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    olympics

    Athlete profile: Becky Sundstrom

    Posted: Tue February 3, 1998 at 5:00 PM ET

    Athlete information
    NameBecky Sundstrom
    CountryUnited States
    PronouncedSUND-strum
    Age21
    Birthdate05/10/76
    BirthplaceWashington, Pennsylvania
    ResidenceMilwaukee, Wisconsin
    Height/Weight5'7", 140
    Events500m, 1,000m, 1,500m

    Athlete notes

    The most acclaimed of the three Sundstrom sisters trying to become the first family trio on the US Olympic speed skating team, Becky is a medal threat in the 1,000 meters...29-year-old sister Tama should join Becky on the team while 24-year-old Shana is on the bubble...youngest sister Becky is no longer the four-year old her mother struggled to keep up with out on the ice...she is now a 21-year old that the likes of Chris Witty, 1996 World Sprint Champion, struggle to stay ahead of...with Witty absent, Sundstrom won all four events (two 500's and two 1000s) at the 1997 US Sprint Championships at the Petit Center outside Milwaukee...then, she raised a few eyebrows at the 1997 World Sprint Championships in Hamar, Norway by finishing fourth and sixth in the two 1,000-meter races...by comparison, teammate Witty, who has garnered much of the attention in the post-Bonnie Blair era, placed fifth and third..."Becky didn't even realize how good she was until last season," says US sprint coach Guy Thibault (GHEE tee-BOH). "Chris is strong physically, one of the strongest ever, but Becky is technically good. She has gained a lot of muscle mass. She's improved her strength 200 to 300 percent"...while Witty took to clap skates quickly -- establishing a world record in the 1,000 in November -- Sundstrom, as of press time, had yet to perfect her stroke on the revolutionary skate...her mother, Lisa, was certainly aware of Becky's endurance when she struck a deal with her daughter at the mere age of four..."Becky was tired of watching her Tama and Shana skating while she sat rinkside with me just watching," remembers Lisa. "She insisted on skating herself, but I was concerned because there was no one to look out for the younger kids. So I told her she could go out as long as I could go with her"...that's when this native Californian strapped on a pair of skates and deemed herself the "Traffic Cop"..."She wouldn't stop," continues Lisa. "Her face was bright pink. She skated virtually the whole hour. I had to literally get in front of her to make her stop"...Sundstrom has spent this season working to maximize that speed focusing on the first 200 and 500 meters of her openers, an area in which she really struggled last year...openers are an issue for the entire team this year as they learn to adjust to the controversial new clap skate..."We have to use the skates to be competitive. They are cool, but it is frustrating because we are rushing to learn how to use them for the Olympics"...after winning the 1995 World Junior Championships and now impacting the senior level, Sundstrom's confidence is at an all-time high -- and much of it has to do with her physical condition..."There's got to be more that you like about it than the race. I really like feeling good about my body. I'm not just in shape, I'm strong. Fit bodies, active bodies are cool"...when she's not circling the track, the English major at Marquette University can usually be found nose deep in a book..."We didn't have a TV in the house until our son was 13," said her mom Lisa. "It was a conscious decision. Instead the kids played on their own, with each other or with their father and me. Reading is very important to all of us"..."If you can communicate, a lot of doors open up to you," says Becky, for whom laughter has proven the best form of communication..."Becky is really fun to work with," says Thibault, himself a practical joker. "She likes to laugh a lot and when she wants to be serious, it's hard to believe her"...Sundstrom credits much of her recent success to her coach, a French Canadian, with a "cute accent," whom she describes as a laid-back guy with flashes of intensity..."He thinks all athletes know their bodies the best. So he listens more and trusts us to know our strengths"...but ultimately it's her family she believes deserves the most thanks for their support...her parents are both members of a local speed skating club team..."[Skating for the club team] has made a tremendous difference in our appreciation of just how technical the sport is, how physically-fit, smart and lucky you have to be," says Lisa...Becky's brother Matt, who is a sophomore at the University of Colorado, did not skate but makes the mix cassettes Becky listens to during warmup..."When Becky wins, it's not just our family, but the entire extended family, it's our concerted joy for her," says Lisa...



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