Uhlaender ready to go in skeleton race
CESANA PARIOL, Italy ” Skeleton racing in the Olympics is a lot more low-key than say, downhill. So not many of the thousands of people attending the Torino Games are aware of the fact that America’s only female representative in the skeleton event is working her way up to the top of the pack for Thursday’s race.
Between her training runs in Cesana Pariol, Italy, on Wednesday night, Katie Uhlaender took her sled and stepped gingerly into the back of an enclosed truck, like a military crew might, to be transported back to the top of the course.
Unhappy with her first run Tuesday, Uhlaender walked on her heels in what look like cycling shoes to a table with her journal, where she rested her head on her hand and wrote down concise details of her trip down the ice.
Reaching speeds of 80 mph, two inches off the ice, firing head-first down a track of for a single minute, skeleton racers put their lives on the line just as much, if not more than skiers and snowboarders in the Olympics. When a slider goes by it’s like a jet. You hear the rapid scrape only when they’ve already passed.
Uhlaender put down the third-fastest time in training Tuesday night, finishing in 1 minute, .05 seconds behind Swiss racer Maya Pedersen (59.62) and German racer Diana Sartor (59.89).
Concentrating on her sport was tougher than it could have been for Uhlaender leading up to the Games, as her U.S. Team coach, Tim Nardiello was fired a few days before the Olympics following a controversy over sexual harassment charges, which were subsequently dismissed.
“At times, it inadvertently affected me, but it didn’t involve me,” Uhlaender said of the attention surrounding Nardiello. “I dealt with the things that pertain to me and my sliding.”
Uhlaender felt a bit nervous on her first training day at the Games, but was comforted by advice from her father, former major league baseball player Ted Uhlaender.
“He reminds me to not worry and to stick things out,” Katie said. “His first at-bat was in Yankee Stadium in front of 60,000 people with Mickey Mantle in center field, and he had to step out of the batter’s box. But he realized those same champions took the same first steps that he was taking.”
Uhlaender will represent the United States in the women’s Olympic skeleton event Thursday in Cesana Pariol, Italy.