Susan Dunklee poses for a portrait on April 26, 2017 in West Hollywood, Calif.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- For every time a Team USA athlete stands atop an Olympic podium, there’s an entire support system standing behind them. Often times, Olympic athletes thank coaches, teammates, friends and, most importantly, family for supporting their dreams.
However, three women on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team have more to thank their family for than just support. Whether genetics play a role or it’s simply having a built-in Olympic role model while growing up that contributed to earning their spot on Team USA, Susan Dunklee, Joanne Reid and Emily Dreissigacker have the Games in their blood.
Susan Dunklee, a now two-time Olympian, is the daughter of Stan Dunklee, who competed in the 1976 and 1980 Games as a cross-country skier, and the niece of Everett Dunklee, a cross-country skier in the 1972 Games.
“The Olympics has always been a big part of my life as a kid,” she said. “I think having a parent who’s an Olympian makes it seem that much more possible and real to you and I think a huge advantage for an athlete growing up who wants to achieve those dreams is having a role model in their family and I’m really grateful to have had my dad for that.”
In addition to crediting her father for making her childhood dream seem achievable, she attributes her continued love of biathlon through the years to advice he gave her while growing up.
“I think the best advice he’s given me is to keep it fun,” she said. “To get to this level you have to put so many years in and you have to put so many hours in and you have to go out in all sorts of weather and you have to survive ups and downs of sport, and the only way you can do that and keep it sustainable is to really enjoy what you’re doing.”
Dunklee made history in 2017 when she became the first U.S. woman to win an individual world medal when she captured silver in the women’s 12.5-kilometer mass start race at the IBU Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria.
Also competing at the Hochfilzen World Championships was now first-time Olympian Emily Dreissigacker, daughter of Judy Geer, who rowed at the 1976 and 1984 Games, and Dick Dreissigacker, a five-time U.S. champion and 1972 Olympic rower. Her sister, Hannah Dreissigacker, also competed at Sochi 2014 in biathlon.
“The only time we got to watch TV when I was growing up was when the Olympics were on,” she said with a laugh. “My dad would hook up this old set of bunny ears to the TV.”
Dreissigacker remembers finding an old box filled with her mother’s Olympic memorabilia – including her Opening Ceremony uniform, photographs and more – in the attic while in high school and proudly sporting vintage Team USA T-shirts around town.
Despite the family legacy, she says her parents have been great at not putting pressure on her about the Games. That’s not to say her family hasn’t given her some veteran advice.
“My sister told me to have fun and my parents told me to take lasting pictures, not just Snapchats.”
Rounding out the team is first-time Olympian Joanne Reid, the daughter of Olympic speedskating bronze medalist Beth (Heiden) Reid, and niece of the legendary Eric Heiden, a five-time Olympic speedskating gold medalist.
Unlike Dunklee and Dreissigacker, Reid was completely oblivious to her family’s Olympic legacy until enrolling in the same elementary school her mother and uncle attended growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, where a temporary ice rink was named after them.
Prior to transitioning to biathlon, Reid had the chance to compete against her mom at the 2010 U.S. Cross-Country Championships, where the 50-year-old beat the 17-year-old in both races. Now, eight years later, Reid will compete in PyeongChang with her mom cheering her on from the stands as opposed to racing to the finish line alongside her.
Dunklee and Dreissigacker’s families won’t be able to make it to the Games, but will undoubtedly be supporting their Olympic legacies from afar.
Cat Hendrick is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.