Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ice skater Deann (Beideck) Olson tells her story


Where Are They Now: Ice skater Deann (Beideck) Olson by Dan Raley

Deann Beideck was a competitive figure skater on a fast track, earning gold-medal standing in just four years, an athletic feat that drew attention in what was a fairly new magazine at the time, Sports Illustrated.

She took part in the 1958 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Minneapolis, traveling by car to the event with siblings Ray and Ila Ray Hadley, who were fellow Seattle competitors and future Olympians.

Not long after that long ride, this local and regional champion made a difficult and likely fateful choice: Just 20, she married a bellhop she met in Sun Valley, Idaho, gave up her skating career and followed him to Chicago and dental school.

In 1961, she opened up a newspaper to read the horrifying news that a Boeing 707 had crashed on final approach in Brussels, Belgium. All 72 people on board were killed, including the entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team, plus 16 coaches, officials and parents. They were headed to Prague, Czechoslovakia, for the world championships, which were immediately canceled.

Among the dead were the Hadleys and their mother and coach, Linda.

"They were like my best friends, and when they were killed, it was unfathomable," said the now Deann Olson, 69. "Had I not gotten married, I very well could have been on that plane.

"It took several years for the American national team to be rebuilt and become competitive again internationally. It also took time for Olson to feel comfortable with boarding a plane after what happened to the Hadleys.

"I had a fear of flying after the accident, that something was going to happen," she said. "I got over it.

"Olson grew up in Ballard, discovered skating when she was 12 and graduated from Ballard High in 1957. She bought her first set of skates for a quarter. Her parents bought the coffee shop at the local rink and operated it to facilitate her newfound interest. She did her homework there and sometimes slept on a cot in a back room. Mostly, she skated as much as possible, which was two hours in the morning, five in the afternoon and another at night.

A late starter as a competitive skater, she achieved gold-medal stature in Sun Valley, passing the eight levels of testing in what was considered record time. She was a college student when that took place, first at Washington and then Wyoming, following that aforementioned bellhop to the latter school and becoming a cheerleader there.

While giving up skating primarily for marriage, she also figured she had run out of time.

"I had to skip a lot of levels," Olson said of her gold quest. "No one knew me. I didn't have all that background. And women athletes, if they were 21, were considered over the hill.

"She might have put competitive skating behind her, but she didn't abandon the ice altogether. She became a coach, eventually earning a masters rating in freestyle, figures and precision. She has trained skaters at every level and took an American girls team to Hong Kong in 1998.

Olson managed an ice arena in Denver and was hired to open one in Palm Springs, Calif. In 1990, she moved to Sun Valley, the place that had provided her with many of her skating successes, including her gold-medal ranking, and she ran that rink. Hollywood actors sought her out for instruction.

She taught Richard Dreyfuss how to ice-dance, gave lessons to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, and sharpened Bruce Willis' skates on request, though skate sharpening wasn't something she had done before.

"Arnold became quite a good skater," Olson said. "I wanted to teach him how to snowplow, and he said, 'No Deann, I don't want to stop, I want to go fast.'"

From there, she moved to Kennewick before back to Denver, her current residence. She lives with her third husband, John, and mother, Dorothy, 90. She's raised four grown children. Outside of skating, she's been a bank director in California and Colorado. Olson still teaches people how to skate, counting prospective young hockey players among her students in recent years, using a rink shared with the NHL's Colorado Avalanche.

She has no regrets over her competitive skating decisions, understanding her career easily could have ended up in tragedy had she pursued it longer. She still has her health and a desire to get out on the ice.

The former Deann Beideck, who used to eat, sleep and skate at the rink, says she'll know when it's time to give it up."I'll retire when I can't tie my skates anymore," she promised.

read more | digg story

You can read more about the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team and donate to the Memorial Fund set up in honor of the 1961 Team by clicking here.

1 comment:

Ice Mom said...

What a great post. I love reading figure skaters' back stories.