Vermont Olympian Emily Dreissigacker: 'More About The Process, Less About The Result'
When she was younger, Emily Dreissigacker would sometimes head up to the attic of her family's home, searching for memorabilia that her mother, Judy Geer, had brought back from her time as a member of two US Olympic rowing teams.
"I had a lot of fun looking through boxes and finding shirts to steal from my Mom's stuff," Dreissigacker remembers.
Dreissigacker won't have to cadge from her mother any longer — she's got her own Olympic gear to wear now. Dreissigacker is competing as a member of the USA's biathlon team in the 23rd Winter Olympics, continuing a family tradition of Olympic participation.
Her mother, Judy Geer, was an Olympic rower in 1976 in Montreal and 1984 in Los Angeles (the US boycotted the 1980 games in Moscow) while Dreissigacker's father, Dick, was a rower on the 1972 team in Munich. Her older sister, Hannah, competed in biathlon in 2014 in Sochi. Her aunt, Carlie, won a silver medal in single sculls in 1984.
"I think it's really cool and I'm really proud of my parents and my sister," says the 29-year-old Dreissagicker, who lives in Morrisville. "I'm excited to follow in their footsteps. I wasn't sure that was ever going to happen."
Dreissigacker's Olympic journey has been anything but straightforward — biathlon was a late entry in her athletic resume.
Her parents had a place on Lake Champlain in South Hero when she was little before they moved to the Craftsbury area and a cabin on Big Hosmer Pond (Geer and Dick Dreissigacker own the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.)
Emily was a cross country skier in her teens, competing for Peoples Academy until she hit a mental wall.
"I had been training intensely and I was not really having fun anymore," she said. "Maybe because of that my results were not as good as I wanted. I was a little burned out."
Dreissagicker turned to her parent's sport — rowing — and found renewed energy.
"I knew how to row at an early age and when I began to do it seriously between my junior and senior years of high school I picked it up pretty fast," she said. "It felt like everything was going right with rowing and skiing wasn't going as well."
Dreissigacker qualified for the national junior rowing championships that first summer and the college recruiting offers began coming in. Older sister, Hannah, was already a Nordic skier at Dartmouth and Dreissigacker initially resisted following in those footsteps.
"I wanted to do something different and not be in the same place as my sister," she said. "But once I visited, I just loved it."
While Hannah was a member of Dartmouth's Nordic team, Dreissigacker became a two-time NCAA All-American in rowing. But something was missing.
"After I graduated from Dartmouth [with a degree in economics in 2011] I continued to train for rowing but it was similar to skiing in high school — I felt burned out," Dreissigacker said. "And because I wasn't having fun, I wasn't performing well."
Happy to have hit all but one of my targets in my first Olympic race and to qualify for the pursuit on Monday! #olympics #biathlon #pyeongchang2018 A post shared by Emily Dreissigacker (@emdreiss) on Feb 10, 2018 at 6:47am PST
"I definitely had this dream of going to the Olympics but my rowing wasn't anywhere close to where it needed to be to qualify. I was struggling to come to terms with retiring and being OK with falling short of my goals."
Enter biathlon in 2014.
Hannah had already made a shift to that discipline and their younger brother Ethan, also at Dartmouth, was involved in the sport. Even though a brief exposure to biathlon during her high school days had left her indifferent to the sport ("From what I remember I wasn't very good at it"), Dreissigacker decided to take another look.
"I had fallen and injured my finger and couldn't row and was doing a lot of cross-country skiing in my cross training," she said. "And I was so happy. That's when I realized I wanted to give biathlon a try. I kind of fell in love with the shooting aspect of it just got hooked.
"Shooting can be so addicting. There is no better feeling than looking through your sites and seeing those five (black) targets turn white (after you've made an accurate shot)."
Good timing worked in Dreissigacker's favor.
A few members of the national team, including her sister Hannah, had retired and in her first winter of competing, Dreissigacker qualified to race on the IBU Cup, which is one level below the World Cup.
"Racing in Europe is just so different than racing biathlon in the United States and that was a really, really great opportunity for me," Dreissigacker said. "The following summer, I was named to the development group, which meant I got invited to a few camps in Lake Placid at the Olympic training center where the national team is based."
Dreissigacker continued to improve and earned an Olympic berth with solid showings in the World Cup events that doubled as US qualifying events.
"I think one of the reasons I have been as successful as I have in biathlon is I was never so Olympic-focused and Olympic-driven," she said. "My experience with rowing really helped in that regard. It's been more about am I having fun doing this and am I still improving rather than I'm going to do this so I can make the Olympics. It's more about the process and less about the result."
#olympics #openingceremony #pyeongchang2018 #teamusa A post shared by Emily Dreissigacker (@emdreiss) on Feb 9, 2018 at 4:50am PST
Dreissigacker is part of a biathlon team with strong area ties. Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid and the University of Vermont is competing in his fourth Winter Games and last season became the first U.S. biathlete to win gold at the World Championships.
Susan Dunklee of Barton, a frequent training partner of Dreissigacker's in Craftsbury, won a silver medal at those World Championships and is competing in her second Olympics. Tim Burke of Lake Placid is another four-time Olympian.
"It was really exciting last year. That was a historical moment at the World Championships," Dreissigacker said. "It was inspiring to see."
Dreissigacker doesn't know in which races she will be entered but could compete in the 10-kilometer pursuit, the 15 km individual race, the 7.5 km sprint and the 12.5 km mass start.
"I've been thinking about this for a long time," she said. "But it probably won't feel real until I actually get there."
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