Breck skeleton racer wants no part of politics |

Breck skeleton racer wants no part of politics

Devon O'Neil
APBreckenridge native Katie Uhlaender slides through the Shady II curve during her first run at the women's World Cup Skeleton competition in Lake Placid, N.Y. in November.

Breckenridge’s Katie Uhlaender, the only U.S. woman who has qualified for the 2006 Olympic skeleton competition, said Saturday that the sexual harrassment allegations against U.S. skeleton head coach Tim Nardiello have not changed her focus.Uhlaender, who is currently training in Utah in preparation for the February Winter Games in Turin, Italy, declined to comment on the allegations themselves.”At this point, I’m just trying not to be involved with the politics,” the 21-year-old said. “I’m just trying to control what I can control. “I don’t want any distractions. I’ve dealt with distractions before. All I want to do is focus on me and my training and trying to win a medal in the Olympics. All of this that’s going on is not part of my game plan.”

Nardiello was placed on administrative leave Saturday after two U.S. racers said he sexually harrassed them. His fate – including whether he will coach the Olympic team in February – will be decided by a three-person grievance committee formed by the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, the sport’s national governing body.Uhlaender, the third-ranked women’s skeleton racer in the world, said she found out about the allegations Friday when Nardiello called her and told her. “He just wanted to let me know that he was potentially not coming on tour with me,” Uhlaender said. “He understood that I didn’t want to get involved.”

When contacted by the Summit Daily News on Saturday afternoon, Nardiello said, “I can’t comment right now and I’m in the middle of a meeting.”Greg Sand, an assistant U.S. skeleton coach who handles the team’s strength and conditioning, spends much of his time working with Uhlaender. He said he doesn’t expect the turmoil to affect her.”I think Katie’s motivation and drive to succeed at the Olympic Games aren’t going to change all that much,” he said by phone Saturday afternoon.

Sand, who spent last week visiting family in Denver, said he was surprised to hear Friday that Nardiello had been accused of sexually harrassing two athletes – 2002 Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale and veteran Felicia Canfield.”The timing is very inopportune,” he said. “I’m not quite so sure – actually, I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve honestly been out of the loop. Apparently there’s been a lot of e-mails floating around, but the coaching staff has been kept out of the loop. I have no idea. I’m getting caught up.”Uhlaender will be the only American woman competing on the skeleton team in Italy unless the U.S. can crack the top three in the Nations Cup standings. The next World Cup race is set for Germany in two weeks.Vail, Colorado

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