As soon as Olympic speed skater Kyle Carr could walk, he had a need for speed.
“I started out on plastic Fisher-Price skates that you could lock the wheels on,” said the 27-year-old first-time Olympian when recalling some of his earliest memories. “I could go faster that way.”
Carr had roller skates on his feet before he was out of diapers and skated in his first national speed skating competition, albeit on a roller rink, at 3-years-old.
Throughout his childhood, he competed in inline speed skating competitions around the country and world before making the transition to ice when he was a freshman at Governor Mifflin High School.
“I was a high energy kid and ice was something new to put all of my energy into,” he said.
High energy and high tempo.
As a child, Carr asked his mom if he could pour ice down a hill so his sled could slide even faster than normal.
“He was definitely a daredevil,” said his mom Lisa Cervantes from Peach Tree City, Ga., where the family has lived since 2005.
When she told him no, he tried a new tactic. “I put soap on the bottom of a saucer sled,” he said. “I distinctly remember being outside and covering all of my sleds with soap.”
He doesn’t recall the results of the experiment, but says this was just one of many ways he tried to speed up his play.
“I got myself in so much trouble as a kid trying to make things go faster,” he added.
But all that trouble eventually led Carr to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, where he will compete as part of the 5,000 meter short track speed skating relay.
At the end of his junior year in high school, a 17-year-old Carr left his home in Shillington, Pa. and moved to Marquette, Mich., where he was accepted into a speed skating development program at Northern Michigan University.
He trained full-time there while completing his high school education. Missing prom and graduation were tough, Carr said, but his biggest challenge had yet to come.
Carr suffered a serious ankle break on Nov. 11, 2005, only months before the 2006 Olympic trials.
“I thought I was done at that point,” he said. “But it wasn’t sitting well in my heart.”
The injury followed a strong run for Carr. He had participated in his first international competitions earlier that year and won a gold medal in the 5,000 meter relay at the World Cup in Slovakia.
He returned to his family home in November 2005 and underwent surgery to have a pin and screw implanted in his ankle.
“I will never ever forget being in the hospital,” Cervantes said. “The break was more extensive than what they had first thought.”
She says the doctor told her “there is no way he is going to make the Olympic trials.”
Having to relay the message to her son was incredibly tough, said Cervantes, who held back tears recalling the conversation. “No parent wants to tell their kid that,” she said.
But, she says, “In no time at all, the child was defying everything the doctor told him.”
“I wasn’t ready to give up. I wasn’t ready to be done,” Carr said. “I didn’t see myself being happy as anything but a short track speed skater.”
He spent nearly 10 months recovering at home before returning to Marquette in summer 2006.
When Cervantes dropped him off at the airport she tried to prepare him for the uphill battle he faced.
“Kids who could not share the ice with you are going to be beating you,” she told him at the time. “The physical will come, but you have got to beat the mental first.”
The next four years he worked to regain the strength in his ankle while taking classes part-time at Northern Michigan University.
He competed for a spot on the 2010 Olympic team, but he missed out by 1/100 of a second.
The loss once again forced him to question his path. “It wasn’t just a daily sacrifice, it was embedded in my lifestyle,” said Carr, who added he began to consider if it was time to pursue a more traditional career.
“I even applied for a couple jobs, but thankfully never landed one,” he said.
Instead, with the encouragement of his then-girlfriend and current fiancé, Siobhan O’Rourke, Carr decided to recommit to the sport.
In one of the last competitions of the 2009-10 season, he qualified to compete in his first World Championship with a win at the American Cup Final.
“That weekend would change my life,” he said. An invitation to train at the U.S. Speed Skating National Racing Program in Salt Lake City came and he jumped on it.
Since May 2010, he has trained full-time year-round. Plus, during the summer months, he assisted a commercial real estate agent to supplement his income.
Finally on Jan. 5 his dedication and perseverance paid off. He finished in the top five in the overall distance standings during trials at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City.
“Everything felt worth it at that point,” he said. “All the adversity that I faced helped strengthen me for that weekend.”
“This is what not hanging up your skates gets you,” O’Rourke said.
Despite the setbacks along his journey, Carr says he wouldn’t have it any other way and is prepared to do what it takes to get on top of the podium.
“What sacrifices am I going to make between now and then to be even more prepared to race at the most elite level?” he asked.
Watch Carr race in the 5,000 meter relay semifinals on Feb. 13 and look for his blogs from Sochi, right here on NBC10.com