Olympic hopeful Kendal Pumphrey, 19, has her sights set on Sochi 2014. The Southern California speed skater is one of the youngest members of the U.S. Team. NBC 7's Steven Luke shares her story.
Southern California resident Kendal Pumphrey isn’t home much anymore, but when she is, the teenage Olympic hopeful can be found on the beach doing strange exercises.
Pumphrey, a 19-year-old athlete from San Clemente, Calif., is used to “sticking out” in her hometown. Her beach training routine is almost as foreign to the Southern California surf culture as her sport of choice – speed skating.
As of November 2013, Pumphrey is one of the youngest skaters on the U.S. team.
She has always been ahead of her time on the ice.
She started figure skating at age three and turned to speed skating at age 6.
“I don’t ever remember not skating…ever,” Pumphrey told NBC 7 San Diego.
While most kids are told not to play with sharp objects, she was getting 16-inch blades strapped to her feet as a first-grader.
Despite Pumphrey’s years of experience on the ice, her mom still gets nervous.
“I like the way her face is right now. I really don’t want to have it rearranged with cuts and things. If it was up to me, I’d put her in bubble wrap,” said Annette Pumphrey, a former figure skater.
Pumphrey’s family keeps her trophies in several large baskets behind the family room couch. The wall behind it is decorated with more medals.
Pumphrey is clearly good at what she does, and she loves it too.
“Every single time I get to the start line I’m shaking with nervousness and excitement, and you’re racing and you have people’s blades right in your face, it’s a huge adrenaline rush,” she explained.
And, while the young athlete is certainly gifted, it doesn’t come easy.
Pumphrey wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every day for practice. Two years ago she made the tough decision to leave high school behind and get her degree online.
“I was traveling so much it was basically impossible to keep up with class work,” Pumphrey said.
Her biggest sacrifice came last year when she packed her bags and left her family to train fulltime with the U.S. team in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Pumphrey has her sights set on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and also the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.