Katie Uhlaender competes in the Viessmann IBSF Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup event at Utah Olympic Park Dec. 6, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
Katie Uhlaender’s life could be a Hollywood movie. Born to a famous father (Major League Baseball outfielder Ted Uhlaender), the small-town girl grew up on her family’s farm dreaming of following her father’s path as a professional athlete. Her journey leads her to the winter sport of skeleton, where she speeds down mountains at high speeds in pursuit of Olympic glory. Along the way, she struggles with her health and finding the means to turn her dream into reality.
And if someone was to write her story, Uhlaender knows just the person — herself.
The 29-year-old has aims of one day working as a full-time writer/producer for TV, having already experienced the business when she worked production on the reality show “Survivor” for a season. “I like the creative process and the idea of producing,” she said. “I don’t mind being in front of the camera either. I would love to work as a commentator, or help to create storylines. I find the work behind and in front of the camera to be rewarding and fun.” Uhlaender admitted that while she would love to become a writer/producer after her sporting career is over — she doesn’t see that ending any time soon.
|Katie Uhlaender poses during the 2013 Team USA Media Summit on Oct. 1, 2013 in Park City, Utah.|
The last couple of years have seen a long list of obstacles for Uhlaender, starting with a blowout of her right knee in 2008. Within a year she would also lose her famous father to cancer, shatter her left kneecap (twice!) only to land back in the hospital the following year for hip surgery. And just like on the big screen — when you think the main character has gone through enough heartache — there is always one more twist. In October of this year, the two-time Olympian suffered a concussion after an overly aggressive training session in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Uhlaender — who has written about her road to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games for TeamUSA.org, where she is amongst the medal favorites — called her recent injury a “huge challenge,” but said after spending time rehabbing and receiving treatment at the Carrick Brain Center near where she grew up in Texas, she is “recharged and motivated for the 2014 season.”
With the winter competition season already underway and a little less than a month to go until the skeleton competition in Sochi, Uhlaender is currently competing in Europe. Wanting to compete in her third consecutive Winter Games and earn a place on the medal stand — something that has eluded her thus far — she skipped the world cup in Winterberg, Germany, “in order to give myself some extra time to heal. My world ranking is something I am sacrificing this year in order to ensure I am ready when it counts.”
She returned with a sixth-place finish in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Something else that has helped her get ready for competition is her friendship with former alpine skier Picabo Street. “I have had some talks with Picabo — who is a great mentor — and she has really helped me strengthen my purpose towards Sochi,” she said. “I have had such a support group behind me. They give me no choice but to keep fighting.”
Uhlaender was a medal contender in Vancouver four years ago, but said the big difference between this Olympic year and 2010 is “the amount of love and support I feel from my family, friends and sponsor Liberty Mutual Insurance. Their support won’t allow for quitting or doing anything but my best to represent my country and home.
“The Olympics are of course the main focus for me,” she continued. “I am taking every step necessary to get healthy, continue to stay healthy and do the best that I can. No matter what, I want to make my family, friends, fans and country proud. I can’t promise results, but I can promise I’m doing everything I can to get some,” — even if that means making a run for the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
If one full-time sport wasn’t enough, the seasoned athlete plans a big change after the Sochi Games by switching to make Olympic weightlifting her long-term goal. It was something she said she got into after people started noticing how much she could lift in the gym. Uhlaender competed in her first weightlifting competition in 2010 and has already earned national championship medals. Although fairly new to the competitive side of the sport — she considers herself to be a “seeker; and someone who is constantly seeking to challenge myself and grow” — ensuring her story never ends.
And if that story ever did end up on the big screen, she would have liked for Hollywood legend Mae West to play her role. In fact, she said, one of the actress’ quotes comes to mind, “A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”
Although… if she were to get tied up, she said she hopes it’s because “at some point I would love to find a husband and have some babies.”
Sounds like the perfect Hollywood ending!