The Olympics Corner: Biathletes Emily Dreissigacker ’11 and Susan Dunklee ’08 race in the 2018 Winter Olympics

by Caitlyn McGovern | 2/11/18 2:30am

This past weekend, two Dartmouth alumni — Emily Dreissigacker ’11 and Susan Dunklee ’08 — took the slopes for Team USA in the biathlon, competing in the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint. The biathlon combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting for a fast paced and exciting event. While both athletes have excelled in the sport, their journeys to the Olympics has been drastically different.

At Dartmouth, Dreissigacker rowed for all four years on the women’s crew team, being named an all-American twice and also rowing at the U23 World Championships twice. After graduating in 2011, she continued training to hopefully qualify to row for Team USA in the Olympics, but after a hand injury she made the switch to the biathlon at 26.

Despite having made the switch only a few years ago, she has been a member of the U.S. National Team since 2017. Athleticism runs in the family, as her mother, Judy Greer, rowed in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics, while her father, Dick Dreissigacker, rowed in the 1972 Olympics. Additionally, her sister, Hannah Dreissigacker ’09, competes in the biathlon and represented the USA in the 2014 Sochi Games.

While Dreissigacker has a background in rowing, Dunklee’s athletic focus has been on skiing since she started hitting the slopes with her family at just two years old. Her father, Stan Dunklee, also skied cross-country for the USA in the 1976 and 1980 Games.

She has been a trailblazer in the sport, as she was the first woman from the U.S. to earn an individual world medal in the biathlon by placing second in the 12.5-kilometer mass start race in the 2017 International Biathlon Union Biathlon World Championships. She continued to pave the way at the World Championships individual race in 2017 when she placed 6th and became the first US woman to earn a spot on the 2018 US Olympic Team.

Both women train with the elite Craftsbury Green Racing Project, which is based out of Craftsbury, Vermont. Out of their men and women’s teams, nearly half of their athletes attended Dartmouth and competed for the Big Green in either skiing or rowing. The group is part of the larger Craftsbury Outdoor Center, which is run by Dreissigacker’s parents. Additionally, her father and uncle founded Concept2, which manufactures premier rowing equipment. Dreissigacker and Dunklee have also worked together to spread the biathlon to the next generation through their Girls with Guns clinics for those aged eight through eighteen.

In one of the first medal events of this year’s Olympics, the 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint race on Saturday, Dreissigacker and Dunklee finished 51st and 66th, respectively.

Unfortunately, Dunklee was unable to perform to her full capacity due to a cold she caught in the days leading up to the race. After a second-place finish in the mass start race at the individual world championships, Dunklee was hoping to become the first Team USA biathlon medalist in team history. After a solid first lap, in which she only missed one target when shooting laying down, she missed four targets standing, causing her to ski four penalty loops. The extra time skiing the penalty laps combined with her cold hurt her endurance towards the end of the race, where she was unable to make up the time she lost before. Out of 87 competitors, she placed 66th. In order to qualify for the 19-kilometer pursuit on Feb. 12, she needed to finish in the top-60.

While Dunklee struggled to hit her targets, Dreissigacker placed 51st with a time of 23:27.2 in the same race for her Olympic debut. Dreissigacker hit every target laying down and missed just one standing up. She will be racing again in the 19-kilometer pursuit on Monday, the only American from the race to qualify for pursuit. So far, she has had a strong year, having placed 5th in the individual race at the 2018 IBU Cup. She will look to translate her recent success into the rest of her events in PyeongChang.

This is the third installment in the Dartmouth’s 2018 Winter Olympics coverage.