VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Back in her childhood home for Christmas, Katherine Reutter was settling into her basement bedroom when she tried plugging something into a wall outlet.
Only, it wasn’t there. A foundation shift she’d noticed during her previous visit had worsened so much that the socket was hidden. She started looking around the whole house and saw cracked walls and warped panels.
Reutter’s mother downplayed it all, telling her only child that the family “had other things to spend their money on the last four years,” meaning Katherine’s career as a short-track speedskater.
So, that night, Reutter made a vow: Whatever money she earned for winning an Olympic medal would be put toward fixing the foundation of her parents’ house in Champaign, Ill.
Reutter kept it a secret, until around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Wearing a silver and a bronze medal that are worth a total of $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Katherine sidled over to her mother and said: “Everything that I win here is going toward your house. Start making your plans now, because we’re remodeling.”
Beth Reutter was so stunned, and so silent, that Katherine said, “I hope you’re smiling right now.”
“Don’t worry, Katherine, I am,” Beth said. “I just don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything, as long as you don’t say no,” Katherine said.
Beth Reutter teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her husband, Jay, is a package handler for Fed Ex.
“If I didn’t have a strong parent there to encourage me to work hard and not accept laziness and excuses, there’s no way I’d be where I am,” said Katherine, who lives and trains in Salt Lake City. “I feel like all their hard work finally paid off. … They built the foundation of who I am as an athlete and I intend to give back every sacrifice they’ve ever given to me.”