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At Youth Olympic Games, Elite Athletes Balance Sports and School

By Gabrielle Scheder-Bieschin | Jan. 10, 2020, 2:40 p.m. (ET)

Emma Resnick in the first run of the alpine skiing women’s Super-G at the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 on Jan. 10, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland.


LAUSANNE, Switzerland — For elite athletes, it takes a lot of time, work and commitment to stay at the top of their sport. Team USA athletes train, travel and compete year-round to find success and represent their country. But when those athletes are teenagers, they have another responsibility to stay on top of: school.

For Team USA members at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, balancing the responsibilities of school and sport will have to be top of mind in Switzerland. Since athletes are required to be within the ages of 14 to 18, members of Team USA are currently still in high school, balancing their competitions and classwork. While their fellow classmates returned to school at the start of the new year, the 99 U.S. athletes were also preparing to return to the ice and snow.

“Being a sophomore in high school and competing all over the world all the time is definitely hard,” admits alpine skier Emma Resnick. “My school is really helpful with being flexible and meeting us whenever we’re in town. They’re amazing.”

Resnick, along with teammate Nicola Rountree-Williams, attend a school in Vail, Colorado, that is used to working with the schedules of traveling winter athletes.

“We’re not home very often, so when we are, it’s really great to be able to meet with teachers, catch up on work and get work for when we’re going to be away for the next time. Without them, we definitely couldn’t make it work.”

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Trent Pennington, an alpine skier from Shalimar, Florida, also understands the challenges of juggling both school and his skiing career. After racing in the men’s super-G today, he’ll compete in other events through Jan. 15 before taking part in an elite development camp to further grow in the sport, all of which means he won’t return to his school until February.

“It’s difficult to make them both work out the way you want them to, but when there’s a will, there’s a way. We always just try to make the best of every situation,” says Pennington.

While Pennington, Resnick and Rountree-Williams all attend school when they can, others on Team USA rely on a speedy internet connection and studying through an online school to get their education.

The development of athletes on and off the field of play is also a prioritized motif of the Youth Olympic Games. In this year’s Opening Ceremony, the storyline focused on the of a young man who dreamed of flying and how he, through hard work and determination, found success. Every Youth Olympic Games also features a unique educational program. That is no different this year, as athletes can take part in workshops that include creative filmmaking, mental and physical health tips, career development and more.

Over the next 13 days at the Games, Team USA athletes from around the country will continue to compete at the highest levels of their sport – and hopefully still find some time for homework, too.