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In her first month of collegiate competition, Rebecca Nadler has already established herself as one of the greatest alpine skiers Harvard has ever had.
After two weekends on the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association Carnival Circuit, Rebecca Nadler has posted fourth and sixth place finishes and has in all likelihood earned herself a spot in the NCAA Championships.
“It won’t officially list the qualifiers for NCAAs until the end of the season, but no one could knock her out,” alpine coach Tim Mitchell said. “It’s got to be the first time we’ve had a woman’s alpine skier qualify for NCAA nationals in at least the last 30 years.”
But Nadler’s freshman status can be misleading. The Ottawa, Ont. native is arguably the Crimson’s most experienced member of the alpine team.
“My parents ski raced when they were young,” she said. “I started skiing as soon as I learned how to walk. I’ve been skiing and racing as long as I can remember.”
Nadler came of age while competing for the Mont Tremblant ski club.
“They have a very big, very successful ski program: the whole nine yards,” Mitchell said. “A lot of women [and] a lot of men have come out of there.”
After a successful run with Mont Tremblant, Nadler decided to take some time off from school to focus on skiing and competed for the Quebec provincial team after graduating from Louis Riel in 2008.
“I was taking it year by year: I was hoping to make the national team,” she recalled. “Things don’t always work out exactly as you expect.”
When that didn’t work out, she enrolled at Carrabassett Valley Academy, a ski and snowboard academy, for a postgraduate year. During her stay there, she skied under the tutelage of Martin Gray, formerly the coach of the New Zealand B National team. Gray saw in Nadler the potential for great skiing. He just had to convince her to see it in herself.
“In the beginning I think her confidence was a little low,” Gray said. “She wasn’t skiing technically very well. She just need a little confidence...propping up...She had a few things we wanted to work hard on to correct...At the same time, she was gaining in confidence, steam by feeling much better about herself, and the results started to reflect it.”
Nadler’s growth on and off the slopes attracted the attention of college coaches in the region, but Harvard offered her the best opportunity to compete at nationals.
“You can only bring three women [per team] to nationals,” Mitchell noted. “If she had raced [at Dartmouth], she might have qualified [and not gotten to go]. It’s one less thing she’d have to worry about.”
But while Nadler may have entered her postgraduate year as a dark horse, by the end of it she was anything but.
Nadler finished the 2009-2010 season as the Eastern Cup Champion.
And she’s been rolling ever since. Not only did she prove herself to be one of the region’s top skiers in her first two competitions, she also earned herself a spot on Team Canada at the World University Games. She leaves for Turkey today and will spend the next two weeks in competition.
“I’m really excited that I get to represent my country,” she said. “Hopefully I can pass my classes though.”
Both Gray and Mitchell attribute Nadler’s success to her work ethic and focus.
“She has a tremendous work ethic,” Gray said. “She understands both on and off the hill the work that needs to go in...She operates at a very high professional level.”
“She is one of the most professional athletes I have coached in terms of her commitment,” Mitchell said. “She inspects each course...She’s extremely dedicated and the results bear that out so far.”
Nadler’s tireless work ethic has allowed her to overcome her small size. Barely over five feet, Nadler does not have the typical build of an alpine skier, but she makes up for it with fitness and nearly flawless technique.
“She’s extremely strong for her size,” Mitchell said. “She really doesn’t make mistakes. She stays very very centered in her skis. She doesn’t get moved. It makes her a really great college skier...She’s got her technique really dialed in. She’s only got one or two things going through her head when she skis. That nice, simple focus allows her to really clear her head.”
But for Nadler, the key to her success has been her sheer love of the sport.
“I’m having a ton of fun with the ski team,” she said. “I always ski better when I’m having fun...I’m having more fun skiing this year than I ever have.”
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.
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