Every day during the Olympics, SIOC will feature an Olympian who's also a college student. Today, Georgia State sophomore and whitewater slalom canoer Benn Fraker chats about his refusal to develop a celebrity crush, getting "savage" discounts at dinner and his strong desire to watch Olympic ping pong.
This interview was conducted before Olympic competition began. Benn placed fifth in Tuesday's men's slalom C1 Canoe single final.
Name: Benn Fraker
School: Georgia State University
Major: Undeclared (considering philosophy)
Olympic event: Whitewater slalom canoe
Hometown: Peachtree City, Ga.
What's the best part of being an Olympian?
I got a pretty savage discount at dinner last night. I know the hostess, we used to run together in high school all the time, and she took a bunch of money off my tab because she knew I was an Olympian. I was pretty embarrassed.
How'd you get your start in your sport?
My dad paddled recreationally, and I just started messing around in his boat in a pool when I was a kid. When we started doing rivers, I was actually terrified. I was playing soccer year round, and I got Sever's Disease in my heel, which is basically a growth plate inflammation. So I got forced off my feet, and really started getting into the sport when that happened around sixth grade.
Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms?
Not really. I like to do things differently each time.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Man, I'm only 19. After the Olympics I have a big decision to make. I definitely want to keep training, but my sport limits you geographically. In 10 years, maybe I will have at least decided what I want to do with my education, maybe I'll have a steady girlfriend, and I'll still be kayaking and just having fun.
If you could take part in any Olympic sport besides your own, what would it be?
I've been getting into tennis the past few months. But I totally suck, so there's no chance of me being a competitive tennis player. I like to paddle kayak [instead of canoe], so it would be cool to switch classes.
What's the best Olympic freebie you've gotten so far?
We've been getting a lot of hook-ups that we definitely wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I get some apparel deals. We're staying in an awesome resort house here for training. No way I could stay here otherwise.
What's your favorite kind of Chinese food, and how much of it are you planning on eating while you're in Beijing?
I like the spicy ones, General Tso's I guess. I don't really have a training diet, so whatever I want to eat is fine. I'm young and working out a lot, so I might as well eat it while I can.
Is there anything you're hoping to see/do in China?
I've got my heart set on watching an Olympic table tennis match. It's a game you play in the basement and everybody putters around with it, and then in the Olympics these guys are standing 10 feet back and exerting huge force on a tiny plastic ball.
What's your proudest accomplishment in your sport thus far, besides making it to Beijing?
There's a lot of different variables at each event, so my proudest moments are when I'm able to manage all that stress. When I race well with all those variables, it's a good day. Also, this summer I raced two World Cups and finished fifth at both, which is the first time I've shown that consistency.
How is an Olympic athlete treated on campus?
People are pretty excited. It's almost kind of a pain, because everyone wants to talk about it. It's been interesting because my friends and I still do the same things, but then end up talking about the Olympics all the time.
What are three movies, TV shows or bands you can't live without?
Let's see, I don't really have a movie. Definitely Modest Mouse, and I'm dying for the second season Californication. That's the funniest I've ever seen.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
I don't really have one, because I like watching different people for different things.
Who is your celebrity crush?
No one. I try to keep things in reality.
Do you have any hobbies besides your sport?
I really like reading and writing. After this is all over I'd like to be a writer of some sort. Right now I'm reading Atlas Shrugged and a compilation of short stories by Paulo Coelho. I'm also sort of in the middle of rereading Harry Potter, but I've put that aside for now.
If you win a medal, what will you do with it?
If it was up to me, I'd sell it or give it away. For me it's more about the experience and racing well than the material part. But I'll give it to my parents. They've probably put in as much work for this as I have.