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Katie Uhlaender is competing in the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver in the skeleton.

Katie Uhlaender won back-to-back World Cup titles in the two seasons following the Torino Games. "It was insane," she says of those seasons. "I honestly didn't even realize how I had been dominating until this year (2009), when I was like, 'How come I haven't gotten a medal yet?' It was amazing, honestly. I had a blast. And I kept learning and I kept pushing it, and I'm still doing that. Who wants to lose? So I couldn't have been happier. It gave me a really great appreciation for my competitors and for my team. And I hope it happens again."

Uhlaender finished sixth at the lone U.S. woman in the Olympic field in Torino. Of her Olympic experience she says: "I grew up a lot and also revitalized my imagination and my dreams, my hopes. And I learned how to say thank you in eight languages. So it was really cool." With one Games behind her, Uhlaender says she's better equipped to handle her second. "The first time I went to the Olympics I was young. I hadn't really been to any major event yet," she explains. " I was 21 and just like, 'Whoa, I'm at the Olympics.' And this time I'm going to walk in and say, 'Alright, I know what I'm here for. I know why I'm here. I'm going to do it for my dad.'"



Katie's father, Ted Uhlaender, died on February 12, 2009 after a yearlong struggle with multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects the plasma cells of bone marrow. About two weeks later, she decided to compete at the World Championships in Lake Placid, confident that's what her dad would have wanted. Not surprisingly, she found herself in tears throughout the event and was unable to compete up to her usual level. Still, she finished a respectable seventh. Afterwards she conceded that two weeks was not enough time and that she was never able to focus on racing. "For him not to be at Lake Placid, my home track, a track that I've medaled on every race I've ever been in, where I was guaranteed to win—that was a huge shocker," she says. "I don't even think I knew how to handle it. It was really difficult for me to compete, but I knew I had no other choice. If he made me compete while he was alive and still sick, I knew he'd want me there then."

Uhlaender competed on the World Cup circuit in 2008-09 despite the fact that her father had terminal cancer, a decision he encouraged. "I had spent the summer rehabbing and taking care of him," she explains. "And it was awesome. My dad was so great. I mean, who else would let you name their chemo machine Dirty Harry? He was just a really great man. So I went to him I was like, 'Hey, I don't—I don't want to compete this year. I'm cool with just doing a few international races to make my qualifiers and being here with you.' And he told me that that was the wrong thing to do... So I went on to compete in the World Cup season, despite what I knew. And that was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, because I never really feel like I was there on World Cup... I did the best I could, but I think there's only so much you can do when your heart is really at home."

Ted Uhlaender was a major league baseball player who played outfield for the Twins, Indians, and Reds—he was a member of Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine." After he retired, he worked in statistics and scouting as an advisor to MLB teams. "My father taught me everything," Katie says. "He taught me how to write, he taught me how to read. He taught me my work ethic and a lot of perspective on life. Everything I have learned from him, I'm able to use in sport and in all walks of life." She recalls that when she first competed at junior worlds her dad gave her some particularly valuable advice. "I was supposed to go to Germany and compete and I was completely freaked out. I'd only been on a sled for three weeks," she says. "And he said: 'You know, the first time I walked into Yankee Stadium with sixty thousand fans and Mickey Mantle in the outfield, I couldn't get my knees to stop shaking. Then I had to talk myself for a good while before I could step into the box, step up to the plate. I realized in that moment that those same legends before me took the same steps I'm taking up to the plate.' Then he said, 'That's what you need to do. You're not doing anything different than those people ahead of you or before you. So take your steps and take your moment.' And that's held true for a long time, I think, in a lot of ways."

U.S. bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb says: "Katie is really tough. She is always on crutches for some reason, which is because she is always going out doing everything hard and going a hundred percent and ends up getting hurt... She is a daredevil at heart." Uhlaender's most recent injury occurred just after the 2008-09 season, when she hurt her left knee on a snowmobile. "I shattered my kneecap into seven pieces and I had it wired and screwed back together," she explains. It has so far required four surgeries. In March 2008, she tore the MCL and ACL in her right knee—requiring two surgeries—while back-country skiing. "That was a pretty major injury," she says." It took a long time to recover from. And my start never really did recover last year. Luckily this year I broke a bone, so it should be a better a much better situation. Although it is a major injury, shattering your kneecap. But due to all the experiences I had last year I know what to do this time and I'm going to do it better and faster, stronger... That's going to include eating right, training, rehab and making sure that my money-maker comes back." In 2004, Uhlaender broke a bone in her foot - another two-surgery injury.

U.S. bobsled athlete Sara Sprung introduced Uhlaender to sliding sports. The two met in a Silverthorne, Colorado weight room during the summer of 2002 and by the end of the summer, Sprung had convinced Uhlaender to try skeleton. That November she was in skeleton school in Lake Placid and by early 2003, Uhlaender competed at the World Junior Championships in Koenigssee, Germany, where she placed seventh.

Uhlaender started weight training as part of her high school track program and later got into power lifting. She started skiing at age two and did some ski racing, but says she was more into freestyle and halfpipe skiing. Uhlaender says the sensation of "going as fast as you can to the wall" is very similar to skeleton. Of that sensation she says, "I'm addicted". Her first love was baseball, which she played through high school, and she also likes basketball and golf.

The summer following the Torino Games, Uhlaender spent two and a half months in the Cook Islands working on the television show "Survivor." She helped to test the challenges and also worked as a camera assistant. In 2007, she spent some time competing as a big mountain skier in New Zealand and that fall worked for another six weeks on "Survivor," this time in Palau. After skeleton, Uhlaender would like to become a producer or writer.


KATIE UHLAENDER: FACTS

How old is Katie Uhlaender? Where does Katie Uhlaender live? Find out here.

Age: 29 years old
Birthday: July 17, 1984
Birthplace: Vail, CO
Hometown: Breckenridge, CO
Current Residence: Breckenridge, CO





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