row2k Features
Accident Leads to Second Shot at Olympic Dream as Dreissigacker Makes US Biathlon Team
January 15, 2018
Ed Moran,

Dreissigacker with her coaches after being named to the Olympic Team

A lifelong dream to row in an Olympics was probably already ending for Emily Dreissigacker the day she went outside to split wood at her family's Vermont home and the accident happened.

"It sounds way worse than it actually was, but I was using a wood splitter and cut my finger," Dreissigacker said. "It severed the tendon and I had to have surgery. I couldn't hold onto the erg handle. I had a pin going down the end of my finger that had to be there for three months, and during that time I couldn't do any rowing training."

That was the fall of 2014, and Dreissigacker's only hope to salvage another spring rowing season was to cross-country ski. Luckily, she had the perfect setup for that. Her family owns and runs the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, a place where elite rowers train in the warmer months and cross-country skiers train through the winter.

And she had elite training partners; among the athletes who ski at Craftsbury were her sister Hannah, who was on the 2014 US Olympic Biathlon Team, and her brother Ethan, who had competed at the World Junior Biathlon Championships. That, and Emily was a cross-country skier in high school.

It was convenient solution. It was fun training. And it became a second chance at an Olympic Games - a winter games, in biathlon.

"I was in Craftsbury and I was doing a lot of skiing, pretty much all ski training, and I was just loving it," Dreissigacker said. "I just had so much fun, and that was when I realized this was what I wanted to do."

Last week, after skiing and shooting her way through a four-event trial at a IBU Cup in Arber, Germany, Dreissigacker was named to the 2018 Olympic Biathlon team that will compete at the PyeongChang Games next month.

Capping a solid performance through the first three of the four legs, Dreissigacker shot a "clean" 20-for-20 during the 15-kilometer event and placed fifth overall, best for the U.S. team, and she was nominated to the team that night. "It's still kind of sinking in," she said. "I'm not sure it has totally hit me yet."


Dreissigacker turned to elite skiing just as she was getting ready to move away from elite rowing. By most measures, she had had a successful rowing career. She competed on a US junior national team and two U23 teams, and was a two-time All-American at Dartmouth.

Dreissigacker competing at the 2012 East Coast Speed Order

But by the fall of 2014, even before she was injured, she was approaching the conviction that her lifelong hopes to follow in the footsteps of her parents, Judy Geer and Dick Dreissigacker, both US Olympic rowers, was ending. And it was a hard end to a dream.

"Growing up in a home where mom and dad were Olympians, I'm pretty sure when I was a kid I thought it was normal for people to go to the Olympics and for that to be your dream. But, I wasn't really improving much there at the end," she said.

"I definitely had my moments in rowing, and I think it was more after I graduated college that I wanted to make the national team, I wanted to go to the Olympics and I definitely fell short of those goals. But I think that I was coming to terms: I'm not going to make the Olympics, and that's OK. That doesn't define me.

"I think that helped me a lot in this."

For Dreissigacker, that meant that having already experienced disappointment and personally mounting pressure, her approach to training and goal setting would be different.

"Going into these Olympic trials, in particular, I just didn’t put crazy amounts of pressure on myself. I knew that having just fallen short of that goal once, it's not the end of the world. Life goes on. It doesn't matter if I don't make the Olympics."

"And I think that with my whole biathlon career, I've tried to keep focused more on the process of what I'm doing and having fun with it, and enjoying myself rather than being super focused on the Olympics.

"I just think, if you're not having fun, there is no point in doing it and I think it's really easy to get super, overly obsessed with the Olympics. For example, the other day was the last day of trials and I cleaned, hitting all of my targets. That was the first time I had done that in a four-stage race and I ended up fifth on the IBU Cup.

"That was a huge deal for me. It was my first flower ceremony and later that night I was nominated to the Olympic team," she said. "That was what everyone was congratulating me on. But to me, I was almost more excited about my race from that morning, because that's what it is all about for me now."

New Teammates


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Peter Mallory
01/15/2018  11:13:34 AM
Wonderful. Congratulations to the Dreissigacker and Craftsbury families.

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