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Olympic athletes often begin their sports as small children. They sacrifice holidays and family life for training and competition. Elite athletes can also sacrifice academics. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the sports' governing body, is trying to prevent that with its own high school.

As we report on Olympic athletes seeking to gain a competitive edge, NPR's Ted Robbins reports on an effort to keep them from giving up too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: For Mac Bohonnon, 107:54, he takes second place.

(APPLAUSE)

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: That was freestyle aerial skier Mac Bohonnon's first time placing at a recent competition in Quebec. It helped him qualify for the Olympics in Sochi. When he's not doing triple twisting double back flips, he's doing Advanced Placement classes at Team Academy in Park City, Utah.

MAC BOHONNON: I'm just starting one of the last units in my AP Literature course. This unit's a study of poetry.

ROBBINS: It's tough to be a normal high school senior with constant training and competition. Luckily, Mac Bohonnon is not going to a normal high school.

He is one of 36 students at this invitation-only high school, located on the third floor of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association headquarters - just above the training facilities. Dan Kemp is the school's headmaster and head cheerleader.

DAN KEMP: How was the training? Was the snow good, or hard or sugary. What was it like?

ROBBINS: Kemp says ski and snowboard athletes will drop out of high school because it's just too hard to juggle it with sports. Team Academy, he says, allows athletes to live a more balanced life.

KEMP: That whole person is more than just how fast you can ski down the hill. How fast you can twist and turn your body in a half-pipe. So we needed academic services.

ROBBINS: There are other high school ski academies. This is the only one run by the sports' governing body. Team Academy has some normal classes but it's mostly self-paced, with a lot of one-on-one and online sessions. It also takes the place of home schooling, a common way athletes try to keep up.

Fifteen-year-old Alpine skier, Storm Klomhaus used to be home-schooled in Boulder, Colorado.

STORM KLOMHAUS: Yep, all alone at home, sitting at a countertop, with my parents trying to teach me Algebra One.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBBINS: Here she has companions, awesome companions.

KLOMHAUS: I'm going to school with so many athletes that are going to compete in Sochi. It's just so cool.

ROBBINS: It's still tough living away from her family. It's also expensive -$15,000 yearly tuition. But Dan Kemp says most of the students get some form of financial aid. He also says most of the students at Team Academy have 3.75 GPAs or better. The real advantage to being in the same building as coaches and trainers though, is that everyone can sync schedules.

KEMP: We slow the pace when students have intense travel, intense competition. We don't want students standing in the starting gate worrying about trigonometry. We want students standing in gate, worrying about gates.

ROBBINS: Let's be real: academics are important here but not as important as winning on the slopes. Bill Marolt is the CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

BILL MAROLT: A hundred percent, that's what we're about. Don't want to make any mistake about that.

(LAUGHTER)

MAROLT: But that's not bad. I mean, you know, what's our culture? What's the culture in our country? It's about winning.

ROBBINS: When that winning is over, at least these athletes will have a fundamental education.

Ted Robbins, NPR News.

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