Despite ups and downs, Flatt still positive

Rachael Flatt, pictured here with coach Justin Dillon, said this would be her last nationals event. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

BOSTON -- Four years ago at age 17, Rachael Flatt went to the U.S. figure skating championships and qualified for the Olympics. This year's championships, which she says will be her last, did not open so well. She missed her opening triple lutz in the short program and never really recovered, finishing next to last and 20th overall.

"It was a frustrating couple of minutes out there," Flatt said. "I had been training really well. I had been back in Colorado Springs training the last couple weeks and skating some clean shorts. It's just frustrating to come out and miss the first jump."

Then again, the four years since the Vancouver Games have been rather frustrating for Flatt, what with an assortment of injuries, including a stress fracture of her right tibia.

"It really takes always the appeal of skating," Flatt said. "You're constantly in physical therapy or constantly seeing the doctor. 'Why won't this get any better?' I've been dealing with tendinitis in both legs and my ankles. It got to the point where it hurt just to walk.

"It's been an exercise in frustration, right? But at this point, this year was the first year I've actually felt healthy. I took five months off after my season last year and got back on the ice in June and figured, 'I'm finally feeling good, why not give it a shot?' So here I am. And it wasn't my best, but I'm just happy to be here."

Flatt is majoring in biology with a minor in psychology at Stanford with the goal of becoming a doctor. Which doesn't exactly make training easy.

She says her usual day begins around 7 a.m. when she wakes up to train for several hours, then attends classes from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. or so, then works out for an hour, occasionally goes to a school meeting as one of the junior class presidents or practices with the dance team, then studies until about 2 or 3 a.m. before finally going to bed. "I'm probably not getting the sleep I should, but, hey, I'm young and I can still handle it."

Despite all that, and the injuries, Flatt said her passion for skating kept her going.

"Skating is one of those things you really become addicted to," she said. "When you've been in the sport as long as I have, 18 years, it's kind of hard to see it out of my life at any point. It's a love/hate relationship and sometimes I just don't want to do anything with it, but I really do love it."

Ashley Wagner said Flatt was the "perfect example of someone who is skating because she loves the sport and that's something I really admire.

"She's a phenomenal athlete. I grew up with her -- we were the babies that were coming up after Michelle Kwan. To see her still skating -- not because she's going after a certain goal, but because she wants to be here, she wants to be on the ice -- is something we can all admire."