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Veteran US Speedskater Proving She Can Still Compete


American speedskater Chris Witty seems to have accomplished what many Olympic athletes dream about. She has competed in three Olympics, winning a gold, silver and bronze medal. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on this veteran member of the U.S. Olympic team as she seeks to win again in Turin, Italy.

Chris Witty, 30, will not have to prove she is one of the best speedskaters at the Olympics. The one person she is trying to impress is herself.

"I won a gold medal," she said. "And I was really satisfied after 2002 because that was my dream ever since I was a little kid. And to finally have it was really satisfying. But at the same time I thought I was too young to retire. And I still love to skate and I still love to compete. So I kept going."

But the quest to continue has not been easy for Witty.

"These last four years have been really tough," she explained. "I have not performed very well. I have also had a lot of personal things going on - family issues, personal issues; things that I need to work out. I messed around with cycling for a little bit in 2003. That did not go very well. So I came back full time as a speedskater. I worked out an injury last year. So last year was not great. So then here I am now, stepping outside the [national team] program. And I feel like a new person."

Chris Witty says the interesting aspect of speedskating is the fact that U.S. athletes are not locked into one specific way of training.

"I have been around a long time," she said. "But the approach that the coaches take is go back to basics and keep building from there. And it has been incredible so far. It has been a lot of fun. But I think that shows the depth of our team. If you have only one program, one team, it is hard to fit everybody within that program and that one structure. Obviously you have exceptions to the rule. To me it is an advantage now for speedskating to have programs outside of [the] national team. If this program is not working for you, you can still go, let's say, to the Utah Olympic Oval program, which I have done."

Witty also likes the fact that the United States seems to again be the team to beat.

"I want to say we are cutting edge in a lot of ways," she said. "The Europeans, they looked at what we did in 2002. We had NASA helping us with polish for our blades. We had Nike swift suits. We had so much going for us. We have a lot of great team atmosphere. So you see like, let's say, the Russians wanted to have sort of that team atmosphere that we had. The Europeans are looking to us now to sort of catch up and keep up with the sort of innovations that we have brought."

Chris Witty is hoping the Europeans and the rest of the world will just be trying to keep up with her and the U.S. speedskaters at the Turin Olympics.