PYEONGCHANG (RNS)—Three Olympic Games without a medal didn’t deter skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender from trying again at a fourth in Pyeongchang.
Neither did her frustration over the reversal of an International Olympic Committee decision to ban 28 Russian athletes and strip them of their Sochi medals amid evidence of widespread doping—a turn of events that denied her a bronze medal—to sidetrack her from her goal.
These setbacks—and the death of her father—may have challenged her Christian faith, but they did not shake it loose, she said.
“Quitting is never an option, so why would I quit on God? He guides me and gives me the strength to keep going,” she told Christian Sports Journal.
Uhlaender made her first run of the 2018 Winter Olympics Feb. 16 in skeleton, the sliding sport in which athletes speed down an icy track face first.
The 33-year-old Coloradan was raised an athlete by her father, Major League Baseball pitcher Ted Uhlaender. She was skiing at 18 months, and she competed in the U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials before the 2012 Summer Games in London, according to NBC.
She also was raised in church. She went to worship services with her grandmother while visiting her in Texas, she told Christian Sports Journal.
Later, she started to go “on my own as many days as I could because the church youth groups were a ton of fun for me,” she said.
“The Lord plays a huge role in my life. I am on the path he wants me to be on,” she said.
Her faith was both challenged and strengthened by her father’s death from a heart attack in 2009. She knew everything that happened, good or bad, was part of God’s plan, she told said, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t upset.
She also turned to God when she learned after arriving in South Korea that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had overturned the IOC’s decision to strip Russian athletes of their medals from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
She finished fourth in skeleton at the Sochi Games, just four-hundredths of a second behind Russia’s Elena Nikitina. Briefly, it looked like the bronze medal would be Uhlaender’s. That changed with the court’s reversal.
“There is a lot of emotion in just seeing something so unjust happen,” she told The Washington Post.
“But to be a good human, to be a good Christian, I have to focus on what I can control and set the example,” she said. “That’s what a lot of athletes are trying to do, is focus on what we believe in and the good in the Olympic movement.”