Discovering an Olympian's Austin connection


by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News and Chief Photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

Posted on February 16, 2014 at 11:37 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 17 at 1:05 PM

AUSTIN -- Katie Uhlaender, 29, is a self-proclaimed speed-adrenaline junkie.

"What's not to love about going 80 miles [per hour] head first, down ice?" asked Katie in a pre-Olympic interview for Team USA.

Uhlaender captured the nation's attention on the skeleton track in Sochi.

"You have to stay calm in intense situations and make calculated decisions," she explained.

With bright red hair and an Eagle-faced helmet, Katie is easy to spot on the icy track.

"We’re all proud of her," said Katie's older brother Hank Uhlaender. Hank owns Oak Hill Fitness in Southwest Austin.

Katie visited Austin over the Christmas holiday to see Hank and the rest of her family who lives in Austin. She also trained at Hank's gym. Her pictures are posted on the walls. Hank looked over them anxiously over the past week, awaiting Katie's turn on the track in Sochi.

"I wish I was there. I wish I could communicate better," he said. "That has got to be tough. You don’t have your normal support team. You’re traveling around, so you don’t have your family with you all the time."

This is Katie's third time in the Olympics. She first competed in Torino, then in Vancouver.

"This is her year. She’s got the confidence, the experience," said Hank. "She’s got more style now. She has more of her to offer I think."

When Katie's moment came this time around, her family invited KVUE to watch that moment unfold. Crowded around a TV, the KVUE crew watched as Katie slid down the track. As she crossed the finish line the room erupted into cheers.

For a moment Katie stood in first place. Then heartache hit as Russia took its turn on the track, beating her out of the bronze by just .04 seconds.

For Katie's family though, her run is still a victory to celebrate.