While many know and understand the demands of being a student-athlete at the College, few have experienced the challenges of being both a student and an Olympian.
Chip Knight ’08 serves as an exception. Knight started skiing when he was 3 years old at mountain ski school. Knight traveled to Vermont from his home in Connecticut nearly every weekend as he began competing in downhill racing. Growing up, Knight was an active athlete, playing soccer, baseball and tennis.
He devoted most of his time to skiing, though, and missed school regularly for races. As a result, he chose to attend Burke Mountain Academy, a school in Vermont that allows its students to pursue skiing and other athletics at the highest level.
As Knight thought about competing at the collegiate level, he narrowed his search down to Williams and Dartmouth. Knight strongly considered Dartmouth, which has a year-round quarter system, because it offered students the opportunity to take time off and focus on other pursuits. However, Knight ultimately picked the College. “Dartmouth was enticing because of the flexibility, but I had family who had come to Williams,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.”
Upon arriving at the College in 1994, Knight sought to compete at the highest possible level: the Olympics. However, to achieve his ambitious goals, Knight realized he needed to devote himself entirely to skiing. He decided to put his academic career at Williams on hold. “It wasn’t productive to do both, and I finally realized I had to focus on my skiing,” he said.
His focus and drive secured his position on the competitive U.S. Olympic Alpine Ski Team. He competed at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, finishing 11th at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. He spent 13 years with the team, leaving at the age of 31 after the 2006 Torino Games. His best individual career finish was sixth in the 2003 World Cup slalom race. Over the course of his long career, Knight noted that one of the biggest changes to the sport was the shortening of the skis.
“In the middle of my career we started using skis that go up to the chin that have a lot of side cut,” he said. “It really changed the sport by changing the movement and technique.”
While training and traveling all over the world, Knight compiled some credits through courses at Dartmouth and Middlebury. Then, after 13 years of skiing, Knight returned to the College in 2006 to complete his undergraduate degree in history. He also served as an assistant coach to the alpine team. After graduating in 2008, Knight became alpine director at Mt. Mansfield Ski Club. In 2010, he headed to Dartmouth, where he served as director of skiing and head coach of the women’s alpine team. When Williams and Dartmouth raced against one another, he said he felt a “funny tug and pull.”
Though no longer competing, Knight has returned to the U.S. Ski Team as alpine development director. Overseeing logistics and programs across the country, Knight grooms the next generation of elite ski racers. He monitors about 30 to 40 athletes who have the potential to compete at the Olympic level.
Although athletes are beginning to specialize earlier on, Knight maintains the belief that kids should be exposed to as many sports as possible. Nevertheless, he said that success ultimately requires devotion, “I believe, based on my own career, that the more commitment and passion you have, the better the athlete you become.”
Having traveled around the world and pursued the sport he’s loved his entire life, Knight now lives in Park City, Utah. He said that he cherished his educational experience at the College. He enjoyed the faculty-to-student ratio, the tutorials and the liberal arts education. However, it is the place and its people that he most appreciates.
“I love Williams and I love its community,” he commented. “I really recognize now the caliber and the quality of the people that come out of this place.”