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Philip Hersh: Winning again, Katherine Reutter nears historic skate titles

February 13, 2011 |  9:52 am

A month before the 2010 Olympics, Katherine Reutter's coach told me the Champaign, Ill., athlete had been "the most improved skater in the world'' over the previous three years.

"The next time [2014 Olympics], Katherine may be unbeatable,'' Jae Su Chun said.

Reutter, 22, appears to be getting to that point even sooner.

She now is the top-ranked short track speedskater in the world overall and leads the World Cup season standings in both the 1,000 and 1,500 meters with just one meet to go.  No U.S. woman has ever won a season title on the short track circuit.

Sunday, she won the 1,000 meters at the World Cup meet in Moscow.  It was her second win of the season at that distance.

KR Reutter, who earned silver and bronze medals at the 2010 OIympics, also has won three of the four 1,500s she has raced, including Saturday's in Moscow. "To go from where I was to where I am now is a huge accomplishment,'' Reutter said a year ago.

She was 68th in the world in 2007, ninth in 2008, 10th in 2009, third last year.

When I did a long interview with Reutter a year ago, she wasn't shy about expressing her desire to be even more than a champion.

"I want to be the best there ever was in this sport,'' she said. "It's not about winning a gold medal but getting so good I can dominate a race every time.''

Sunday, when Simon Cho of Upper Marlboro, Md., won the 500, and Travis Jayner of Midland, Mich., got bronze in the 1,000, Reutter wanted to talk more about the performance of the U.S. team than her own. (Jayner also won silver in Saturday's 1,500.)

"Being part of this team the past week has been an absolute pleasure and privilege,'' she said. "Seeing how we are all progressing throughout the season ... we are in a great place heading into next weekend [the final World Cup meet] and the [March] World Championships.

"I hope for the first team we can continue to peak all season long.''

Reutter had hip surgery last spring. By November, when the World Cup season began, she had regained winning form.

Her victories at the start of the season got an asterisk because the turmoil-ridden South Korean team, traditional world leaders in short track, did not compete in those World Cup meets. But there were Koreans among the medalists in Moscow -- the silver and bronze medalists behind Reutter.

--Philip Hersh
Photo: Katherine Reutter celebrating her 2010 Olympic silver medal. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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