By Diane Y. Welch
U.S. figure skating champion Rachael Flatt, a Del Mar native who is now headed for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver next week, said she is "as excited as I have ever been."
"My dreams are literally coming true as we speak," Flatt said in a recent telephone interview. "This is the ultimate competition."
Flatt qualified for the Olympic team when she won the U.S. Championship recently in Spokane, Wash.
"Skating a clean short had been my toughest challenge and this was something that I'd been having trouble with this season, but I finally accomplished it, and that makes me so proud," she said. Her free program score of 130.76 was also a personal best by 14 points.
The dream of going to the Olympics is the pinnacle of what has been an almost lifelong passion for Flatt, 17, who is currently the fifth-ranked figure skater in the world.
Born and raised in Del Mar, Flatt started skating when she was 4 years old at the indoor rink at the Westfield UTC shopping mall. Her dad took her to the mall to shop for a birthday gift for her grandfather, "but we came home with skating lessons for me instead."
The Flatt family left California and moved to Colorado to facilitate Flatt's training. Starting her career as a pair skater, Flatt won the silver medal at nationals at the juvenile level in 2003 and the intermediate title in 2004, both with partner Andrew Speroff. Then, competing in the ladies singles, she won the U.S. novice national title in 2005, when she was 12. Other titles quickly followed and Flatt was the 2008 World Junior champion and the 2008 U. S. silver medalist.
A straight "A" student, Flatt places a high priority on academics, as well.
"I go to school for two classes in the morning, then to the rink for two ice sessions and some stretch of time, then back to school for two more AP courses," Flatt said about her rigorous school schedule at Cheyenne Mountain High in Colorado Springs. "Then a few times a week I have training at the Olympic Training center or off-ice stretch class or ballet, or on-ice stroking."
Flatt's current trainer is Tom Zacrycek, who trains some of the top skaters in the world.
She is looking at colleges and dreams of studying biomedical engineering or medicine at an Ivy League school, but skating will continue to be a priority.
"When I went on my college tours, I made sure to visit all of the rinks and the various training facilities," she said.
While she travels the world for competitions, Flatt still loves to come back to Del Mar when possible. "I love going back there, and we still have a ton of friends who are very supportive of my skating."
To learn more about Flatt, visit her Web site at www.rachaelflatt.net.