Students Shoot For Olympics

Harvard students are more known for their academic prowess than their athletic achievement. But a small group of Harvard students who have aspirations of competing in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia next summer have taken great steps toward debunking that perception.

Harvard students will be going for the gold in track, crew, laser sailing, fencing, diving and ballroom dancing in the next year.

"When I think back on college, I'll probably think of lab and rowing," says senior Olympic hopeful Ollie Rando.

The "lab" part of Rando's college experience garnered him a perfect score on his MCATs. The score helped him get accepted at Stanford University's M.D.-Ph.D. program where Rando hopes he will build the foundation for a successful career in research.

The "rowing" aspect of Rando's Harvard career many land him at the Olympics in crew.

Olympic rowing consists of several "sweep" and "sculling" events. Rando it more accustomed to the sweep style of rowing, which requires the rower to handle only one oar, because he has practiced the technique during his four undergraduate years at Harvard.

Rando, along with his current teammate, senior Nick Peterson, hope that they will be able to win a place on the Olympic squad in the straight pair event.

Peterson and Rando were both on the Harvard team that lost to Brown by one second in the national championship race last year. Both say that even though they lost, the race is among the highlights of their crew careers.

Rando describes the "hell" of a crew race in a very matter of fact way: "It's sort of a blur of lactic acid and adrenaline. You start out very up close to maximum lactic acid build-up and try to hold," Rando says.

In addition to Rando and Peterson, senior Sara Simmons may also vie for a chance to compete in the Olympics.

Simmons says she has been "embarrassed" by recent rumors swirling that say she may be going to the Olympics because, realistically, her chances are small.

She will also have to switch from sweep rowing to sculling if she wants a spot on the Olympic team.

"The most talented oarswomen can make the switch, but its difficult," Simmons says.

Because of the transition, Simmons says that her chances of making the 1996 Olympics are slim, although she may have a better chance in 2000.

"I think for me, rowing is all about just gutting it out one on one," Simmons says. "A North-eastern coach compared it to going into battle."