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Olympians readjusting to life back in college

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By Mike Palm

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 11:12 p.m.

Just two months ago, Miles Chamley-Watson was rubbing shoulders with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

The Penn State fencer posed for pictures with the U.S. women's basketball team, hung out with track and field star Lolo Jones and exchanged tweets with the gold-medal winning women's gymnastics team.

Now it's back to school — and a dose of reality — for Chamley-Watson after taking a year off to train for the Olympics.

“I was getting spoiled at the Olympics,” said Chamley-Watson, who is on track to graduate in May. “I was getting my massages every day, stretching every day. Now I have to do it all on my own. It's kind of a slap in the face.”

Chamley-Watson wasn't the only Olympian returning to campus. Fellow Penn Staters Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi (foil, Mexico) and Kirsten Nieuwendam (200 meters, Suriname) returned to school, as did West Virginia's Petra Zublasing (rifle, Italy).

Nicco Campriani, a West Virginia graduate, started graduate school for sport engineering at England's University of Sheffield. Campriani took gold in the 50-meter 3 positions and silver in the 10-meter air rifle.

Zublasing, for one, was thrilled to rediscover anonymity in Morgantown. It took about two weeks for her to decompress from the constant commotion.

“Everybody wants something from you,” said Zublasing, who is majoring in civil engineering. “Even if they have no clue who you are, but they see you in a jersey — for me, it was Italy — and they'll be like, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, I need to take a picture with you.' ”

Zublasing misses some parts of the Olympic village, particularly the healthy menu of the 24-hour dining hall that met the needs of athletes from more than 200 countries.

For the most part, she's happy to be back to “real life” — whether that means studying, practicing or doing her laundry.

“Over there, you're an athlete and everything is about you,” she said. “For every athlete at the Olympics, there were 14 volunteers. Pretty much, if you asked somebody, ‘Could you help me with this?', 14 people would jump and run. And that's just not realistic. You don't have that at home.”

Although the London Games may be in the past, there's no escaping their presence.

“My whole room is covered in posters and swag, so it's a reminder and motivation for me. Training for (2016 Games in) Rio starts now,” Chamley-Watson said. “It's a reminder of where I want to go and what I have to do to get there.”



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