Skier Katie Lyons proves she belongs

2/12/2007 8:00:00 AM

Women's alpine skier Katie Lyons was kicked off the team to start the 2006-2007 ski season.  The University of Nevada athletic trainer called her a liability because of numerous injuries, including recent hip surgery, and advised she be cut from the program.  

But after serious lobbying from Lyons and her coach, Tom Arnstein, Nevada's athletic trainer agreed to clear Lyons for racing on one condition: she had to stay injury-free for the rest of the season.

A few weeks later, she shattered her two front teeth on a gate block during a race in Park City, Utah.  Although she was not able to complete the race, Lyons finished third in the first run despite blood gushing from her mouth.

Luckily for Lyons, her scores have been so impressive this year, that a few broken teeth are not enough to let anybody stop her from skiing.

In January 2007 she competed in Italy for the World University Games.  The World University Games started in 1961 by Italian Primo Nebiolo.  He wanted to create a competition for University students from all over the world to participate in events that resembled the Olympics.  In order to even compete in the games, Lyons had to be ranked as one of the top five women in the United States.  

"I barely made it, because I missed the entire season last year (2005-2006 ski season) because of surgery." Lyons said.  "I was ranked fifth, though, and got to go."

In her first slalom run she had to stop in the middle of her race because of mud on the course and finished 22nd.  But in the second slalom heat, she beat all other racers by half a second.  She finished the race with the best time of any American female racer and placed 14 th in the world.

In the Super G race, which is a combination of the downhill and giant slalom races, she finished eighth in the world, and again placed the best for any American female racer.

"I haven't had an injury yet," Lyons said, not counting her teeth as serious.  "I've never had a full year of racing until this year."

She's not kidding.  Lyons has been skiing competitively since she was 13 and has had two knee surgeries, hip surgery, two shoulder surgeries, lower back surgery and a broken nose.  

Lyons took two years off before attending college to ski competitively on the international circuit.  She's skied in Chile, Austria, Canada, Europe, and all over the United States including Alaska.

After seeing and skiing the world, she decided to ski for a university and chose the place where she grew up-Reno.

"I could have gone anywhere," Lyons said about selecting a university.  "But when I was choosing, I had just had surgery.  Physically it would have been too hard to go away from home."

Lyons, a biology major, said she is happy she chose Nevada because of the proximity to her family and the opportunity to ski and study at a great school.  Her biggest struggles are not on the slopes, but finding the balance between skiing and classes.  

"It's hard to miss school," Lyons said.  "We (the ski team) have to travel to ski.  We don't have a basketball court right here where we can just play one game and go to class the next day.  We have week long trips all over the country."

Just like most student athletes, scholarships provide Lyons attend college.  She may have been kicked off the ski team to start this season, but she is showing everyone around her that she can succeed on the mountain as much as she can in the classroom.  Even if she has to shatter her two front teeth to prove it.  

The next opportunity to watch Lyons and the men and women's Alpine teams compete is Feb. 22-23 at the Sugar Bowl Resort in Lake Tahoe.


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