Fields of Gold: Olympian with Kansas ties preps for Winter Games

Watch: Olympian with Kansas ties preps for Winter Games

MCDONALD, Kan. (KSNW) – Olympian Katie Uhlaender from McDonald, Kansas, will compete Friday and Saturday in the skeleton.

She talked via Facebook with KSN’s Stephanie Bergmann about how she was feeling about her training.

“I never feel ready. I always want more time.”

“It can be a whirlwind going into the Olympics. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of questions,” said Uhlaender. “I never feel ready. I always want more time.”

Uhlaender has competed in every Winter Games since 2006.

Her best finish happened last time at Sochi, when Uhlaender came in fourth place.

Now, because of the Russian doping scandal, she is in line for the bronze medal.

As for these games?

Katie Uhlaender has been a mainstay on the U.S. skeleton team for more than a decade. She made her Olympic debut in 2006, finishing sixth. Four years later, she was 11th, and at the 2014 Games, she was fourth, just .04 seconds away from a medal. After Sochi, while recovering from injuries, she took a break from skeleton and tried track cycling.

“Hopefully, this race goes well, and I can pull a miracle off and do it again!” said Uhlaender, laughing.

She had hoped to celebrate her Olympic success with her father, former pro baseball player, Ted Uhlaender. In 2008, they even bought a bottle of liquor to share whenever she wins her first medal. It’s called Absinth Beetle, complete with a big bug at the bottom!

“The spiny, devil walking stick, yea!” recalled Uhlaender. “We got the ugliest bottle we could find because it looked like the weirdest and the most outrageous and exotic.”

Sadly, the father and daughter never had that drink.

Ted Uhlaender died in 2009 after suffering a heart attack at his ranch outside McDonald, Kansas. His ashes were spread in a field behind the house.

Even though Katie now lives with friends at a neighboring ranch when she’s not in competition, Ted’s legacy is a big reason why she wants to come home to Kansas.

“It is home,” said Katie. “It’s family there. I have to go back. It’s not even a question. Whether or not I end up settling there, that’s a bigger question, but I have a home there, and my heart’s always there.”

“Oh, we love her,” said Xavier Ramirez, a friend of her father. “We’re crazy about her.”

“It is home. It’s family there. I have to go back. I have a home there, and my heart’s always there.”

“We do yell at her sometimes!” said Ramirez, grinning. He and Dave Frisbie watch out for Katie and treat her like family.

Uhlaender has her own bedroom at the Frisbie ranch, and her trophies fill their shelves.

The family even takes care of 20 head of cattle that Uhlaender bought herself. Proceeds from some of the calves paid for her last skeleton sled.

While her fellow ranchers will cheer Katie on in the Olympics, they’ve never been able to watch her compete in person. The Winter Games always fall during calving season, when ranchers must be onsite to help the new livestock survive.

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After the Olympics, Uhlaender dreams of joining the business.

“Contributing to the world with food, with cattle, and farming,” said Uhlaender. “It’s a blessing.”

(Photo courtesy Katie Uhleander)

 

But it’s also demanding.

“The investment and a lot of labor,” said Ramirez. “A lot of time.”

“You gotta be dedicated,” agreed Frisbie.

“If she can do the Olympics, she can do cattle,” nodded Ramirez.

“I would love to,” said Uhlaender. “I would love to take over my father’s ranch and work with the Frisbies and keep my cattle. It’s whatever God’s will is.”

Uhlaender also dreams of another Olympics, but at age 33, that too will be tough.

“Finding sponsors who are willing to support someone getting older is hard for some reason.”

Whatever lies ahead for Katie Uhlaender, on the racetrack and beyond, she says her connection to Kansas gives her strength.

“I feel it, and I thank you,” said Uhlaender, to her supporters. “I will be taking that all the way to Korea!”

“I feel it, and I thank you. I will be taking that all the way to Korea!”          – Katie Uhlaender


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