On the Cutting Edge
By Lena Basha
Volume 140, No. 3, May/June 2006, Page 5

There’s nothing slow-paced about life for Catherine Raney. But a need for speed isn’t surprising when you’re a three-time Olympic speed skater. The 25-year-old native of Elm Grove, Wis., represented the United States at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. In the 5,000-meter race, Ms. Raney, who was the only American speed skater to enter the event, came in seventh place, the highest placement ever among American women competing in the 5,000 meters.

Now that the Olympics and the speed skating season, which runs from November through March, are over, Ms. Raney is eager to start training for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

“It’s a full-time job,” says Raney, who started speed skating when she was 13 years old and competes in about eight events, even in non-Olympics years. “We train twice a day, six days a week, with one day off. And that day off is usually spent traveling. It’s definitely a full-time commitment. When I was younger, I didn’t realize all the time constraints because it was all just so exciting and new. Nowadays, it’s a little harder. I miss home sometimes.”

Ms. Raney, whose family lives outside of Milwaukee, moved to Canada six years ago to focus on her training. A typical training day in the summer season is eight hours long and involves weight lifting, running and cycling.

“I’ve always been very focused and determined to get better at whatever it is I’m working on,” she says. “That’s why I made the decision to move up to Calgary—even though I would have to leave my country so I could become a better speed skater.”

That sacrifice paid off. In the 2002 Olympics, held in Salt Lake City, Ms. Raney established a new American record in the 3,000 meters. Her record-breaking performance notwithstanding, Ms. Raney calls the Winter Games in Salt Lake City a highlight in her career.

“To race in your own country is an amazing experience,” she says. “To have crowds like that and to know that everyone is there to see you do well. The overall Olympic spirit was just great.”

Another favorite place to race is the Netherlands. “Speed skating there is like our football,” she says. “You go to an event, and there are like 8,000 people there to see you. They love to see great races, and they treat the skaters almost like celebrities.”

Traveling internationally and representing the United States abroad has also given Ms. Raney a greater appreciation for being an American. She recalls one international race that she didn’t want to finish because the first round for her team had not gone well.

“I wanted to quit, but then I realized that when you’re racing as an American, you’re not only there representing yourself, you’re representing your country, too,” she says. “It’s very rare that someone would have the chance to do that, so it’s a huge honor. When you’re out there, you’re responsible for showing the world what Americans are like—and you want that perception to be positive.”

Ms. Raney also ties her love of country to her membership in the DAR. A member of the Milwaukee Chapter, Milwaukee, Wis., since 2003, Ms. Raney comes from a long line of dedicated DAR members—her grandmother, mother and older sister are all members.

“My membership is a very big deal to me and my family,” she says. “I think it’s important to remember our heritage and continue the tradition. Nowadays, it’s easy for people to forget about those kinds of things.”

Credit: Arno Hoogveld

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