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(From the winter 2011 edition of Bucknell Magazine.)
By Heather Peavey Johns
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Olympic hopeful Ariel Farrar-Wellman '08 has lived and breathed competitive kayaking since she was 10, but her brief sojourn into rowing at Bucknell while studying history reaped unexpected rewards.
Q: You live at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., to prepare for the 2012 Olympics. Just how grueling is your training schedule?
A: It's a full-time job, but you could say that a regular 9-5 job is just as grueling. You spend eight hours a day working hard at whatever it is you do. Everybody works hard, I'm just lucky enough to be working really, really hard at something I've loved since I was 10 years old. I have the disadvantage of not being paid for it, but it's still completely worth it.
Q: Why did you take a break from kayaking to row at Bucknell?
A: Kayaking is a lot like rowing; kayakers just face forward. Bucknell has a very good rowing program. I ended up having to stop rowing before my college career was over, which disappointed me, but I had a back injury that would have eliminated my chances of kayaking at the Olympics. I lived with the girls who were in my freshman boat for my entire four years. It was really great to have a coach and a team that supported what I was doing, even though there's no such thing as a university kayaking program. This is as close as I could get.
Q: How did academics fit into your plan to become an Olympic sprint kayaker?
A: Bucknell has a very competitive academic atmosphere. Everyone is trying to be the absolute best in class, competing against their classmates. That's exactly what you have to learn when you're competing as part of a team. You have to know how to be competitive in something that you care a great deal about so you can achieve more than you would have ever thought possible.
Q: You want to compete in the four-person sprint kayaking team for the United States in 2012, but most of your training is done in a single. How does that fuel the competitive fire?
A: Kayaking is a very technical sport, and much of that is learned in the single. Competitiveness within a team is also a part of what promotes excellence throughout the team. It builds character to compete against someone who you are also rooting for.
(For more information on Farrar-Wellman's Olympic bid, search for "USAWomen's K4" at www.facebook.com.)
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