Three-time national champion Katherine Reutter is making her Olympic debut in Vancouver. Steadily improving since she joined the senior circuit, Reutter has made the final of the 1500m in each of the last two World Championships, finishing fourth in both. She also finished in the top six in the 1000m and 1500m World Cup standings in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Hailing from the same hometown as Olympic legend Bonnie Blair, Reutter hopes to reach the next level in Vancouver.
At what point did the Olympic dream take hold for you?
The day that I decided that I wanted to speed skate for real, I wanted to give it my all and see how good I could really be, I was 11 and I was an inline skater. It was my first nationals and I came in fifth overall. And I realized if I really go for this, then I could be good someday. And at the time, inlines wasn't in the Olympics. So that, that was the time that I dedicated myself to the sport. But thinking I want to be in the Olympics didn't come until much later, until I saw the Games on TV in 2002.
What did you see in 2002 that affected you?
You know what, it was really just the whole Olympic movement, and just watching. Apolo got gold in the 1500 and silver in the 1000. And just seeing him do every trick that he could, go as fast as he could and fight with someone from every other country, every length? of the way, that was just really inspirational for me, to see someone really going for it. And, I wanted to go for it, too. I wanted to be out there and race people from all over the world.
How important is technique in short track?
Technique is something that is pushed from a very young age in speed skating. And I kind of went the opposite with technique. I started out very young, didn't really know how to speed skate, but I was strong. I started training really young, and I started lifting weights when I was 10 or 11. And so my legs have always been strong. I didn't start learning the technique until I moved into my first development team when I was 16. But the more that I learned about technique, the more that I am convinced that it makes and breaks athletes because technique makes you efficient. And when you have been going for nine laps or 13 laps or however long your distance is, it is about conserving energy because whoever has the most to give with two laps to go is the one who can make that pass and win the race. So having good technique is what allows you to keep your energy and give even more when you are already tired in order to cross the line in first.
How would you rate yourself currently as a technical skater?
I try hard. I think that is all anybody can really do. Everyone has their own style, their own technique, like certain things just work for some people. It doesn't always make sense, but technique is extremely individualized I think as every body type is different. And I think that I just, I train hard and I fix as many things as I can. You can never master technique. The best skaters in the world always have something to fix. So there really is no end in sight.
What are you working on?
The biggest thing I am focusing on right now is my track patterns because I kind of have a reputation for doing a deep track. Our track is an oval and a deep track, which is just naturally how I skate, you enter and then turn right away, at pretty much a right angle and then come out tight. And I am known for this track. Which wouldn't be a big deal, but everyone knows how to pass that track. So, right now I am learning middle tracks, tight tracks, wide tracks, just different ways that I can lead, to throw other skaters off. Because when I get to the front, I think a lot of people tend to think, ‘Oh, I know what she is going to do.' And I am going to change my strategy, so that they don't know.
How would you describe your style?
I think my style is all about positioning, which is one of those things that I have to work on changing because most everyone knows. ‘Katherine is going to get in top three and she'll keep passing, passing to stay there throughout the whole race until the end and then, if I have anything left, I'll go to the front.' But a really versatile skater, they can lead the whole race, they can sit in the middle or they can sit in the back the entire race and still find a way to get to the front. So it is, it is extremely hard to have different styles, but I'd say I am a front-three type of racer.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not skating?
I love yoga, I think it is just the perfect start or end or middle to any day. Even if I don't have time to do any real poses, just standing and breathing in folding forward and getting a little stretch in the hamstrings. It is relaxing and I feel like it brings me all back in. Because when I get stressed out, I have to be in charge of everything. I have to know what is going on here and there, and I have to be in control of that, but when I do yoga, it reminds me that I am really only in control of myself. And that is all that I can ask for. That is all that I can really do well. So I shouldn't waste the energy focusing on things that I can't control.
How much of that mentality carried over to your skating and has it helped your skating?
I think it has helped my skating a lot because I when I first started, I was really as a type-A personality, like I had to be in charge of everything. And it is annoying for my team to have to deal with it. It is very stressful for me. But now that I can take a few minutes for myself and just breathe and relax, I can go to practice and know, I am not in charge of that. Someone else can deal with that. I'll just deal with me. And I hope it makes me easier to work with and that also it helps me focus more on what I need and not what is going on around me.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.