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Kayci Mikrut | NCAA.org | February 5, 2022

Saint Michael’s freshman represents Ecuador as lone Olympian in Beijing

U.S. Olympic women's hockey team's top college highlights

While attending an English seminar class at Saint Michael's, freshman Sarah Escobar penned her goals for 2022: Better myself in my sport and academics. Become the best person I can be. Moments later, one of those goals came true.

After finishing the free writing portion of class, Escobar noticed a notification on her phone from the International Ski Federation (FIS). A longtime skier and Olympic hopeful, Escobar was used to receiving FIS notifications and thought she would check out the latest 2022 Winter Olympic Games qualifiers list. As she looked through the list of names, one line stopped her scroll: ECU – Female – Escobar.

It was her name. It was her country. The 19-year-old had qualified for the Olympics. The Saint Michael's alpine skier will compete in the giant slalom event Feb. 7.

"I had to check my phone twice to see if I was dreaming," Escobar said. "It has been my dream since I was little, and I have been working very hard at it. And I couldn't be prouder of myself."

Tears rolled down her face. When a friend turned to ask if she was OK, "These are tears of joy," Escobar responded.

The journey to those tears had been a lifelong one. Escobar began skiing at age 3 in Stowe, Vermont, and continued competing across New Jersey and New Hampshire until her college pursuit landed her in Colchester, Vermont. Saint Michael's was her top choice for academics and skiing.

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The Purple Knight community has supported Escobar, and that support will follow her to Beijing. She will be joined on the trip by alpine assistant coach Nick Stagers. Even as a first-year college student, Escobar understands the magnitude of the moment to represent so many on the world stage.

"I am a very proud Purple Knight," Escobar said. "Representing my school and representing my country is going to be the biggest honor I've ever had in my life, and I'm going to take that with me to the grave." Escobar is the first current student-athlete to represent Saint Michael's in an Olympic Games. Blazing a trail for Saint Michael's isn't where history ends for Escobar. She is also the first female to compete for Ecuador at a Winter Games and will be the only representative for Ecuador in Beijing.

The pride she has for the Purple Knights is matched only by the pride she feels as an Olympian for her parents' home country of Ecuador.

"It's my responsibility and my duty to represent my parents' country, and it's an opportunity to be a voice for women my age and a voice for the new generation to reach out and tell them everything is possible if you follow your dreams," said Escobar, who can claim dual nationality because her parents are both immigrants to the U.S. from Ecuador.

Helping young athletes, teammates and others build confidence has always been a passion for Escobar. The psychology major hopes to one day encourage others to build confidence and reach their goals by pursuing a career in sport psychology.

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"I want to make people feel heard," Escobar said. "I want to help people with their mental health. I believe I can relate with other athletes."

Escobar describes her mentality in the start gate as a flood of emotions — a mix of adrenaline with intense focus and concentration. When the gate releases, she blocks everything out and "goes for it."

The Sparta, New Jersey, native credits her confidence to her late mentor, Martha Coughlin, who was the founder of Burke Mountain Academy.

"My nerves used to get the best of me before races," Escobar said. "She told me to believe in myself and would ask me, 'When you were 5 years old and you're racing, what did you think of?' Well, I just went for it. 'Pretend you're that little girl that didn't know the meaning of 'I can't,'" Escobar recalled.

At Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China, she'll think of Coughlin and her message of confidence.

"I want to do this race for (Martha)," Escobar said. "In the start gate, I'm going to look up at the sky and think of her when I'm going down the hill."

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