UNG Senior Training for Spot on Olympic Team

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Singularities - Profiles in Physics

UNG Senior Training for Spot on Olympic Team


Michael Marshall, Communications Specialist at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville

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Ben Hefner takes the lead during a race at the 2013 USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint Nationals in Oklahoma City, OK. Photo courtesy of Ben Hefner.

On a typical Monday at 7 am, many college students are just beginning to stir and prepare for the day’s classes. However, Ben Hefner of Gainesville, a senior majoring in physics at the University of North Georgia (UNG), is already on the water, training for a berth with Team USA as a flat water sprint canoeist for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Hefner, a graduate of North Hall High School who recently took second place in the individual 200-meter sprint canoe and third place in the 1,000 meter at the US National Team Trials in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, will graduate from UNG in spring 2014 and focus the next two years on training. He also took first place in the two-man 1,000-meter sprint canoe with partner Ian Ross.

“Ben is a top athlete; it’s very tough to train and go to school, but he is very responsible,” said Claudiu Cuir, Hefner’s coach and a world champion canoeist from Romania. “He is very strong and can really move through the water. Ben is a little younger than most of his competition, but he has great potential and drive. He spends three months every summer training in Europe with some of my connections.”

Hefner began paddling in 2005 on Lake Lanier at the age of 13 at the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club in Gainesville, where the 1996 Olympic events were held. The following year he won the national championship in the 500-meter and 1,000-meter sprint for his age group.

“I could see that I had a future and set my eyes on making the national team,” Hefner said. “In this sport, in order to be competitive at the world championships and to make the Olympic team, I have to compete internationally. My love for the sport and my commitment to excellence fuels my desire to compete.”

That commitment includes much more than the early-morning paddles. Hefner follows up his sunrise session with a one-hour weight circuit, a second paddle set at 10 am, and a third paddle set from 4 to 6 pm. He runs in the evenings.

Though he plans to take time off for training and for the Olympics, Hefner plans to attend graduate school later to major in astrophysics or nuclear physics. His ultimate dream is to become an astronaut.

“Ben is very smart and a hard worker, and a member of the UNG Honors Program,” said Dr. Richard Prior, head of UNG’s Department of Physics and Hefner’s academic advisor. “He does a really good job of handling his dual responsibilities as a student and is an excellent athlete. Ben is a leader among our majors as president of the Society of Physics Students, and is well liked by them and the faculty members. Besides being one of our best students, he also works as a lab assistant and tutor for introductory physics classes.” //

This story originally appeared at http://ung.edu/news/articles/2013/10/ung-senior-training-for-spot-on-us-....

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