Zen 10 questions: Katherine Reutter

It was US championships in December 2007, as the skaters were being introduced & called to the start I noticed this redhead who gave an absolutely huge smile when her name was called.

(all photos in this post are from the amazing Tom DiNardo).

At a moment of supreme stress, she seemed incredibly relaxed and happy. Katherine Reutter went on to simply dominate all the races, throwing huge outside passes, and saying to the rest of the athletes “catch me if you can”. None could.

I later learned that in qualifying for this meet, she had unofficially broken the 9 lap time trial world record. Who was this person?

After a number of conversations at the rink, and meeting her folks in the stands at the world cups, now I have an idea who this remarkable indivudal is, and am proud to welcome her to my little home on the web.

onward to the interview!

1. So what is the origin of that huge smile I see on your face when you step to the start line? And has it changed?

Smiling at the line has never been something I’ve thought about… You go through every round hoping to make it to the finals and it’s such an honor to be introduced as one of the top skaters and to be representing your country at world cups that smiling just seems so natural.

I’m also so appreciative of all the people in the stands who come to watch and cheer that it’s the least I can do to acknowledge how much their support fuels me.

2. In years past, you were known as a crazy strong skater with questionable technique, what are the things you have worked on to change this?

A lot of technique just comes with practice… I keep track of all the technical things I need to change by writing down what they are and I what I need to do to fix them.

Then I focus one just 1 or 2 things until it’s committed to muscle memory and move on to the next. But even then when race time comes around I fall back into a lot of bad habits.

If I’ve learned anything about technique in the past few years it’s that you just have to keep practicing. It sounds so easy! But it’s not!

3. Your Dad told me that he introduced you to lifting weights at age 9, and you really liked it. What are your memories from then?

I can hardly remember a time in my training when I haven’t weight lifted! That’s what really helped me when I never had the same advantages on the ice as other girls, but I was able to develop strong muscles.

My dad was a great coach and I had fun weightlifting then and now because it’s the only work-out where week to week you can see improvement; whereas with other training you have to remember the big picture and know that your work will pay off eventually.

4. Your dad also mentioned “mean girls” as a huge motivation for you to excel. I’ve heard other female athletes talk about this. Is this different than what men experience?

It is different from what men experience because all the men teams I’ve worked with have been so competitive that every practice they’re striving to win and most of their differences are settled on the ice.

Ladies, by nature, aren’t so cutthroat, but can be just as brutal off the ice. Speedskating is a difficult sport because we’re all so young and just want to fit in with our team that it’s easy to forget that you’re here for yourself and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

5. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

Confidence is what I work on the most. Training comes with ups and downs so I try to be comfortable with myself, my effort, and knowing that slumps don’t last forever. It’s hard not to get frustrated when things aren’t going as well as you want.

6. Your dad told me that you two have a conversation every six months, about “is this what you really want to be doing?” Have those conversations got easier or harder as you have gotten older & reached the upper levels of the sport?

They’ve gotten harder. With great risk comes great reward… or great heartbreak. I know that this is what I want to be doing it’s just those moments after the heartbreak when I need some comfort from home.

7. What are the hard things you have to work on, on a daily basis, to excel?

Positive thinking. It’s the difference between 1st and 2nd

8. From your perspective as one of the truly fast, what are the tiny things that separate first through 10th place?

Mental toughness! At the end of a race it can come down to strength, but every day and every round depend on how motivated, smart, and positive you are.

9. What is GREAT about your life right now, what is really HARD?

God is the greatest thing in my life. It’s easy to forget all the things he does for us, but no matter what I’m dealing with he’s there to take my stress away and show me the right way to go.

The hardest thing about my life is being away from home and not having enough time to be normal. My life is probably 85% skating with 15% leftover for family, school, and friends… I hate not having time or energy for other really important things.

10. Who are the people that you really need to thank, who have been with you every step of the way?

My parents and grandparents have never missed a U.S competition.

My mom is my escape when I’m overwhelmed, my dad is who pushes me through the toughest times to come out on top, and my Grandma and Grandpa are so inspirational because I know how much they believe in me every time I step to the line.

And Coach Mac who is who taught me the power of positive thinking.

Zen Haiku Speed Round

1. Favorite food after a brutal training day?

A big plate of pasta with lots of cheese and meatballs!

2. Best Halloween costume you ever had as a kid?

Pink power ranger!

3. Do you still have your first pair of skates? What are they?

I think so… they’re quad skates that fit on top of toddler shoes and the wheels barely roll!

4. How many scars do you have from skating?

1- knee surgery.

5. At an endless magazine rack at Barnes & Noble, what is the one that you always reach for?

Hmmm… Glamour. Or a cooking magazine.

6. When you need to decompress from skating, what do you do?

Go home.

7. Do you have a few words of motivation I can tell my daughter, or other female athletes, as they contemplate the effort required to excel?

Have the courage to be great. You’re more powerful that you could ever imagine if you just go for it.

8. Magazine or book under your bed right now?

Captivating by Stasi and John Elderedge.

9. When you picture “perfect speedskating technique” what pops into your mind’s eye?

J.R Celski’s relaxedness, Apolo’s power, Anthony Lobello’s pivot, and Jeff Simon’s fight.

10. Do redheads have more fun?

Always : )

6 Responses to “Zen 10 questions: Katherine Reutter”

  1. Andrew, this is a great interview! Many of us short track fans have been hunched over ISU’s pathetic LIVE results watching WCs 3 and 4..that means watching live laps posted and trying to make sense and interpret the times. We struggle to read meaning into a DNS, coming from 4th to 1st in a lap, faster lap times, slower lap times, a skater coming in 4th 10 seconds behind first place, a DQ. What does it all mean apart from flashing numbers?

    There’s no coverage in the US of what our team IS. The closest we can get are some terrific Canadian blogs with insight into their team travels, accommodations, and retrospective on their results.

    Many of us have been complaining (really whining) about how left out we feel, how hard it is to be connected at the human level to the US team.

    Your piece on Katherine has gone a long way in soothing that emptiness and frustration…too bad USSpeedskating continues to turn its head on marketing the team to the fans.

    Thanks again!

  2. This interview connected to me on a personal level, because it reminded me of the difficult summer I spent competing in track cycling (the short track version of bike racing?) When I really needed to relax and have fun, I instead felt pressured into racing and only did it so I wouldn’t fall behind in the “rider of the year points.” Toward the end of the season, I started feeling better and reminded myself that this was a sport I loved, I should make all the hard work worth it by enjoying the experience! Katherine embodies the best attitude an athlete can hope to attain :)

  3. Thanks Andrew for this wonderful interview. We love hearing about the skaters, their struggles, thoughts and feelings. It makes them 3 dimensional human beings and real, instead of just a 2D page of pictures and stats.

    How do you grow the popularity of a sport? Gain more fans.
    How do you do that? Turn the spotlight on wonderful athletes of the sport like Katherine that the fans can’t help but be endeared by.

  4. […] Zen 10 questions: Katherine Reutter  […]

  5. Katherine took 1st overall in the US Short Track Championship meet in St. Louis.

    She also took 1st in the 1000 and 1500..

    Congratulations, Kat!

  6. Thank you for giving Katherine the the coverage. She is a pure joy to watch on the ice and really deserves all she gets.

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