Friday, November 13, 2009

Olympic Dreams

Just still like this one.

Published Jan. 15, 2005, in the Keizertimes

Most weekdays, after homework is completed, Keizer's Kelley Fitzpatrick, can be found in her garage working on her skis and waiting for the weekend.

She has five pairs of skis that are used regularly, so it keeps her busy.

"There's just not a whole lot you can practice in a garage without special equipment. So I spend hours and hours working on the skis," said the 14-year-old McNary High School freshman.

She spends so much time prepping the skis for the next weekend that she knows immediately if her dad has been in her workshop and touching her skis.

All that hard work has paid off spectacularly for Kelley, who is the No. 1-ranked slalom skier for her age group, 14- to 16-years old, in the country.

Her skills on the slopes have caught the attention of U.S. Olympic coaches and secured her a spot at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y.

She leaves for an eight-day stay at the center Sunday.

While Keizer isn't exactly known for its snow-covered slopes, Kelley has learned to be patient. During the ski season she spends nearly every weekend at a family cabin in Government Camp in the thick of Mt Hood National Forest.

"I've been skiing since I was 1 year old and racing since I was 5," said Kelley. "I just love being up in the mountains and out in the snow."

In addition to being the first-ranked skier in the slalom race, Kelley is ranked second in the super giant slalom, seventh in downhill and 19th in the giant slalom.

In a slalom race, a skier must dart in between closely spaced flags, known as gates. The race is a test of technical ability at speeds up to 25 mph. The giant slalom has fewer, wider turns than the slalom, and downhill racing is a test of speed. A super giant slalom race, or Super-G, combines the challenges of the giant slalom and downhill races, with gates spaced the farthest apart.

Kelley said a lot of her friends do trick skiing, but the speed is what gets her adrenaline pumping.

"In a race like the Super-G, you're flying down the hill at 70 mph and there's nothing like it," she said.

For as much time as she has spent racing, Kelley has avoided serious injury. The worst injuries have been large, deep bruises, she said.

In addition to excellent conditioning, Kelley has a considerable knowledge of health and nutrition.

"I'm known as the nutritionist among my friends," she said. "Whenever they have health problems they come to me."

Kelley didn't start with Olympic goals, but she's slowly come to start dreaming of success on the international scene.

"I'm hoping to compete at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia," she said.

It's coincidence that Whistler happens to be one of her favorite locales for hitting the slopes.

"It's just beautiful," said Kelley.

If Olympic glory isn't in her future, that's okay, as long as she get to compete in the Junior National World Cup competition like her hero Bode Miller, known as one of the fastest and most creative skiers in the world.

"I think I would be even happier than if I got to go to the Olympics. The World Cup is the better competition; the Olympics are just advertised more," she said.

Of Miller she said, "His technique is just amazing. Every slope has a route that's known as a bad-boy line and that's the only line he'll take."

At the end of her rigorous training schedule at the Olympic Training Center next week, Kelley will compete in a race with the other five skiers selected for the competition. A victory would earn her the chance to compete at an Olympic training center in Italy next month.

As her skill increases so does the cost of advanced training - a harsh reality for Kelley's parents Mike and Jana.

"It's absolutely amazing to watch her get to do such wonderful things. The cost is just overwhelming," said Mike.

Whether or not she wins at the Olympic Training Center, Kelley may still travel to Switzerland this summer with the Mt. Hood Meadows Race Team.

Kelley's focus, however, remains on the upcoming competitions. In her most recent even the Topolino Shootout in Park City, Colo., three weeks ago she came up short of first place, but finished second.

"I was disappointed because I could have won if I skied to my potential, but I didn't," she said. "Next time though, I'll do better."

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