Bobcat Dinos Lefkaritis '19 realizes his Olympic dreams

Bates student Dinos Lefkaritis will constitute Cyprus's entire team at the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. 

The cameras won't catch it, but one alpine skier in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics later this month will have Bates Bobcat gear on while barrelling down the mountain.

"It's nice to carry a bit of Bates College with me during this time," said Dinos Lefkaritis, Bates Class of 2019, the 12th Olympian in college history. "I'm always wearing the Bates jersey underneath my suit when I'm racing. It's always there."

Back in Lewiston, Lefkaritis's coach and teammates on the Bates alpine team have caught Dinos Fever since the news became official on Jan. 22.

"It's so great," said Bates head coach Micaela Holland. "Dinos is an awesome kid and a hard worker. He's really put all he can into the last year and a half, and it worked out, and we couldn't be happier for him."

Lefkaritis, who constitutes the island nation of Cyprus's Olympic team of one, will compete in the men's giant slalom on Feb. 18 and in the men's slalom on Feb. 22. He'll even get to carry the Cypriot flag at opening ceremonies Feb. 9. 

On the Bates Bobcast podcast. he said getting to the opening ceremonies has been "a long process" — he had dreamed about going to the Olympics since he began skiing at age 5, and he has competed in international competition for years. But without his teammates and coach on the Bates alpine team — and perhaps without Bates College as a whole — Lefkaritis might not have attained his long-held personal goal.

He enrolled at Bates in 2015 with an ambitious plan: he would take on the rigorous coursework required to major in economics while also tackling the 3-2 combined engineering program Bates offers. And he would join Bates' alpine ski team, at the highest level of NCAA competition.

"For me it made the perfect balance, and I'm really glad it worked out because I can get good academics and also a really high level of skiing, and that was my goal," he said. "My coach Micaela Holland and the rest of the team, I miss them a lot, but they've helped a lot these past two years, and the hard work paid off."

Based on the results of previous international competitions, Cyprus was allotted one slot for a male alpine skier to compete in Pyeongchang. That opening inspired Lefkaritis to pursue his athletic dream.

"He took the fall semester off to just focus on skiing," said Holland. "He was in Europe and South America skiing a lot, with the Cyprus skiing federation, and he was the frontrunner. But there were a couple of guys coming in hot from behind him.

It came down to a single date: by Jan. 22, Lefkaritis had to be the top-ranked skier in his country.

"He worked his butt off and there were emotional ups and downs but he pulled through, and got that Olympic spot," Holland said. "He completely deserves it."

When Lefkaritis received the official news, he knew he wouldn't return to campus this semester, and his reunion with the Bates community would have to wait until the fall. Deemed a "serious student" by Bates physics professor Hong Lin, Lefkaritis didn't make his decision lightly.

"All of my professors are really helpful," he said. "I also take time off from college to follow the Cyprus team in some obligations. Bates allows me to do that."

Bates faculty members report an admirable diligence on Lefkaritis's part when it comes to meeting course requirements, even when the Bobcats are on the road.

"I think that kind of flexibility is important for students," said Lin, who has the distinction of instructing three of Bates' five most recent Olympians -- rower Andrew Byrnes '05, cross country skier Justin Freeman '98 and Lefkaritis. "He wants to finish his homework but he also has a strong commitment to skiing. Sometimes he just sent the homework to me.... he used his cell phone and took a picture and sent it to me."

"Dinos showed a kind of determination in class that I imagine serves him well in his alpine pursuits," said Thomas Sowell Professor of Economics James Hughes, recalling how Lefkaritis adjusted his rigorous and time-intensive alpine practice schedule to meet the demands of statistics, a particularly difficult course.

Now that his dedication has paid off, both Cypriots and Bobcats are channeling the Olympic spirit.

"I see it in many people in Cyprus, that people get inspired by it," he said. "It goes to everyone. I hope it reaches Bates as well."