This is the sixth article in Bears Doing Big Things, a weekly column celebrating the stories of notable M-A alumni. Read last week’s article here.

“I was ecstatic to make varsity water polo my junior year at M-A because I got to wear a varsity jacket, which was kind of guaranteed to get you a date—although it didn’t work that well for me—but I still felt cool wearing it around campus,” said two-time Olympic water polo player Chris Dorst.

Dorst joined the M-A water polo team as a freshman in the fall of 1969. Throughout high school, he developed his passion and talent for the sport. “We were decent as freshmen and sophomores,” Dorst said, “but by the end of junior year, we were beating teams that didn’t even know how to spell M-A.”

Dorst credited his athletic success to a mixture of hard work and luck. He explained, “In high school, I was in the right place at the right time. In college, I was absolutely in the right place at the right time. I was really good at floating and getting hit by things, and I managed to translate that into making two Olympic teams.”

Dorst made the 1980 Olympic team, which was predicted to win gold. However, when the United States boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he couldn’t compete. Dorst said, “The whole thing was very political and tit-for-tat. I have a lot of respect for President Carter, but that might not have been his best move.” He took a couple years off to attend business school, returned for the next Olympic cycle in 1984, and came home with a silver medal.

Dorsts’s words of wisdom to current M-A students: “With Olympic-level sports these days you get a lot of ‘When I was eight, I was dreaming about the Olympics’ people. I was either too stupid or too short-sighted to think about that. Throughout my career, I always had my heart set on just getting to the next level. When I was a freshman, I wanted to make all-frosh/soph; junior year I was dreaming of the CCS championships. ‘If I just get that USA water polo t-shirt,’ I thought, ‘I can die and go to heaven.’ I don’t know that I would’ve been very successful if I’d set out to be on top of the world. I just wanted to play with my buddies and get better for them. I worked hard because I didn’t want to let them down.

That mentality applies to athletics, but I think also to life in general. Having big aspirations is great, but also sometimes it can be more effective to focus on the opportunities, projects, and people in front of you. Take things one step at a time and the big picture will work itself out.”

Aside from sports, Dorst is a big history buff. He explained, “I was okay at math and English, but what I really loved in school was learning about how systems and governments come together and how people think. My favorite class at M-A was definitely history—I had a teacher named Mr. Weaver who was really amazing.”

On his favorite books, Dorst said, “I love books by Simon Winchester: The Map that Changed the World, The Professor and the Madman, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Pacific. I’m also a real fan of William Manchester’s biographies.” 


Disclaimer: Bears Doing Big Things is not meant to be a list ranking the most accomplished or famous M-A graduates on Earth. It is a collection of people with a wide range of expertise, opinions, and stages of life who were kindly willing to share their stories. All have wisdom, entertaining anecdotes, and book recommendations to share. There are 45,000+ additional accomplished M-A alums out there, so keep an eye out for them!

Caroline Pecore is a senior in her first year of journalism. Her column, "Bears Doing Big Things," runs every Monday. She enjoys meeting new people through journalism and writing about the M-A community. Outside of school, she spends most of her time rowing for Norcal Crew and also enjoys reading, drawing, and exploring the outdoors.

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