When Katherine Reutter retired in 2013 at the age of 24, she never thought she would return to the ice. Three hip surgeries and two major back injuries left the two-time Olympic short track speed skating medalist in constant pain.
But now Reutter is scheduled to compete this weekend at the U.S. Speedskating Short Track World Cup Qualifier at the Utah Olympic Oval.
“You wouldn’t expect somebody who has been as injured as I have to be back at their best,” Reutter said in a telephone interview from Utah. “I feel like I’m getting close.”
Reutter only started contemplating a comeback last November, after being inspired by attending a World Cup race as a member of the U.S. Speedskating Athlete Advisory Council.
She began a regimen of yoga twice a week and daily 30-minute walks when she returned to Milwaukee, where she was working as a coach for the Academy of Skating Excellence.
“I started off really, really slow,” she said. “I started to work out the amount that a normal person probably should.”
Pain free, Reutter began skating during the practices that she was coaching.
“I noticed the days I came home really happy were the days where I had skated,” she said.
Reutter only started to truly believe that she could return to skating competitively when she clocked times that she described as “pretty darn good” a training camp in Salt Lake City in May and June.
She has learned to listen to her body. After experiencing pain when she scheduled twice-daily workouts six days per week, she scaled back to four or five days per week.
“I don’t really have the option to overtrain like I used to,” she said.
Reutter’s goal this weekend is to earn a placement for the ISU World Cup, which begins Nov. 4-6 in Calgary. Eventually, she would like to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
But Reutter would be happy just being, well, happy.
“I am trying to live life to its happiest every single day,” she said, “and speed skating allows me to do that.”
Reutter recently changed her Twitter bio to say “comeback queen.”
“So far I’m the only one who calls me that,” she said, laughing. “I suppose people could get on board eventually”