|Team USA athletes share their #Reasons2Finish in a video produced by the United States Olympic Committee and DeVry University.|
After completing a 21-year career as the most decorated men’s luger in United States history in 2010, Tony Benshoof realized it was time to move on with his life.
The White Bear Lake, Minnesota, native wanted to forge ahead with a new career in hospitality management, and he needed to put the finishing touches on his education. So, Benshoof turned to DeVry University to pursue his MBA.
In January — following two years of taking two classes a semester over eight-week sessions — he will graduate with an MBA and a concentration of hospitality management.
“That’s the industry I love and have been in the hospitality business for a long time, since I was old enough to work,” said Benshoof, the general manager of The Village Sports Bar & Event Center in his hometown, just north of St. Paul. “Now I’m the general manager of a very large sports bar and banquet facility. I have aspirations one day to own my own restaurant and events center, so the MBA is perfect. It centers on all the business skills necessary, but also some of the hospitality aspects, like event management, specific leadership to this industry, so it was a really good fit.”
Benshoof’s MBA was made possible in part due to a unique partnership between the United States Olympic Committee and DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management. The program has been in place since November 2011 and offers higher education opportunities to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes and training hopefuls through 2016.
Through the program, athletes can receive financial assistance in the form of either a full, one-year scholarship or 30-percent tuition savings. Among the other athletes taking advantage of the program are modern pentathlete Will Brady, two-time Olympic ski jumper Clint Jones and two-time Olympic field hockey player Kayla Bashore-Smedley.
“The DeVry experience has been wonderful,” Benshoof said in a recent interview with TeamUSA.org. “As an athlete and even as a retired athlete, I still travel quite frequently. I still coach part time. I’m always on the move. So the DeVry program was a great fit.”
The 39-year-old Benshoof is completing his two final courses in the hospitality program this semester.
Because the courses are online, students must be self-starters and self-finishers as well. Given that Benshoof has a full-time job, he has faced a balancing act, like many Olympians.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I am fairly accustomed to the balancing act through my athletic career,” he said. “I was able to find time. Finishing my degree was of the highest priority, really. You always find time. It’s not hard to find a couple of hours a night. You just have to not do other things.”
Benshoof knows that last part well. The Village Sports Bar & Event Center employs about 50 people and takes up a lot of time.
“In order to put in a 10- or 12-hour day, it needs to be something that you are passionate about as well,” he said. “Everything is work. I love luge. Retiring from luge was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had. It was some of the hardest work I ever put in in my life.”
Benshoof, who won several world cup events, never earned a medal in the three Olympic Winter Games he competed, but he came within .153 of a second from taking home a bronze at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. He finished fourth. No American man has medaled in singles luge at the Winter Games.
“I had medaled in every world cup leading up to the games, so I was absolutely a favorite,” he said. “I had medaled on that course many times. In fact, I had the track record going into the Games. So I was very familiar with the course. I had a great race at the Games. I was the fourth best that day. If we had the Olympics two days later, maybe a different outcome would have happened. I can’t blame it on one specific thing. I had a great race and I fell a little bit short.”
Michael Lewis, who covers soccer for Newsday, has written about the sport for four decades and has written six books about soccer. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.