After suffering several injuries the last couple of years, figure skater Rachael Flatt is healthy and ready to prove she deserves to compete in her second Olympic Games. Janelle Wang reports.
The road to the Olympic games is almost always paved with bumps, and that's definitely the case for 21-year old Rachael Flatt.
The figure skater competed in the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010, where she skated her way into the international spotlight as a teenage-giggling spitfire. She still has that infectious laugh, but now the Stanford junior is older, wiser, and maybe most importantly, feeling healthy.
"I'm finally feeling good for a change," Flatt said. "It's wonderful to wake up in the morning and not feel any pain in my legs and ankles."
NBC Bay Area caught up with Flatt during one of her two-hour morning training practices at Sharks Ice in San Jose. She fit right in with with the rest of skaters, with one big exception. She nailed, jump after jump after jump.
"Its been a lot more fun this time around," Flatt said. "I'm so much happier. I love training out here."
Four years ago Flatt was still in high school in Colorado, and focused almost entirely on school or competing in the Olympic Games, where she placed 7th.
"Just the whole atmosphere is just incredible. There's nothing like it. I still get goose bumps thinking about it," Flatt recalled. "When you walked in with the rest of the team, and we're just chanting USA, It's just I don't know, there's something so vivid about it that has been ingrained in my mind that if I can repeat it, anytime I would."
Now, you can find Flatt more often on Stanford's campus than you can on the rink.
"I'm taking 14 units in school. I'm majoring in bio and I'm pre-med and I'm also minoring in psych," she said.
No, this girl doesn't slow down on or off the ice, but she insists she's not taking on too much.
"I think a lot of people think I am spread too thin, but I know a lot more people who are doing way more," she said. "This is totally feasible and I'm happy doing it. I love it."
Flatt is in a very different place now than a year ago, when several injuries put her figure skating future in jeopardy.
"I think anytime you have a serious setback like that, your future and your career definitely becomes questionable and it's tough and it becomes taxing emotionally and physically to a certain extent. It was very frustrating," Flatt said.
So far, with help from a new boot, Flatt has stayed injury free and she's confident heading into Nationals in January. "It's going to be interesting to see who can really function well under that stress at Nationals. A lot of kids are not wonderful under pressure, but I think I've proven myself under many years of my career. I'm pretty good under pressure," Flatt said.
Nationals take place January 5th through the 12th in Boston. The top three finishers at that competition will likely compete in Sochi.