Kate Telles’ Journey to the Olympics

It all started on the swing set at Kate Telles’ preschool—she was three. Diana Telles, Kate’s mother, received a concerned call from the teacher, telling her how high Kate would swing and then dangerously jump from the seat.

“But she could land it!” Diana declares. Mom wasn’t worried.

Kate has always been an adrenaline junkie. Given her history, it’s not a surprise that she is now, at age 14, on a journey that could take her to the Olympics.

As she grew, Kate’s appetite for air grew, too. At seven, she received her first skateboard as a birthday gift. The board was shredded after only a few hours.

“Skateboarding fulfilled my need to be crazy and to get air,” Kate says.

Kate also enjoyed team sports throughout her childhood. Her soccer coach, Patrick Longo reflects, “I saw this unbelievable drive in Kate. She has a tenacity to her that is amazing to watch.”

Terry Brokamp, Kate’s childhood basketball coach agrees. “As a coach, you can’t teach aggressiveness. You’ve either got it, or you don’t. Kate would drive to the basket as if no one else was there. There’d be kids falling all over the floor; she did whatever it took to get the ball where it needed to go.”

Team sports were fun, but didn’t meet Kate’s need for a challenging thrill factor. She discovered snowboarding. She loved the rush of tricks, grabs and lots of glorious air. She enjoyed the feel of the snow and liked the cold weather. It was a prophetic shift to snow sports.

At a skateboard camp at a Sharonville skate park at age 10, Kate befriended another skater. His dad, John Curran, noticed Kate’s skills. “She was very impressive on a skateboard,” he says.

Curran, now Recruiting Coordinator for the United States Ski Team, kept in touch with Kate and her family. He encouraged her to try Trampoline Camp and tumbling training. When she excelled, he taught her to ski.

“With her balance and athleticism, I thought she could ski. So, I brought her over to skis from the snowboard. She’s a quick learner. She’s got coordination.”

In August of 2014, at Curran’s urging, she tried out for an exclusive training program, the Elite Aerial Development Program (EADP) at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. She proved herself with a video of a 12-foot drop-in on a skateboard ramp and was extended an invitation to join the program.

This past fall, Kate left her home in West Chester to move in with a teammate’s family in Lake Placid. She is training with 14 other athletes in the EADP, alongside others in training for winter Olympic sports. She trains and schools at the facility three weeks of each month, and spends one week off, back here at home.

“I try to make the most of my weeks off at home. I love catching up with family and friends,” Kate says.

Kate’s new normal includes long days of training and workouts, hanging out with bobsledders and Olympic medalists during her rare free time and her favorite part—skiing off ramps to fly through the air. Kate feels most at home mid-air.

“Coming off the ramp feels quick, but it’s a good feeling,” explains Kate. “It’s fun when I am up there. I know that gravity hasn’t forgotten me, but I want to stay up as long as I can.”

Aerial Skiing is a sport of precision. It follows a methodical progression, requiring mastery of one skill at a time, advancing to the more complicated twists and flips that define the sport.

Having progressed to this level of training from skateboarding is rare.

“In aerials,” Curran explains, “we usually recruit kids with gymnastics and trampoline backgrounds, then we cross-train in skiing. Kate is a different breed than what we normally take. She’s a skateboarder, snowboarder and basketball player. She picked it up very quickly because of her athletic ability.”

The traits that make Kate an Olympic-level athlete are her balance, strength, coachable spirit and fearlessness.

“I don’t usually get scared,” Kate says. “If I crash, at least it means I got to try something new.”

Curran says one of the most important factors of Kate’s talent is the ability to take a hit.

“She can crash and hit hard,” Curran says, “but she gets up, brushes off and goes back for more.”

“If she does a good job, works hard, stays healthy, stays on schedule and continues to progress from the EADP to the National Team, who knows?” Curran muses. Two years to the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea may be too early, but it’s only six years until Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are to be held in 2022. Since she has started intensive training at such an early age, Kate could train for 12 years or more to perfect her sport. She has the possibility of seeing at least three Olympic games.

No one knows yet just how high Kate will fly. This local athlete has her eye on an Olympic gold medal. To keep your eyes on this amazing young woman from our neighborhood, you’d better look up, because that’s the only direction Kate Telles is headed.