Olympian Andy Newell helps students get moving

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BENNINGTON — Olympic cross-country skier and Shaftsbury native Andy Newell stopped by Monument Elementary on Monday to talk to students about his career, his training, and ways that they can get active.

Newell’s visit served to kick off “Get Moving Week” at the school, which will end on Friday with a Field Day full of fun outdoor activities. Students are doing many different activities over the course of the week, including group walks to school and hip-hop dancing.


Newell made two presentations, one to grades K-2 and a second to grades 3-5. At the end of each, he took the groups outside to the field and ran them through some of his basic training exercises.


Newell is spending a few weeks at home after competing in the Olympic Games in Sochi earlier this year, his third Olympic games. He is training with a team based at Stratton Mountain but Monday was his day off, he said.


“I didn’t always know I wanted to be a skier, because I played a lot of different sports,” said Newell. He skied for the first time when he was 5, and it wasn’t too long before he was competing in the Junior Olympics. In addition to his three Olympic appearances, Newell has competed in more than 100 World Cup races. He spoke specifically on one race, in Japan, where he had finished in fifth place, with two Swedish skiers finishing first and second.


“I was fifth in the world,” he said to the students, “but I wanted to be first so badly.”


Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well as Newell had hoped in Sochi. Despite getting the second best time during qualifying runs, Newell finished 17th in the actual event, in what he called one of the worst races of his season. “You can’t be your best every day,” he said, “all you can do is try your best.”


Asked about whether he would make the trip to South Korea to compete in the 2018 Olympics, Newell replied, “I hope to go. That’ll be my fourth Olympics, so I might by too old by then!”


Newell was able to celebrate the success of his teammate and fellow Vermonter Sophie Caldwell, who finished sixth in her event at Sochi. “Let’s say you’re playing soccer, and your teammate scores a goal to win the game,” he said, “Maybe you wanted to be the one to score that goal, but you have to be happy for your friend.”


Newell also showed pictures of himself training in the Stratton area on “roller skis,” which allow cross country skiers to practice in the summer. “Although skiing is a winter sport, all the hard work has to be done in the summer,” he said.


After each presentation, students had the opportunity to ask Newell questions about his career and training. In response to why he got into skiing, Newell said, “Because I love to move around!” Another asked him how sad he was after he didn’t win the gold medal in Sochi. Newell replied, “If all I really liked about skiing was winning gold medals, that would mean I’d have one fun day every four years, and that’s no way to live your life.”


Once outside, Newell led the students through a series of follow the leader exercises, beginning, of course, with a few stretches. Newell then led the kids in a lap around the field, before having them run back and forth several different ways.


One of the students summed up the experience for the rest, a huge smile across his face, saying, “This is awesome!”


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