Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 22, No. 41, Ed. 1 Friday, February 24, 2006 Page: 56 of 100
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Lesbian athlete Courtney Yamada
makes history as alternate for U.S.
By Jim Provenzano Sports Complex
The Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, may be
over, but for many athletes, like Courtney
Yamada, almost making it that far serves as an
inspiration to strive even harder.
Selected as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic
skeleton team, Yamada, 25, and teammate JHoelle
Pikus-Pace narrowly missed the 2006 Olympic
dream when they did not rank among the top
three in World Cup points. Teammate Katie
Uhlaender was selected for the only position
after the final World Cup competition in
Altenberg, Germany, in late January.
But Yamada has already made her mark in
sports history with a string of accomplishments:
multiple medalist, the 2005 America's Cup
Champion and the only out lesbian in the rela-
tively obscure sport.
Skeleton is a form of bobsled competition,
using smaller sleds. Unlike luge, skeleton is
always a single-athlete event for men and
women. Competitors race down curving, icy
tracks at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Most
tracks have about 20 turns and are almost a mile
Born and raised in Idaho, Yamada attended
the University of Alaska for two years on a ski-
racing scholarship, which led to her being asked
to join the U.S. ski-racing team.
Along the way, Yamada grew more open
about her sexual identity. But in 2000, when
word got out that she was dating another female
athlete, Yamada says, "The ski racing world was-
n't really open to that."
Yet Yamada persevered, gaining support from
other athletes and friends.
"I just got to the point where I didn't care any-
more," she says. "It was comforting to know that
people didn't care.''
As for other GLBT athletes, Yamada knows
she's not alone in the world of winter sports.
"There are more than you think," she says.
"They're out. Everybody knows they are, but
they don't give interviews."
After building a nearly lifelong career in ski
racing, Yamada took a two-year hiatus. When a
friend in Park City, Utah invited Yamada to try
skeleton racing, she took to it quickly, and has
GLIDING ON ICE: Courtney Yamada, from Boise, Idaho,
was the top American finisher in the final women's skele-
ton race of the 2005-06 season. She served as an alter-
nate for the U.S. team at the Winter Olympics in Turin.
been training since 2002.
Last year, Yamada was the top American fin-
isher at the German leg of the World Cup, finish-
ing 11th. Competitors are judged on the total of
two runs, each barely over a minute long.
Yamada finished at a combined time of 2:02.75.
In January 2005, she also set a world record at
Lake Placid's America's Cup, finishing one run
Having just returned from her first World Cup
tour, where finalists in the Olympic team were
judged in Lake Placid, Calgary and Germany,
Yamada was happy to have finished 5th in the
Along with the thrill of the sport comes the
danger. In January 2004, at the Lake Placid
course, Yamada had an accident.
"I got the green light to go, but there were two
men standing in the track," says Yamada. "I
smashed into them and shattered my collarbone."
Yamada had to have steel plates screwed into
her shoulder. It took almost a year for her to
With every skeleton track shaped differently,
being a quick learner is essential.
p Watch. Enioy!
56 I dallasvoice.com I 02.24.06
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 22, No. 41, Ed. 1 Friday, February 24, 2006, newspaper, February 24, 2006; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth238897/m1/56/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.