Katie Uhlaender is Kansas’ representative in the Winter Olympics. Sort of.
A member of the U.S. skeleton team, she grew up in Breckendridge, Colo., and still lists it as her residence. But she’s also a Kansas farmer, working her late father’s cattle ranch near Atwood in Rawlins County when she’s not training or in competition.
Uhlaender, 29, competes in the skeleton Thursday and Friday.
Some things to know about Uhlaender:• Uhlaender began competing in skeleton in 2003 and won the national and junior national championship in her first tries.
• She was World Cup champion in 2007 and 2008. She finished sixth in the 2006 Olympics (Torino) and 11th in the 2010 Olympics (Vancouver). She finished second to teammate Noelle Pikus-Pace in a World Cup test event on the Sochi track a year ago.
• Uhlaender took six weeks off before the Olympics after suffering a concussion during a training run. She told the Denver Post that she has had “visual disturbances” as recently as last week.
• Uhlaender is a science major at Colorado Mountain College.
• She’s on Twitter ( @KatieU11) and is asking fans to vote on which eagle-adorned helmet she should use in competition.
• Uhlaender hopes to be on a fourth Olympic team – next time in the summer. She’s training to try out for the 2016 U.S. weightlifting team and was in the trials for the 2012 London Olympics.
• Her father is Ted Uhlaender, an outfielder for the Twins, Indians and Reds from 1965-72. He died in 2009, and Katie Uhlaender wears his 1972 National League pennant ring around her neck during competition. “My father raised me as an athlete, to take responsibility for losing as well as winning,” she told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He never let me win at anything, and taught me to work for everything I got. If you weren't an athlete in our family, you weren't cool. It was a matter of honor.”
• Uhlaender began farming in 2010 after the Vancouver Olympics. She wrote in Guideposts, “When we pulled into the driveway and I saw the spread – the old wooden barn, the acres of land, the cattle – I felt Dad’s spirit all around me. This is where I need to be, I thought.”
• Her new-found love for farming comes from her father. “I never knew farm life was for me,” she wrote on her blog. “This was my father’s dream, and he passed away before he could show me how amazing it is. It seems I’ve fallen in love with it, too.”