Uhlaender’s future is busy – and undetermined
BRECKENRIDGE – This can’t be right. A few months after Katie Uhlaender took sixth at the Winter Olympics in skeleton, her schedule is actually getting … busier?No way. Uhlaender, the 21-year-old Breckenridge athlete and Summit High School graduate who was the only U.S. woman to compete in February’s Olympic skeleton competition, endured a schedule like the president’s in the months leading up to the Turin Games. She was in more European nations than she could keep track of. She went nearly half a year between nights spent in her own bed.And now, the traveling whirlwind Uhlaender calls life is about to go bonkers again.Beginning next week, she will embark on a summer filled with just about everything. She will train with the best track and field athletes in America; she will go skiing in two hemispheres; and she will work for the TV show “Survivor.” Through it all, she will attempt to determine whether the 2010 Olympic skeleton competition is in her future.
Considering Uhlaender’s showing in Italy – she finished sixth despite a few sizable mistakes, and likely would have medaled otherwise – the last topic seems ripe with intrigue.Uhlaender said in an interview last week that there is only a “60-40″ chance she’ll try to compete in Vancouver.”But that’s mainly because the federation has gone under and there’s no funding for the athletes,” she said, adding that she became “frustrated” with the way things ended last season.An overhaul of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) after February’s turmoil-filled Games has left the athletes it governed, including Uhlaender, sliding in limbo. The U.S. Olympic Committee took control of the organization in the wake of that ugly pre-Olympic period, and will reorganize it before the USBSF is allowed to exist on its own and receive any subsequent USOC funding.At best in the coming season, according to Uhlaender, the USOC will fund America’s sliders until the world championships are over the first week in February. At worst, she said, “The whole season could be self-funded.” If that were the case, “It might be too much.”Ironically, this comes at an OK time as far as Uhlaender is concerned. She has long harbored a passion for freestyle skiing, but she had to shelve it when she did so well in skeleton the past three years. Now, with her skeleton future somewhat undetermined, she plans to explore her options on the slopes.
“I’m just as passionate about skiing, and If I can take it somewhere I might,” she said.Enter this summer’s schedule. Uhlaender will travel to the U.S. track and field team’s hub in San Diego on May 11, where she and other skeleton national team members will train for 20 days. Then, on June 1, she will fly to Oregon to ski at Mt. Hood for a week. She consistently boosted 5 or 6 feet out of the halfpipe during the 20 or so days she skied this winter, she said, and plans to spend most of her time honing those skills.Four days after returning from Mt. Hood, Uhlaender will fly somewhere far away to serve as a “dream team” member on the set of “Survivor” until Aug. 4.”I can’t tell you where it is until they announce it,” she said. “But it’s on an island in the middle of nowhere.”Uhlaender’s boyfriend, a former slider for Canada, works for “Survivor” and helped secure the gig for Uhlaender. “I’ll do whatever they ask,” she said of her job, which she described as a production assistant. “It’s basically stuff they don’t have time to do, little tedious things. I’ll be clearing garbage off the beach, creating props, helping design the ‘challenges.'”
After “Survivor,” Uhlaender is scheduled to fly to New Zealand and train in the Snow Park halfpipe with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club for two weeks. This is when she hopes to find out her true potential on skis.”I’m basically just going out there to get some coaching, get some advice, just play,” she said. “I want to see what my options are and what my abilities are.”Uhlaender is paying $3,000 for the program inclusion and coaching she will get from AVSC, which lightly recruited her after a club coach saw her slide on a skeleton track in Lake Placid a couple years ago.Uhlaender maintains that there is a “very good chance” she will make a push for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Still, she said, “This is the season for me to explore and make sure I’m on the right path.””Being able to do both would be awesome,” she said. “I really feel like I could do anything.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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