Skeleton's Uhlaender thinking about weightlifting
Katie Uhlaender wants to take an Olympic path that few have traveled.
Already a two-time U.S. Winter Olympian in skeleton, Uhlaender is considering a bid to make the team headed to the 2012 London Games in weightlifting. Only nine other Americans have pulled off the feat of making Olympic teams in both summer and winter sports, but Uhlaender believes she has a realistic chance of joining that club.
''I think I can give it a good go,'' said Uhlaender, a native of Breckenridge, Colo. who often trains in Lake Placid, N.Y. ''I've always been religious about my training. I train all the time, grew up running track and powerlifting and being a true athlete, doing four or five sports in high school, so I'm used to training four or five hours a day.''
Uhlaender has the support of the U.S. skeleton team for the venture, and doesn't believe it would interfere with her plans to continue sliding on the World Cup circuit leading up to the 2014 Sochi Games.
She's also caught the eye of USA Weightlifting, which is always looking for new talent.
''It's certainly not unheard of, at all,'' said Mike Gattone, USA Weightlifting's high-performance director. ''We're excited for any new possibilities and I wish her well.''
A two-time overall World Cup skeleton champion, Uhlaender is expected to compete in the weightlifting competition at the Rocky Mountain State Games - an Olympic-type festival for athletes from Colorado - on July 31, and is already eyeing the 2011 U.S. national championships.
If all goes well there, Uhlaender could easily find herself in the 2012 Olympic trials and in the mix for the London Games.
''In Katie's case, she comes from the quote-unquote Olympic family,'' Gattone said. ''She knows the drill. There's not much in it unless you're a very, very top athlete, and even in that case, you may struggle depending on the sport you're in. If anybody would have more of a chance to overcome some of those hurdles, it'd be someone like Katie.''
There are parallels between weightlifting and skeleton.
Uhlaender, like many sliders, incorporates plenty of lifting into her training regimen, looking for explosiveness when she starts down the ice. Both are individual sports, neither generates much attention, and there isn't exactly a lot of money for even the top performers.
For Uhlaender, weightlifting also scratches an itch: She simply can't sit still.
She shattered her left kneecap in a snowmobile accident several months before the Vancouver Olympics, then broke it again while dancing a few months later and was not at her best by the time the competition at the Whistler Sliding Center rolled around. These days, she's feeling close to 100 percent again.
''I wouldn't tell anyone, but I was in a lot of pain the whole time during the Olympics,'' Uhlaender said. ''I basically went to the games by gritting my teeth and doing what I have to do. There was no way I was going to admit defeat. I knew that when I broke it the second time, I knew winning a medal would be extremely hard.''
Uhlaender finished 11th at the Vancouver Olympics, well out of medal contention.
There were emotional issues at the winter games as well for Uhlaender, who marked the one-year anniversary of her father's death on Feb. 12 - the day that Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training accident at the super-speedy Whistler track. That affected Uhlaender more than she ever acknowledged publicly during the games.
''I wasn't myself,'' Uhlaender said. ''The stress level was over the top and I was definitely relieved to finally have time to heal, emotionally, mentally and physically.''
For the most part, the pain is gone. And that's why she's looking for the new challenge of competitive weightlifting.
''It's been a horrible last couple years for me,'' Uhlaender said. ''Now I know I don't want to walk away from sport until I give it my all. I'm super-excited for more than one reason now.''