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BEIJING (AP) — Katie Tannenbaum came to the 2022 Winter Olympics and finished last in the women’s skeleton.

It didn’t upset her at all.

Nor should it be, given her history: she overcame long struggles to make it to the Beijing Games. The California native competes in skeleton competitions for the US Virgin Islands, where she has lived since 2007. Her claim to racing fame before was sliding headfirst into a broom dangerously left on the track during the one of his races two years ago. She only participated in the Beijing Olympics after Sweden and France refused to send athletes to the race.

And if all that wasn’t enough, she was about two hours away from having to pull out of the Olympics. She tested positive for COVID-19 last week and had to miss a chance to carry her country’s flag at the opening ceremony, then was only allowed to run just before the final training session for the race.

“It was a very stressful week,” Tannenbaum said.

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She can laugh about it now, with good reason. It took a long time for Tannenbaum, 36, to get to the Olympics. She thought she had qualified for the Pyeongchang 2018 Games, but sliders from other nations were chosen instead to fill in that field.

“Of course, there were brief moments when I thought about finishing, but I think I would have been more likely to retire if I had left in 2018, and at the end of the day, I’m happy for not having done so,” Tannenbaum said. . “I’ve grown a lot as an athlete over the past four years and I’m very proud of the goals I’ve achieved or surpassed during that time.”

It’s a resilience she’s seen from the island nation she calls home.

The Virgin Islands was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017, a Category 5 storm – the worst – that caused nearly $4 billion in damage. Two weeks later, another Category 5 storm in Hurricane Maria also struck, although its impact was not as damaging as Irma.

Tannenbaum was not there for the storms. She was training in Canada, but the mental strain at the time was enormous.

“I knew I was lucky to be off the island, but I also hated not being there with my community,” Tannenbaum said. “I remember walking onto the training ground the day Irma was walking past us and knowing that I was not in a mental state to train.

She carried on, coped with the disappointment of missing out on Pyeongchang, and it’s been up and down ever since. Due to her virus-related issues, she only got two training sessions in Beijing – nowhere near enough to learn the track.

It didn’t matter. She jumped out of her sled on Saturday night with a huge smile on her face, waving the flag of the Virgin Islands.

Getting here was victory.

“I think being called ‘inspirational’ is one of the greatest compliments anyone can receive,” Tannenbaum said. “If I hear that from just one person, I feel like I made an impact.”

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