As Williams students watch the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, few are aware that one of our own is competing. Chip Knight ’04 was a freshman here in 1994 and has since completed three semesters in residence. In the meanwhile, Knight has spent extensive time pursuing his dream: the professional skiing that he considers a source of enjoyment first and a career second. His alpine racing for the United States ski team has unquestionably peaked this season: several great races â€“ including second and third place finishes at two NorAm races, and 17th at two World Cup races â€“ improved Knight’s ranking enough to earn him a place on the U.S. Olympic Slalom Team.
“The [Olympic] race on Feb. 23 is really no different than a normal World Cup race,” Knight explained. “There is a lot of societal validation, however, regarding the achievement of qualifying for the Olympics, whereas people think the World Cup is sort of easy, or mundane.”
That said, Knight is explicit about how excited he is to race on home slopes. He spent the majority of last summer and fall at training camps in Europe, after which he began extensive world travel for World Cup races. To have such a professionally significant race at home in America, then, is a welcome change of pace and atmosphere for Knight.
Knight, originally from New Canaan, Conn., began skiing at the age of four. His family has a home near Stowe, Vt., where he was racing on weekends by the age of seven. When it came time for high school, Knight’s skiing had progressed to the point that he was missing a considerable amount of time in the classroom. As a result, he decided to attend Burke Academy, where he would be able to better balance his athletic and academic interests. Knight began as a winter-term student, but as it became more difficult to coordinate his studies with his high school in Connecticut, he enrolled at Burke as a full-time student. His prowess on the slopes progressed nicely during his junior and senior years, and Knight was able to win domestic Junior Olympic titles and a World Junior Championship in slalom competition, earning him a ticket to the US Ski Team.
After the best season of his career, which occurred during his 1997 campaign, Knight suffered from various injuries, including a knee injury that curtailed his 1998 season drastically; the next year it was a midseason back ailment that sidelined him.
“Those months were actually a turning point for me because I realized how hard I had to work to regain my physical shape and compete with the best in the world,” Knight said.
Fortunately, last winter Knight bounced back from his injuries, shedding his “slalom specialist” label with a second place finish in the NorAm giant slalom standings, and boosted both SL and GS rankings. The continued success of this season puts Knight in a favorable position to succeed in Salt Lake City.
It is evident that Knight’s training and preparation for this Olympic season be—gan years ago. “Following the Games in Nagano, our coaches designed and planned a four-year macro-hypertrophy schedule,” Knight wrote in a recently published article in Ski Magazine.
“The program attempted to achieve peak performance for this season by increasing our training days significantly in the ‘middle two years’ of the quadrennial before backing off on that load this past summer.” Following such a rigorous schedule, it should come as no surprise that Knight’s motto is “train hard, rest harder.”
Despite his repeated and prolonged absences from campus life, Williams holds a lot of importance to Knight. “On the one hand, I regret not being able to have had a normal social experience in college, but at the same time, what I’ve gained through all my travels and experiences is also really valuable. There are a lot of plusses and minuses to both sides.”
He mentioned the difficulty of jumping back into an academic setting, saying that “the impact of not having continuous study” can be quite challenging in the beginning.
Though a trimester system, such as the one Dartmouth employs, would be more conducive to a discontinuous completion of an undergraduate education, Knight doesn’t regret his decision to enroll at Williams. “I don’t want my education to just be about getting it over with,” Knight said.
“I’ve worked with some really intelligent and inspiring professors so far, and even though I could probably get my degree faster at a school like Dartmouth, Williams is where I want to be for academics.”
Tom Kohut, dean of the faculty and professor of history, finds no lack of focus in Knight’s work, calling him a “responsible, hard-working and terrific student. He did very well in the class and his maturity helped lend him a dedication to his studies, I think” Kohut said.
Depending on how he fares at the Olympics, Knight may or may not be back at Williams in the fall. But for now, Knight’s energies will be focused on the Olympics, so be sure to catch his race on Feb. 23rd on NBC.