ATWOOD, Kansas — In the wide open flat lands of rural Kansas comes the contagious laugh and shock of red hair that is Katie Uhlaender.
The 29 year old loves the slower pace of life on her family’s farm but her real passion is for speed.
“I am an all-American girl farmer and I go head first on ice at 80 miles an hour,” said Uhlaender.
Katie’s sport is called the “Skeleton”. It is a sled stripped to the bare bones and rode by a single rider hurtling head first down a sheet of ice.
She says she became competitive as a result of her late father who was a major league outfielder and first base coach.
“I was never allowed to win anything. He would foot race me or play me in cards, and I had to earn whatever win I got with him. I never really won,” said Uhlaender with a laugh.
Sochi is her third Olympics and she is a former world champion. She’s even trying out for the Olympics in weightlifting.
Her mom, Karen, says Katie is carrying on her father’s legacy.
When asked if she thought her husband would be proud of Katie, Karen responded with out a doubt, “Oh, yeah. He was puffed up like a bullfrog when the two of them were together.”
Her dad died a year before the Vancouver games. Heartbroken and recovering from knee surgery, she finished a disappointing eleventh.
She took over her father’s struggling farm to honor him and regain her footing but always misses her father.
Personal loss is not the only obstacle to the podium though. She suffered a serious concussion in a training accident in October.
“I can’t do anything about a concussion or a broken knee but I can do something about the way I respond to it,” said Katie.
She’s responded in the same way she takes on everything. Head first. Just like they do it out on the farm.
“Athletes and farmers live a very similar lifestyle ’cause it’s not like you work a 9 to 5 job. You get up and you do what you gotta do to get it done,” said Uhlaender.
Getting it done is what this tough all-American farmer is all about.