Athlete profile: Katie Uhlaender
For the last three years, Breckenridge native Katie Uhlaender steadily has been rising into the ranks of the world’s best skeleton racers.
In 2003 and 2004, the 20-year-old Summit High School graduate won the national championship in the unique, face-first version of luge.
Then in November, she qualified for the World Cup circuit when she edged 2002 Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale by .31 seconds to win a Verizon National Team Trial race in Park City, Utah.
“I didn’t consider winning and I didn’t consider losing,” she said. “I just concentrated on what I needed to do. I studied the track all week and something just clicked. I was giggling the whole way down the track.”
Uhlaender hopes to qualify for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and she’s well on her way.
She already has several top-10 finishes this season on the incredibly competitive World Cup circuit, including a fourth-place finish in Altenberg, Germany, on Nov. 27.
“She has a very good shot at making the Olympic team ” as good a shot as anybody here,” said Greg Sand, the assistant skeleton coach for the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “She’s very, very competitive and 150 percent focused on the task at hand ” probably more so than any woman we have here.”
Uhlaender’s sliding career began shortly after she graduated in 2002, when she met Leadville resident Sarah Sprung, a member of the U.S. Bobsled Team.
Sprung saw a natural athletic talent in Uhlaender that would lend well to racing on a bobsled track and convinced the young prodigy to go to Lake Placid, N.Y., and try the sport.
Uhlaender tried bobsledding, but quickly fell in love with skeleton racing instead, and the rest has been history. Now she pushes herself to improve with every competition she enters.
“I refuse to plateau,” she said. “If I don’t understand something, I’m determined to figure out why.”
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