Reutter will turn silver and bronze into home repairs

By From news services
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010; D12

Back in her childhood home for Christmas, Katherine Reutter was settling into her basement bedroom when she tried plugging something into a wall outlet.

Only, it wasn't there. A foundation shift she'd noticed during her previous visit had gotten so bad that the socket was hidden. She started looking around the whole house and saw cracked walls and warped panels.

Reutter's mother downplayed it all, telling her only child that the family "had other things to spend their money on the last four years," meaning Katherine's career as a short-track speedskater.

So, that night, the 21-year-old Reutter made a vow: Whatever money she earned for winning an Olympic medal would be put toward fixing the foundation of her parents' house in Champaign, Ill.

Reutter kept it a secret, until around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Wearing a silver and a bronze medal that are worth a total of $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Katherine sidled over to her mother and said: "Everything that I win here is going toward your house. Start making your plans now, because we're remodeling." Beth Reutter was so stunned, and so silent, that Katherine said, "I hope you're smiling right now."

"Don't worry, Katherine, I am," Beth said. "I just don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything, as long as you don't say no," Katherine said.

Beth Reutter teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her husband, Jay, is a package handler for Fed Ex. They signed her up for figure skating as a youngster, then turned her toward speedskating after seeing her enjoy racing her teammates more than doing jumps and spins.

The three of them regularly drove three hours each way to practices with elite coaches in St. Louis, tightening an already strong bond during those trips. Jay Reutter was a stay-at-home dad for many of her teenage years, serving as Katherine's coach, motivator and math tutor.

"If I didn't have a strong parent there to encourage me to work hard and not accept laziness and excuses, there's no way I'd be where I am," said Katherine, who lives and trains in Salt Lake City. "I feel like all their hard work finally paid off. . . . They built the foundation of who I am as an athlete and I intend to give back every sacrifice they've ever given to me."

Rochette, Majdic honored

Joannie Rochette would have preferred if Petra Majdic was the sole recipient of the Vancouver 2010 Terry Fox Award.

The Canadian figure skater whose mother died suddenly last weekend and the Slovene cross-country skier who won a bronze medal despite competing with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung were honored Saturday with the award, which honors athletes who embody Fox's determination, courage and humility. Fox ran a "Marathon of Hope" across Canada on a prosthetic leg in 1980 to raise funds for cancer research.

"I would have liked to inspire people for another reason, but that's the way it is," Rochette said, stopping several times to compose herself. "It's not even a week since she died and I don't even realize yet that my mom is not here anymore. I don't even realize I have won this medal. My feelings are so mixed."

Fox died in 1981 at age 22, but he remains a hero in Canada. More than $500 million has been raised in his name for cancer research.

With the games in British Columbia, where Fox grew up, Vancouver organizers thought it fitting to honor Olympians who were the "mirror image in spirit of Terry," VANOC chief executive John Furlong said.

A closing participant

A Chilean skier has decided to participate in Sunday's closing ceremony at the Winter Olympics upon learning her family and friends escaped injury in the massive earthquake that struck her homeland.

Noelle Barahona had planned on returning home Saturday, but she could not get a flight. Instead, she will remain in the athletes' village in Vancouver, team spokesman Luis Alberto Santa Cruz said.

Chile brought three alpine skiers to the games. Two had already left Vancouver, one for France and one for Seattle. In addition to Barahona and Santa Cruz, the Chilean delegation also included a coach and a physical therapist.

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