Ski team sisters compete together

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 2/23/12 11:00pm

by Richard Yu and Richard Yu / The Dartmouth

All three sets of sisters began skiing at a very young age. The Fucignas and Caldwells started before they entered kindergarten, while the Flowers began in middle school "to make friends."

"We started at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire," Abby Fucigna said. "[Erin] was old enough to join the race program when we started, and I wanted to do what she did. So they put me in [the race program] when I was a lot younger. We kind of came in a pack."

The Caldwell sisters also started skiing at a young age.

Family is a big component of skiing for all three sets of sisters. The Caldwells especially have a family history of Dartmouth skiers. Their father, uncle and grandfather all skied for Dartmouth. Their brother Austin Caldwell '15 races for the men's team, and their cousin will be a '16 skier at Dartmouth next year.

"We come from a big skiing family, and we started skiing together as soon as we could walk," Sophie Caldwell said. "We've skied together for our entire lives with the rest of our family."

The Fucignas, whose sister Alex Fucigna '07 also skied for Dartmouth sometimes train with the help of their mother.

"Our parents got us started in skiing because of the family aspect," Abby Fucigna said. "We would all drive down together Friday night and all go home Sunday night. It was never for the purpose of creating a ski racing family, it just happened."

Having a sister at the College helped pursuade Isabel Caldwell, Natalie Flowers and Abby Fucgina to choose Dartmouth, according to the sisters, who all said they were drawn to Dartmouth's academics and ski team.

"I was having this big struggle," Isabel Caldwell said. "I have a twin brother [Austin Caldwell], so I wanted to stay with him, but now he's here too."

Natalie Flowers also said her sister's experience at Dartmouth influenced her decision to apply.

"I just saw how much Erika liked it, and I obviously missed my sister a lot," Natalie Flowers said. "Our dad was pretty stoked he could visit us in the same place. [Dartmouth] is a great opportunity for skiing and has the best academics and skiing combined."

Their decisions to follow their sisters were also based on the fact that the sisters have rarely skied for different teams. The Caldwells and Flowers have only been on different teams when Isabel and Natalie were still in high school and their older sisters were already at Dartmouth. Although the Fucignas are only 18 months apart, they have raced on different teams for the past three years, when Abby Fucigna was a senior in high school and then raced for the U.S. Ski Team for two years.

Although they have spent most of their lives on the same team, the sisters have still competed against one another.

Collegiate skiing is the only area of skiing in which there is a team aspect to racing. Usually, a ski team trains and travels together, but the racers compete individually. All three sets of sisters have competed against one another, and they often use this for motivation.

"We joke that we're more competitive in school work," Sophie Caldwell said, laughing. "It's much more of a support system than a competition."

Even so, the Caldwells keep track of their competitive record.

"My claim to fame is that I beat [Sophie] twice in my life," Isabel Caldwell said. "One was when she went through the lap lane instead of finish line and the other was after she had mono."

The Flowers said they try to learn from each other as they compete.

"It's more of a way of supporting and pushing the other one," Erika Flowers said. "[Natalie's] really good at double polling in classics, so I try to ski behind her and learn from her. I obviously don't want to get beat by my little sister. It's good because it motivates me."

The Fucignas push one another and use each other as a measuring stick, but they also thrive off each other's accomplishments.

"Because you know that person's ability so much better, it's a much better gauge of how you're doing," Abby Fucigna said. "It pushes you but in a totally healthy way. If I have a bad day, I'm not super bummed if she has a good day. We work together to help each other improve."

The sisters also work together in the offseason. They do many of the same training regimens and often take ski trips together, especially in the summer.

"At home, having [Natalie] to train with is awesome," Erika Flowers said. "You can't always train with a team, but you can usually drag your fellow sibling out to train with you."

The Fucigna sisters use friendly competition when they train.

"It's the biggest advantage I could ask for," Erin Fucigna said. "We push each other so much. It's great that I have someone at the same level as me trying to push me. She's the best competitor I could ask for."

All three sets of sisters are friends off the slopes. They eat together, study together and do "anything you'd do with a friend," according to Erika Flowers. Their families are also friends with each other. Sophie Caldwell and Erika Flowers actually live together, as do Isabel Caldwell and Natalie Flowers.

"We have sibling dinners with the four of us," Sophie Caldwell said. "They come to our house on the East Coast for Thanksgiving and Easter. The ski team hangs out all the time outside of practice too."

"Abby's my best friend," Erin Fucigna said. "We literally do everything together. We're really close. Even when we're apart we're constantly in communication. It's nice to have my sister as close as we are because we can literally do nothing and still have so much fun together."

Sophie Caldwell, Erika Flowers and Erin Fucigna all graduate this year, so the sisters will be separated once again. However, they plan to remain close and continue skiing together. Erika Flowers and Sophie Caldwell both plan on skiing next year and are looking at professional teams.

"Whether we keep skiing competitively or not, I think skiing is something that it is a big family thing," Abby Fucigna said. "[Erin and I] always talk about having a family ski house when we get older that our kids can go to."

All six girls said that they are lucky to have the opportunity to spend some of the best years of their lives on the same team as their sisters.

"It's pretty sweet to be able to be on a team with a bunch of pretty awesome girls," Erika Flowers said. "To have one of them be your sister is an added bonus."

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