Noh Jinkyu

Katherine Reutter: skating because she loves it

One of short-track speedskater Katherine Reutter's favorite movies is "Cool Runnings," the 1993 Jamaican bobsled flick. "This is corny," she said, giggling, which is understandable, because turning to John Candy as a source of wisdom can prove a risky play.

Except in this case. In the movie, Candy, playing Irv Blitzer, the fictional bobsled Olympic medalist turned bookie Jamaican-team coach, actually delivers a message that's dead-on serious and that's crystal clear.

"… A gold medal is a wonderful thing," Irv Blitzer says. "But if you're not enough without one, you'll never be enough with one."

"I just realized," Katherine Reutter was saying, and it's more than 18 months now since she won two medals at Vancouver Olympics, a silver in the 1000 and a bronze in the 3000 relay, "I had let my entire life revolve around getting medals. I was doing it out of medal hunger. Since the Olympics, I have transitioned to seeing my sport out of love, and a desire to get better.

"And you know what? By focusing on what I need to do to get better, the medals will follow."

Last weekend, at the first short-track World Cup event of the season, at the oval in Kearns, Utah, Reutter raced the 1500 twice. She won twice.

On Saturday, she won in 2:24.433. Canada's Valerie Maltais came in second, South Korea's Lee Eun-Byul third.

On Sunday, she won in 2:24.005, with Lee second and China's Li Jianrou third.

On the men's side, American J.R. Celski -- in his first World Cup races since Vancouver -- took a bronze in Sunday's 1500. He was disqualified in Saturday's 1000, called for impeding South Korean Noh Jinkyu; Noh won that 1500.

Reutter, 23, is last year's world champion in the 1500. She has been back been training only since mid-September.

She said: "The immaturity -- the only thing in my head used to be, 'Go! Go! Go!' Stretch farther! Do everything better!' Now I'm at a point where I haven't had a lot of injuries but the injuries I have had -- I've made them count.

"If I want longevity," Reutter said, looking toward Sochi and 2014, and that's a long two and a half years away, "I can not go all the time. I have to be smart about where and how I go."

The corollary, she said, is that at 23 she naturally has interests beyond the rink. The trick is to find the appropriate balance -- to sustain the intensity that being best in the world demands while at the same time moving beyond a one-dimensional portrait of herself.

Another of her favorite sayings, she said, hangs on the walls of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. In essence, it says to train like you have everything to prove but compete like you're the best.

She said, "It's so true. When I am racing, I do everything in my power to win that race. When I'm training, the only thing in my mind is what do I have to do to take it away from other people -- how hard do I have to work to be able to take it away from other people."

No longer, though, does that mean that it's a 24/7 deal.

And, critically -- that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Not at all.

Irv Blitzer would understand.


"My relationship with the sport has changed," she said. "I was willing to sacrifice everything because all I wanted was that medal."

Now, "I can be both Katherine myself and Katherine the world-class speedskater. I don't have to sacrifice one thing or everything to be this."

She also said, "I am trying to train smarter and continuing to keep my eyes in the right place and make my dreams come true. That's what the Olympics are all about. For you and for your country. I don't feel any pressure. How can you not rise to that occasion when you have the opportunity to do it for you, for your country, for every person who has ever believed in you?"