SC Olympian's dreams began at York County roller rink - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

SC Olympian's dreams began at York County roller rink

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The hopes and dreams of one Team USA Olympic athlete were born at a roller rink in South Carolina.

Just off highway 161 in Rock Hill, there's a place that 25 year-old Olympic Speedskater Lauren Cholewinski calls home.

"I started coming here when I was like three or four," said Cholewinkski. "My mom would drop me off here instead of daycare."

Cholewinski is talking about "Kate's Skating Center". It used to be called "Roller Magic," and she says it wasn't long before those "daycare drop-offs" turned into dreams.

"I was about 9," she added. "I saw a speed drill…and that's basically when it all started."

She sat down with WIS' Mary King before she ever left her Sochi to talk about her journey to becoming an Olympic athlete. Her first speed coach on in-lines, Donny Allen, still helps manage the roller rink and was there, too.

"If she wasn't winning, she was fighting for it," said Allen thinking back to Cholewinski's younger years. "If she had a bad start, she was coming. It was just a matter if she could get there in time before the race was over."

A youth champion on the roller rink, it's now been eight years since Cholewinski says she's even put on an inline roller skate. She made the transition to ice, and moved to Salt Lake City at the age of 17.

"I moved out, basically no real expectations," said Cholewinski. "My brother thought I could do it, we saw other in-liners that had done it and were a success."

Cholewinski put on a pair on in-line skates to take King around the roller rink, and looking back she says she didn't think the transition to ice would be as hard as it was.

"The first time I got on, I thought you know…I'm going to be able to..you know, hot shot from in-lines," said Cholewinski. "In reality it is so hard! I didn't know where to put my feet, the blades have two edges on each one and if you don't sit them down right- you just eeeEER!"

After training and competing for two and a half years, her speed could not be contained. Cholewinski made the 2010 Olympic team for the long track 500 meter race.

"It was king of surreal, but it was one of those experiences that's like you'll never forget… when you first realized, I just made the Olympic team?!" she added.

Cholewinski says her nerves got the best of her in the Vancouver games and she finished 30th out of 35 skaters. After those games, she hired specialty coach Derrick Speas. She says he's helped change her focus and get her through qualifications.

"If you know you've done everything you need to do, the race comes easy," she added. "I don't think about the time or how everyone else is skating. I simply focus on my technique, and if I keep my technique the speed comes."

And when she puts her skates on in these games, this two-time Olympian is ready to carve her name in ice. "I just want to leave it all on the track," said Cholewinski. "This time I'm going to be better prepared and ready to go when I hit that line and anything goes. This is the Olympics."

Cholewinski was scheduled to race 4:45pm Sochi time on Tuesday. Coverage of the event on WIS will air at midnight tonight.

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