Last week, Williams’ Chip Knight ‘00 flew to Nagano, Japan to proudly represent the United States in alpine skiing. Chip has managed to accomplish the unthinkable. He has achieved his dream of becoming an Olympic athlete, while never forgoing his enrollment at Williams College. Although reaching the Olympics by this route has not been easy, Chip has learned to strive for his athletic goals, yet not at the expense of his education. Chip can now stand at the finish in Nagano as one of the few alpine ski racers in the world able to balance a world-class skiing regime with a first-class education.
Chip grew up in Connecticut playing soccer and baseball as a child, but his interest in these took second place to his discovery of the fast and dangerous world of skiing. When Chip’s interest in skiing peaked, his mother found herself fulfilling a new job – namely driving him five hours north to Stowe, Vermont every weekend. Her dedication gave him the opportunity to become one of the fastest skiers in the world, and it wasn’t long before Chip’s alpine potential shone.
As a youngster, he became the Nastar champion and was later forced to race against older kids because he was so much faster than the boys his age. At this point, he had to make the first in a long line of sacrifices for the sport he loved. Chip moved away from his home and friends to attend the prestigious Burke Mountain Ski Academy. At Burke, Chip skied every morning, attending classes in the afternoon.
In northern Vermont, Chip had his first chance to seriously pursue his dream of becoming a World Cup skier. While he was getting this unique training opportunity, however, he missed out on many things other kids take for granted. More importantly, Chip discovered that time best spent studying had to be redirected in order to excel at racing, a choice he did not always enjoy making.
Nonetheless, Chip’s meteoric racing success was carrying him farther than he had ever dared imagine. After being named to the World Junior Championship Team as a 17-year-old, he outskiied his contemporaries and became the fastest junior ski racer in the world. In fact, his two-run winning performance prompted ski legend Alberto Tomba to ask Chip to autograph his jacket.
The following year Chip had an even more astounding race at the World Junior Championships. He placed second after initially crashing on the first run. These outstanding results thrust him on the skiing scene as an up and coming skiing phenomenon. Five years ago, his success earned him a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. While a then 19-year-old Chip had begun to realize his goal of becoming a World Cup skier, he watched many of his friends go to college with longing. His interest in academia led him to enter Williams College in the fall of 1995. However, taking a full load of courses while flying to and from Sweden for Europa Cup races affected him as well as his skiing. The early World Cup schedule forced him to take finals a week early so he could fly to Switzerland and begin training for his first race. Chip’s determination and desire to see both his goals through enabled him to finish classes in record time and ski to record results.
Chip has tried for many years to balance Williams with the U.S. Ski Team, only to meet with insurpassable difficulty. Maintaing both dreams limits his ability to focus properly on either. This year, with the Olympics in February, he postponed school temporarily in order to succeed at his ski career.
After finishing his exams last spring, Chip flew to Mount Hood, Oregon to follow his intense training program. Throughout the summer he focused on healing a chronic knee injury which bothered him all last season and trying to keep his passion for school and learning. In August, while school began for Williams students, Chip was off searching for snow in Portillo, Chile. After his return, he spent most of October in Colorado and November in Park City, Utah, training with the ski team and perfecting his skiing technique. These were his last chances to train and build confidence for the upcoming World Cup season. The first part of the season was crucial this year, as Chip’s performance in these races secured him a spot in the Olympics.
The whole time Chip has been pursuing his Olympic dream, he has kept one eye focused on school. From his formative years at Burke, Chip’s Olympic dreams have always gone hand-in-hand with his goal of graduating from Williams.
With the Olympic slalom event just around the corner, Chip will face his greatest athletic test. His determination and discipline as a ski racer and student have already proven that he can balance both dreams; now one dream will soar. On Feb. 21, America’s top slalom skier will look to bring home a medal for the United States and Williams College.