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Skater Flatt rises to challenge

October 23, 2008|Philip Hersh

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — Rachael Flatt is a young woman in a hurry.

Flatt finishes her second on-ice training session of the day at the Ice Hall of the Colorado Springs World Arena -- half her usual number of sessions because she had to take a standardized statewide achievement test at school.

In less than five minutes, she takes off her skates, pulls on a sweater and drags a suitcase, briefcase, oversized quilted bag and a purse outside the building, where she waits for her mother to drive her to a two-hour physical training session at the Olympic Training Center.

Flatt often uses that 15-minute drive and even shorter trips to do homework or stretch in the back seat of the family car. There is not a minute to waste for a 16-year-old as determined to excel in school and skating as she is.

"Rachael loves a challenge," said her mother, Jody.

She has met it impressively in both areas.

In her junior year at Cheyenne Mountain High, where she is a straight-A student, Flatt is taking AP-level courses in English, chemistry and biology and has her heart set on going to Stanford someday.

Flatt begins her first full year as a senior-level skater Saturday at Skate America in Everett, Wash., opening event in the annual Grand Prix series.

It will be her international senior debut after a 2008 season in which she was not only junior world champion, but the surprise runner-up in the senior event at the U.S. championships.

No wonder Flatt has found it necessary to shelve her piano studies, even if she says time management is among her strengths.

"I played piano a lot this summer, but I don't have too much time anymore," she said, with a wry laugh.

Flatt, an only child, lived in Del Mar until she was 8, when the family moved to Colorado.

"School comes first, but skating is really important to me," Flatt said. "I would like to try to do college and skating, but in the real world, if I want to go into sports science or medicine, I might put that off a couple years to finish off my skating career."

That career, which has included consistently good results since she was 10, took off last season. At nationals, Flatt landed seven clean triple jumps, including a triple-triple combination, to win the free skate and move into second behind champion Mirai Nagasu.

"I was shocked," Flatt said of the result.

The competition at Skate America is so strong Flatt should get an immediate sense of where she stands internationally. The field includes Nagasu, 2007 world champion Miki Ando of Japan, two-time Grand Prix Final winner Kim Yu-Na of South Korea and 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner of the U.S.


Hersh covers Olympic sports for The Times and the Chicago Tribune.

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