cross Country Skiing Championships on Jan. 21, clocking a time of 46:25.9.

Murphy’s training schedule has kept him busy, including standard winter training in Vermont under the guidance of Pepa Miloucheva of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and less conventional training at home, he said.

“The past spring and summer I was working in Bermuda, so training was not typical,” Murphy said. “I ended up doing a fair bit of triathlon, because I could find good training partners willing to do lots of laps of the island in the heat and humidity of summer.”

Murphy didn’t start seriously skiing until his late high school years. He credits his Olympic pursuits to his time at Dartmouth, including the guidance of men’s cross-country ski coach Ruff Patterson and the ability to join the program’s development team.

“Many very talented and highly motivated skiers have gone through the program,” Murphy said. “I was lucky to train with some of them. Each class seems to take it to another level, as is evident not just with the number of representatives and contenders Dartmouth has in Sochi, but also in a much greater way with those who continue competing after college, coach, write about skiing or are involved in some other area of the winter sports community.”

While at Dartmouth, Murphy earned numerous distinctions. A biology modified with anthropology major, he received the Dartmouth Anthropology Department’s McKennan prize for his freshman paper on Gould’s theory of neoteny. He also received academic citations for distinguished work in Spanish literature and architecture, as well as in his major courses.

In Bermuda, he snorkled and collected shells, which sparked his interest in evolutionary biology. At Dartmouth, he served as a writer and associate editor of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science and volunteered at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vt.

All of this was in addition to competing on both the heavyweight crew team and the cross-country ski team.

Murphy was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and completed a masters of science in integrative bioscience. He went on to earn a doctorate in zoology from Oxford, which he has used to protect pumas and other rare cats.