Panther set to swoop into the Olympics

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE ALPINE skier Ali Nullmeyer, shown swishing down the Middlebury Snow Bowl in a 2020 Middlebury Winter Carnival race, will compete for the Canadian National Team in the Women’s Slalom at the Beijing Olympics next week. Photo by Stephen R. Cloutier

“I loved skiing not only because it was a family activity but also because I love the feeling of always being challenged.”
— Olympian Ali Nullmeyer

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College junior Ali Nullmeyer has to show a tremendous amount of poise throughout the winter — balancing the rigors of studying at a top-flight college with competing in international sports at the highest level.

“As far as I know, Ali is the only professional skier who is also enrolled as a fulltime student,” said Stever Bartlett, head coach of the Panther alpine ski team. “She is very professional and diligent with her work, both on and off the slopes.”

That diligence is paying off for the 23-year-old from Toronto as she travels to China to compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in the coming week. Ranked No. 12 in the Slalom FIS World Cup, Nullmeyer is scheduled to race for Team Canada in the Olympic Women’s Slalom on Feb. 9.

As a tune-up she is scheduled to ski in the Giant Slalom on Feb. 7.

During the ski season, Nullmeyer balances her life between training in Europe, racing in the World Cup and NCAA circuits, and taking a full course load at Middlebury. In her first year at Middlebury she was named to the National Collegiate All-Academic Ski Team, as well as earning All-American status on the slopes. The Economics major spent last month training for the Olympics in Europe while taking a remote class. She recently flew halfway around the world and arrived in Beijing for the Games.

Despite suffering a season-ending injury with ACL tears in both knees during the 2017-18 World Cup season, Nullmeyer made a strong comeback since then. This winter, she was able to set her career-best times at the World Cup, which qualified her for the Olympics.

While she has competed in the Youth Olympics before, this is Nullmeyer’s first full Olympics. She remembers enjoying the pride and happiness at the Youth Olympics and she told the Independent that she hopes for a similar but amplified experience in Beijing.

Despite her success, Nullmeyer is known on the Middlebury ski team as a humble and supportive team player. She puts the pressure of whooshing down the slopes in perspective by keeping the sport fun and enjoying her time with her teammates, she said.

“I really do love skiing and I’m at my best when I’m having fun. So I try to joke around and keep it light on the hill with my teammates,” she said.

Coach Bartlett sees both sides of Nullmeyer, and is impressed with her unique attributes. He believes her Panther teammates are very proud of her and inspired by her humility.

“Ali is soft-spoken and humble,” he said. “She is ranked in the top 10s in the World Cup but if you are just talking to her day-to-day you would never have guessed that. She competes in the World Cup but at the same time, she is also willing to race at a collegiate level and show up to support her teammates at their games. You see very few professional athletes who are willing to do both because most chose to focus solely on their professional career.”

Nullmeyer started skiing when she was 18 months old. It started out simply as a way to spend time with her family and enjoy the outdoors. However, eventually, Ali and her three siblings all became invested in the sport — her brother and a sister both raced, while her other sister became a ski instructor.

Ali Nullmeyer said her love for skiing largely stemmed from the friends and relationships she was able to build, the time spent with her family on the slopes, and the challenging nature of the sport.

“I loved skiing not only because it was a family activity but also because I love the feeling of always being challenged,” she said. “Every day, the snow, weather, courses, etc. are all different so it provides a new experience to tackle every single day and sometimes every single run.”

While her siblings stopped racing after high school, Ali moved from Canada to Vermont to attend the Green Mountain Valley School, a ski academy, when she was 14.

“I knew I wanted to invest more time into my skiing and a ski school allowed me to do just that,” she said. “I knew I wanted to commit to going as far as I can with the sport.”

Bartlett also cites her commitment as the deciding factor for her success as a professional athlete.

“Ali is tremendously talented and athletic, of course,” he said. “But there are also a lot of athletes who are talented. What really sets her apart at that level of competition is her commitment to excellence.”

Overall, Nullmeyer is thrilled to be a part of the Olympic scene.

“I am excited to be a part of something so globally celebrated,” she said.

Perhaps it is not surprising that she also was not focused only on her own events as she headed to the Olympics.

“I’m most excited to hopefully be able to watch some of the other events,” she said. “I feel like we get so wrapped up in our own individual sport it will be so cool to watch some of the other athletes doing their thing! Specifically, I think some freestyle events could be pretty cool to see!”

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