After a “career-ending” injury in 2010, doctors said Kelly Gunther would never skate again.
She proved them wrong, representing the United States in the 1,000-meter speed skating event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Now she’s asking for your help in keep the dream alive as she trains for the 2018 Olympic games, which will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Gunther will visit the Amherst Eagles Club, 1161 Milan Ave., for a steak fry fundraiser from 2-6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.
Tickets are $25 and include the meal, dessert, and draft beer. Kids tickets for hamburgers and hot dogs are $10 and there will also be raffles and a DJ.
For tickets, call Julie Sprague, Gunther’s proud mother, at 586-770-7440, or the Eagles at 440-984-2251. Sprague said the Amherst Eagles donated the hall’s use for the visit to help in her daughter’s Olympic quest.
“This is my last kind of go-around and last hurrah. It’s been a crazy journey to get to this point,” Gunther said in a phone interview.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt,” she said, reflecting on the recovery from a lane accident that left her with screws in her ankle. “Now knowing I don’t have a bad injury, and putting my time and my soul and everything into it, it’s amazing to say I feel great.”
Gunther is a Lorain native who at age six took up roller skating at Lorain Skate World.
“I remember going to the rink as a little girl, skating around to the music. At the end of the day, I loved it and I went back to that rink the next six years,” she said.
Within a few years, her family made the move to Michigan as Gunther expanded to ice skating and won national titles.
An inline skater for years, she switched at age 19 to speed skating. Recovering from her injury, she made the 2011-2012 World Cup team and placed third in the 1,000 meters at nationals. In 2014, she skated a personal best time at the U.S. Olympic trials and was the fourth to make the team.
Today she lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and trains at the Olympic oval. Gunther calls it “getting spoiled” because the facility sports the fastest ice on Earth, faster than Sochi because of its high altitude, the type of water used, and the way the ice is laid, as well as the compressors under the surface.
The average day is busy. From May to August, it included a lot of cycling, including 365 miles over a six-day period at a recent training camp. There’s also a great deal of weightlifting and dry land training — practicing in shoes, not skates, to perfect skating positions and motions. Only at the end of the month did Gunther and her teammates get access to the long track.
Being an Olympian doesn’t come free.
There are plenty of expenses, from coaching, equipment, travel, food, housing, and daily living costs. Sprague said her daughter is one of a very few team members who has held a “regular” job, working for GE Health Care in Salt Lake, putting together equipment. That gig was supposed to be just for one year but was stretched far past that point and is now expiring.
She doesn’t draw a paycheck from being on the U.S. team, just $1,100 per month for a year after the Sochi games. “It’s unbelievable. Olympians put their lives on hold. She trains six days a week. It’s crazy,” Sprague said.
At the Pyeongchang games, she will skate in the 1,000 and 1,500 events.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Richard Hugen | Creative Commons Kelly Gunther skates in the 2010 World Cup. The Olympian is bound for the 2018 winter games in South Korea and a steak fry fundraiser will be held for her Sept. 18 in Amherst.