An athlete from a warm-weather nation is thanking New England for being a key part of his journey to the Winter Olympics.
Tucker Murphy represented Bermuda in Pyeongchang, but said he might not have gotten there if it weren’t for his time in New Hampshire and Vermont.
"It’s a great honor and privilege to represent your country [at the Olympics]," Murphy told necn & NBC 10 Boston via smartphone from South Korea, "You’re part of a much bigger, diverse, and fascinating world."
Murphy turned heads at the Olympic opening ceremonies, wearing Bermuda shorts in the chilly air. He was the one athlete representing Bermuda at the Winter Games.
"We thought we were fairly tough in the cold," Murphy recalled of wearing shorts along with his coach and father—both part of the Bermudian delegation, "but then the guy from Tonga came out and showed us what toughness in the winter is all about!"
Athlete Pita Taufatofua, also a cross-country skier, might have one-upped the Bermuda shorts by going shirtless, with an oiled chest, Murphy chuckled.
So how did an athlete from an island that doesn’t see snow end up as a cross-country skier?
Murphy’s journey started here in New England. He said he fell in love with skiing competing at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and later trained at Vermont’s Craftsbury Outdoor Center, under coach Pepa Miloucheva.
"It’s all about the spirit of the Olympics and participation," Miloucheva said of the significance of having a country like Bermuda, often known for its warm weather and beaches, represented at the Winter Games.
"If I had not spent a lot of time in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont, I would not be a cross-country skier," Murphy told necn.
In addition to his time at Dartmouth College, Murphy also singled out Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer as making contributions to his journey to his third Winter Games.
The couple transformed the Craftsbury Outdoor Center into a non-profit that’s open to the public and is home to high-level athletes training for World Cup and Olympic competition, many under the banner of the Green Racing Project.
Murphy said the Craftsbury Outdoor Center provided him with critical opportunities to hone his athleticism.
"To have Tucker say that is very satisfying," said Dreissigacker, a 1972 Olympic rower who founded the Morrisville oar and fitness machine manufacturer Concept 2, "That’s our goal."
Dreissigacker said he encouraged Murphy and six Craftsbury-trained Olympians currently on Team USA to focus on gradual personal achievement.
"It’s very important to enjoy the process and get satisfaction out of that process of improving yourself and becoming very skilled at what you’re doing," Dreissigacker said.
Tucker Murphy finished 104th out of 116 finishers in the men’s 15km freestyle cross-country ski race, calling it a huge privilege just to have been part of a fascinating and diverse collection of nations.
It’s worth noting: Murphy did finish 10 places above Tongan Pita Taufatofua, who was wearing a shirt for his race.