Virgin Islands skeleton racer Alexa Putnam, the 18-year-old who hopes to represent the V.I. in the sport in the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, recently enjoyed a little down time at home on St. John.
The bubbly teenager didn’t have the chance to totally relax, however — in between spending time with her friends and her parents, Bern and Liz Putnam, the Olympic hopeful continued her training, and met with a tutor in her quest to attend university in Germany.
“I’m in German high school right now, because in order for me to go to university, I have to do either two years of German high school or two years at an American university,” said Putnam, a 2006 graduate of the Gifft Hill School. “I was already in Germany, and even though I love to train, I need something else to do. I’m learning very quickly.”
This month, Putnam will be tested on her knowledge of math, physics, chemistry and other subjects — all in German. Putnam has enjoyed learning in another language, and looks forward to continuing her education in Germany, she explained.
“They have a really good university program there, and it’s in another language so it will be really cool,” said Putnam. “I don’t know what I want to study yet — I figure I have two more years of this high school thing. I’ll be graduating from high school two times.”
Studying, Training, Surfing
In addition to studying for her upcoming tests, Putnam spent her time on St. John continuing her training.
“I have a few sprints to do, and weight room and hurdles jumping, so those are my three main things,” said Putnam. “We’ll have maybe two months of really intense training and three weeks of reduced training, and I decided to spend those three weeks here.”
The skeleton racer also had the opportunity to spend time doing another of her favorite sports — surfing. Putnam’s visit coincided with the rains and gusty winds the territory experienced as the outer edges of Hurricane Dean skimmed the area.
“It was so perfect,” said Putnam. “Dean came and we got to surf at Ditleff, Reef Bay and Concordia. I’m kind of beat up from it.”
The teenager enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with local friends, many of whom she had not seen in more than a year.
“I was here for a month in March, and it was a nice long time but I didn’t get to see all my friends because a lot of them didn’t come down for spring break,” said Putnam. “It’s kind of sad. I’ve missed carnival since I’ve been gone.”
Don’t feel too bad for the local Olympic hopeful, however — she is having a great time in Germany, meeting new friends and even taking on yet another new activity.
Training With German Team
“I love it over there,” said Putnam. “I have great friends and I’m finding new hobbies. I’ve just started rock climbing.”
For Putnam, who was first introduced to the sport of skeleton racing in 2003, training in Germany has been a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I was traveling with the rest of the V.I. team, and I really wanted to have more training,” she said. “I wanted to do the best I could do.”
Putnam heard about an Aruban skeleton racer who trains with the British team, and eventually met with the German team in the hopes of one day training with them. She and German team members immediately hit it off, and the team quickly accepted Putnam.
“I didn’t think they’d say yes, because they’re one of the best teams in the world,” she said. “I didn’t think they’d want another country sharing their secrets, but it’s been amazing. They just made a new sled for me, and they treat me like I’m one of their own.”
Now that Putnam has a year of training with the German team and experience competing at the World Cup under her belt, she is looking forward to a good year, she explained.
“I think this season will be different,” said Putnam. “It’s my first full year of training with the German team, I’m more familiar with how the World Cup goes and I know the team now so I don’t have to be worried about getting to know everybody and finding my place on the team.”
The V.I. skeleton racer is excited about the German selection races in October which determine who qualifies for the World Cup; the Continental Cup; and the Europa Cup. The World Cup competition begins in early December.
Putnam is looking forward to competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, and she is adamant about earning her position on the Olympic team.
“My main goal is to get there and be a competitor,” she said. “I don’t want to get there because I’m a Virgin Islander and they have to give opportunities to smaller countries.”
The local teenager hopes to get her next break in either March or summer 2008, and next time, she’ll bring her German friends along for her visit home.
“Next summer I hope to bring a bunch of friends down,” said Putnam. “They all want to come to the islands.”