BY GREG KLEIN
Just because her three children are an Olympian, a doctor and a novelist, doesn’t mean Jeannine Groff considers herself a Tiger Mom. “Honestly, we’re just blessed,” said the Cooperstown resident and former science teacher at Cherry Valley- Springfield and Owen D. Young schools. “We’ve been very lucky.”
The Groffs’ oldest child, son Adam, is a doctor and businessman who specializes in hospice care. Their middle child, Lauren, is a novelist known for “The Monsters of Templeton” and her recent work “Arcadia.” Jeannine, whose husband, Gerald is also a doctor and hospital administrator, spoke to Cooperstown middle school students Friday about her youngest daughter, Sarah Groff, also known as Groffy. Sarah will represent the United States in the women’s triathlonat the 2012 London Olympic Games in August.
“Although Sarah is my child, she is an inspiration to me,” Jeannine said.
“I’d like to have you understand part of her journey, and perhaps give you some ideas and suggestions to inspire you on your journey,” Jeannine said to the 100 or so seventh- and eighth-graders at the school assembly.
Sarah attended Cooperstown schools from kindergarten through 10th grade. She graduated in 1999 from Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Deerfield, Mass. She then attended Middlebury College in Vermont, graduating in 2003.
Sarah started swimming with the Clark Sharks and continued swimming through high school and college. She also ran cross country.
She said she couldn’t choose between competitive swimming and running and therefore decided to compete in triathlons to compete in both sports. She had begun cycling at Deerfield swimming, cycling and running being the three components of the sport and started competing in triathlons in 1996. Within a few years, she was placing in races and becoming a world class triathlete. In 2008, Sarah missed qualifying for the Olympics by two spots.
Sarah and her teammate, Gwen Jorgensen, were the first American athletes to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. On Aug. 6, 2011, Sarah placed seventh in a World Championship Series triathalon in London, a designated World Qualification Event for the 2012 Olympics.
Her third-place finish for the entire 2011 WCS series was the best showing by an American triathlete in the three-year history of the series.
Sarah’s path to the Olympics hasn’t been easy, her mom said, and it hasn’t been without complications.
“She trains eight months a year, away from her family and her boyfriend,” Jeannine said. “She spent Christmas in Australia training. She has missed weddings, birthdays and holidays, because that’s part of the job.”
In early 2010, Sarah fractured her sacrum in a bike accident. She continued training and refractured it during a race in Kenya in November of 2010. She had to relearn how to run, and continue to train through her injuries, said her mother. Only 10 months later, she qualified for the Olympics.
“Sarah is leaving (this) week for Davos, Switzerland to train,” Jeannine said. “If she were here she would recommend to all of you to try new things, new activities, new sports.”
“No one should ever try to keep you from trying to reach your dreams,” Jeannine added. “Hopefully, she can inspire you to live the best, most meaningful journey you can.”
Sarah’s competition is scheduled for Aug. 4. Her mom said she is talking to people in town to see about setting up a public viewing of the event.
Sarah can be followed on twitter (@sgroffy) and is blogging about her experiences at www.espn.com.