Remote school makes academic, Olympic juggling act easier

Feb 18, 2022, 3:36 AM | Updated: 5:39 pm

Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin, of the Russian Olympic Committee, perform their routine in the ice da...

Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin, of the Russian Olympic Committee, perform their routine in the ice dance competition during the figure skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

              Karen Chen, of the United States, competes in the women's free skate program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
              Canada's Adam Tambellini (15) shoots against Canada goalkeeper Devon Levi (1) during a men's qualification round hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
              Canada's Tyler Wotherspoon (23) defends against United States' Nathan Smith (13) during a preliminary round men's hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
              Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin, of the Russian Olympic Committee, perform their routine in the ice dance competition during the figure skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

BEIJING (AP) — Here’s one thing the pandemic has made easier for the young stars of the Beijing Olympics: juggling the demands of elite athletic competition with college life.

Remote schooling, now a fact of life for students everywhere, also comes in handy when you’re a world away from campus for weeks at a time. And the technology has been battle tested for two years now.

Nathan Smith, a student at Minnesota State University and one of 15 college players on the U.S. men’s hockey team, has been able to keep up with his school work and even talk with his teachers.

“I wasn’t sure what kind of connection and everything I’d have over here,” Smith said. “I’m trying to do my best and keep up with it.”

Devon Levi, a goaltender for the Canadian men’s hockey team and a student at Northeastern University in Boston, said his teachers have been supportive of his athletic endeavors, so he’s doing his part to keep up to date with his studies. He brought his books with him to Beijing.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they completely understand that,” said Levi, who is majoring in computer science and business. “They’re on my side and they want me to chase my dreams.”

Other elite athletes at the Winter Games have opted to take time off from school to compete, including Jared Shumate, a member of the U.S. Nordic combined team who is studying geography and sociology at the University of Utah.

Balancing school and skiing “has definitely gotten easier than it was my first couple of years when I was living in the dorms and taking in-person classes and training,” he said.

By the time they reach the elite level of their sports, most young Olympians are experienced at balancing academic and competitive demands, said Michelle Smith Ware, a board member of the national academic advising group NACADA.

Not everyone is able to strike that balance. Hong Kong skier Arabella Ng reportedly opted to drop out of the Beijing Games, citing academic pressures and the travel restrictions in place because of the pandemic.

“It’s really an individual choice,” said Ware, director of academic support services for athletics at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Either you’re giving up your spot, or you’re taking a leave from your education, or you are meeting that challenge of maintaining the workload during a semester while also working and conditioning and working or playing in the Olympics,” she said. “It has to be a difficult (decision).”

The U.S. figure skating team is stacked with Ivy Leaguers who decided to put their education on hold to fulfill their Olympic dreams once the coronavirus crisis began and classes moved to Zoom anyway.

That includes gold medalist Nathan Chen, who is studying statistics and data science at Yale University, Vincent Zhou at Brown University, and Karen Chen, who is pre-med at Cornell University. Snowboarder Chloe Kim is on leave from Princeton University.

Nathan Chen said the only thing he was sure of after winning gold in Beijing was that he wanted to go back to school in August.

Even before the pandemic, some athletes had tapped into remote schooling options in order to focus on their sports.

Russian ice dancers Gleb Smolkin and Diana Davis are both students in an entirely remote program at Astrakhan State Technical University in southern Russia.

The duo train in Novi, Michigan, but they skate for Sambo 70, the club of Davis’ famous mother, embattled Russian figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze.

Smolkin said the club has an arrangement with the University that allows them to pursue their studies from afar.

“It’s all remote learning, so we have no problem with it,” Smolkin said. “They make some concessions for us. Now it’s the Olympics and they give us time so we can concentrate on competing, but after that we will undergo all the assessments.”

Even after the pandemic subsides, Ware said, the benefits of remote schooling will remain a resource for those balancing elite athletics with campus life.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for that to be used after COVID,” Ware said. “I’m not sure how institutions will choose to embrace that. Why not use the technology?”


Associated Press writers Stephen Whyno, Larry Lage and James Ellingworth contributed. Seattle-based AP journalist Sally Ho is on assignment at the Beijing Olympics, covering figure skating. Follow her on Twitter at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

3 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

3 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

3 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

3 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

3 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

3 months ago

Remote school makes academic, Olympic juggling act easier