Big Green athletes prep for Olympics
In this year's centennial anniversary of the Olympic Games, six athletes with Big Green blood will be careening through the cool waters and hustling atop the scorching pavement of Atlanta this summer.
Though they represent four different countries and will compete in separate events, these six athletes do possess one thing in common -- they all graduated from Dartmouth College.
Marathoner Bob Kempainen '88, rowers Odd-Even Bustnes '94, Anne Kakela '92 and Ted Murphy '94 and kayakers Dana Chladek '85 and Dru van Hengel '85 will represent their countries in Atlanta this July.
Perhaps the United States' best shot at a medal in the marathon is Dartmouth graduate Bob Kempainen, a Phi Beta Kappa in biochemistry and member of the varsity cross-country and track teams throughout his career at Dartmouth. Kempainen finished first in the Olympic Trials in February to earn his second consecutive berth in the Olympics.
In the 1992 Olympic marathon in Barcelona, Kempainen finished 17th. Dartmouth track Coach Barry Harwick said Kempainen probably has a good chance of medalling this year.
"But there are a lot of variables involved," cautioned Harwick, who noted the quality of other marathoners in the sport, including the Kenyan squad, which includes a number of runners favored to win.
According to Harwick, Kempainen may still be fighting off a slight knee injury come race day this month, but his race "smarts" should give him an extra edge against competitors this summer.
"He is probably the smartest marathoner out there," Harwick said. "And I think when he is planning his preparation and race strategy, he will do everything possible to maximize his chances."
Some athletes begin their careers soon after they learn to walk. Bustnes, Kakela and Murphy however, got started on their paths to glory years later.
Kakela, who's first passion was skiing, began rowing during her first year at Dartmouth and competed for three years for the varsity team.
After graduating with a major in biology at Dartmouth, Kakela competed in the rowing World Championships in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Her hard work eventually culminated in a silver medal in 1994 and a gold in the women's eight in 1995.
Accompanying her at the World Championships in Prague in 1993 was Murphy, a fellow Big Green rower.
The towering, six-foot six-inch tall Murphy also started rowing his first year at Dartmouth -- rather by chance, when a crew coach approached him in Thayer Dining Hall and asked him if he would like to try crew.
Murphy told The Dartmouth he was "a pretty ugly rower" during his freshman year. But soon enough, Murphy worked his way to the top, joining the prestigious 15-man national team after he left the College in 1994.
Another Dartmouth rower from the talented class of 1994, Bustnes, will compete for the Norwegian national team at this year's Olympics. Bustnes doubles as a research assistant at the University of Oxford's engineering sciences department in England.
Dana Chladek has championship kayaking in her blood. Chladek's parents were both members of the Czechoslovakian national team which won the 1963 and 1965 World Championships.
Chladek, a former president of the Ledyard Canoe Club, immigrated to the United States at the age of five and took up kayaking with her parents during whitewater trips in Michigan.
Chladek's teammate, the six foot tall van Hengel from Tarrytown, New York, will compete in the women's kayak sprint competition for the Czech Republic.