by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
There’s something about Champaign-Urbana and the Olympics. It produced the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history — speed skater Bonnie Blair, who finished her career with five gold medals and one bronze. There is even a special area in Dodds Park that is a tribute to all the athletes from Champaign County who have competed in the Olympics. Chambana has also been home to many amazing and groundbreaking Paralympians.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that one of our nation’s top medal hopefuls in women’s short track speed skating is 21-year-old Champaign native Katherine Reutter, who first stepped on the ice for the University of Illinois Ice Arena’s Learn To Skate program. She quickly ditched figure skating for the speed version, and it’s taken her all over the world. She’s been called the poster girl of the U.S. women’s short track speed skating team while garnering quite a following, especially after her hilarious appearance on the Colbert Nation in which she had host Stephen Colbert sign her thigh.
Chambanamoms.com caught up with Katherine Reutter’s mother, Beth, before she and husband Jay took off for Vancouver to cheer on their only child. The Reutters had so much faith that their daughter would be in Vancouver they already had all of their plans in place for the 2010 Olympic Games (flight, housing, event tickets) before they arrived at Olympic Trials in September.
“With short track being affectionately called NASCAR on ice, we could have easily been going to Vancouver without Katherine but we were willing to show our belief in Katherine to take that chance,” said Beth Reutter, who teaches Hospitality Management in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois.
Beth recalls that Katherine’s dad, Jay, had the unwavering belief that Katherine could make it to the Olympics shortly after she won her first trophy as a Tiny Tot at age 5.
” It wasn’t until she was 16 and won Nationals for her age group that the reality of her being on the Olympic track hit me,” Beth Ruetter says. “That win qualified Katherine for an invitation to train with the U.S. Short Track Development Team at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich.”
Katherine Reutter, who graduated from Centennial High School in 2006, left home to train full-time first in Michigan and later moved to Salt Lake City, where she currently trains.
Katherine first met Blair when she was 6. Reutter also saw Blair speak at Centennial during her junior year at Centennial; after Bonnie spoke Katherine was one of a handful of students invited to have lunch with her.
“That opportunity solidified Katherine’s desire to become an Olympian,” Beth Reutter said.
So how can Chambana get behind Katherine Reutter? There are several ways to support Katherine from afar. “The easiest way is to simply follow the sport and be a “Rootin for Reutter” fan,” Beth Reutter said. Avid fans wear kelly green “Rootin for Reutter” sweatshirts that can be ordered at katherinereutter.com. You can keep up with Katherine by joining her fan email list (email Beth at bethreutter AT gmail DOT com); visiting her Facebook fan page, or following her on twitter.
Katherine Reutter will be on the ice in Vancouver again on Wednesday evening.
Editor’s Note: We will continue this conversation, including how a parent raises an Olympic athlete, in the second installment of our interview with Beth Reutter next week.