Speedskater Reutter not a finalist, but in the record books

Dan Wetzel
February 18, 2010

RICHMOND, British Columbia -- Katherine Reutter had tempered expectations for the 500-meter speedskating race. The Champaign, Ill., native was hoping to make the finals. Her best races are the 1,000 and 1,500.

With nothing to lose, she decided in the first round of qualifying to take a shot at immortality (sort of). She blistered through her heat at 43.834 seconds, checked the scoreboard and threw up her hands at the accomplishment. She had set the Olympic record. And then, almost as quickly, she lost it when the sport’s best 500-meter skater, Meng Wang, came in at 43.284.

“I know Meng Wang is extremely fast, I knew if I set it, it probably wouldn’t stand for long,” Reutter said, breaking into a smile and mockingly throwing her arms up in the air.

“But I am forever an Olympic record holder.”

Reutter, 21, has a big personality. She was once a figure skater only to decide speed was her calling when she found herself challenging the other skaters to races. She wound up finishing fourth in her 500-meter semifinal heat and was out of the running for a medal.

No big deal she figured, it will always be a memorable night.

How long did she think she owned the Olympic record?

“Maybe three minutes,” she said, breaking into another laugh.