On Top Of The World

Paul Meier standing on top of the world in Val Gardena, Italy. (Photo courtesy of Paul Meier)
Paul Meier standing on top of the world in Val Gardena, Italy. (Photo courtesy of Paul Meier)

Paul Meier, Head Athletic Trainer for the U.S. Ski Team

After graduating from Norwich with a degree in Sports Medicine, Paul Meier '01never expected his career to go downhill so fast. The head athletic trainer for the United States Men's Alpine Ski team, Meier looks after some of the country's most talented downhill skiers -- from the time they wake up in the morning to the moment they leave the gates on a blazing 90 mph run.

"It's been an incredible and awesome two years," the 26-year-old Meier said, speaking from Austria during downtime between World Cup Final events. "This team has a lot of really great athletes and coaches, and on top of that, throw in the World Cup and the Olympics, and it's like a dream come true."

After leaving Norwich, Meier made his way to the University of Albany for a sports medicine internship. From there, he earned a Master's in Education and Athletic Training from the University of Virginia. But it was while completing a fellowship at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, a world renowned orthopedics clinic located in Vail, Colo., that his connection to the U.S. Ski Team was forged.

Meier had expected to work in college athletics for most of his career. That all changed in 2004 when the U.S. team's head trainer at the time brought a patient into Steadman-Hawkins for surgery. The former trainer was so impressed with Meier he asked if he'd be interested in taking over his position. Since landing the job, Meier has been jet-setting the globe from mountain top to mountain top, including a stop in Torino, Italy for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Paul Meier, center, talks with US Alpine Ski Team members Daron Rahlves, left, and Bode Miller, right
Paul Meier, center, talks with US Alpine Ski Team members Daron Rahlves, left, and Bode Miller, right

"The Olympics were a lot of fun," Meier said. "On the hill, it's the same process, the same guys that you're racing against, but the atmosphere is just amazing. And it felt good just being there representing the country."

Despite working alongside world famous athletes -- not to mention viewing the world from some of its most beautiful vistas -- Meier admits the job does have its drawbacks. In particular, the time spent away from home -- about 220 days last year -- can be tough.

"Last year, my best friend from Norwich, Mark Dooley '02, was killed in Iraq," Meier said. "I was in Chile when I got that news. I was able to fly back, but it made me realize how much I miss by not being home."

Even with the constant travel, Meier hasn't lost sight of his roots. In particular, Meier feels that the lessons he learned at Norwich put him way ahead of his peers working in the field. Moreover, he claims that his training in the Corp of Cadets prepared him well for the rigorous graduate program at the University of Virginia. According to Meier, those Norwich lessons have proved valuable on the slopes as well.

"Both the athletes and the coaches have commented on how calm I stay during races," Meier said. "Even when things go wrong -- some of these guys hit speeds over 90 mph and when they crash, it can get pretty ugly -- I'm able to stay calm. Norwich definitely prepared me for that. You learn how to think logically through every situation, whether it's managing communications at the starting gate or dealing with an injury on the hill."

Physical Education Professor Eduardo Hernandez '72, who served as Meier's advisor during his four years at Norwich, said he was not surprised with Paul's success.

"Paul was very focused when he was here; he was a very good student," Hernandez said. "He had an idea of where he wanted to go and that was to be the best, and he did what he needed to do to get there. My only regret is that I don't have a television so I didn't get a chance to possibly see him during the Olympics."

Meier last visited his alma mater in 2002. Seeing the rooks, he said, ushered in a flood of memories about his experiences, and how difficult it was to make it through Norwich. Now, five years after graduating and standing literally at the top of the world at times, Meier views his Norwich experience as invaluable.

"Norwich really helped me focus and stay on track with what I wanted to do," Meier said. "I don't think you can truly appreciate the education you get in the classroom and in the Corps of Cadets until you're gone.