US Olympian Uhlaender healed after father’s death

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - She’s her father’s daughter, no doubt. U.S. skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender is tough, fearless, determined and resilient.

Just like her dad.

Sadly, she didn’t realize it until he was gone.

A hard-nosed major league outfielder who raised his little girl to love baseball, Ted Uhlaender also taught Katie to work hard, dive headfirst into anything she tried and win. He died in 2009 of a heart attack after battling cancer, and less than a year later, she went to her second Olympics with a broken heart.

Katie Uhlaender didn’t know where to turn and arrived at the Vancouver Games with a mind filled with thoughts of doubt and guilt. She didn’t want to be there. One of the medal contenders, she finished a disappointing 11th, and in the days following her competition, the 29-year-old of Breckenridge, Colo., struggled to make sense of her life.

“I was mentally unstable and lost,” she said. “I was trying to figure out how to live without my dad. He was the one I would always turn to when I started to freak out or panic or doubt myself.

“When I lost him I had no purpose.”

That’s when Picabo Street entered her life. She’s been there ever since.

Through a mutual connection, Uhlaender was introduced to Street, a 1988 gold medalist in Alpine skiing. The two free spirits bonded immediately.

“She was in a real bad spot, a funky spot,” Street said Monday at the Sanki Sliding Center, moments after giving Uhlaender a pep talk as she prepared for competition Thursday and Friday. “I grabbed her and we went for a walk and I asked her, ‘What’s up with you?’ She told me the whole story and told me that her father had passed and how hard of a time she was having. She was confused and I just became a friend to her.”

More than that, Street helped fill the void left by her dad.

The first time they talked, Street, who has two children of her own, sensed Uhlaender was in serious trouble. Street’s instincts told her Uhlaender was sliding to a dark place.

“The first thing I told her was, ‘Look, dude, this too shall pass. Calm down, we’ll get there. Just settle down. You’re going to be all right,’” Street said.

“I thought she maybe was on a path to self-destruct and I was like, ‘No, dude, we’re going to be all right. We’re going to get through this.’ And that vulnerability, it hit me hard and I just kept real good track of her and stayed right on her.”

Uhlaender now feels healed, whole.

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