Sports

Tacoma’s KC Boutiette made history entering ’94 Olympics. Now 47, he wants to do it again

KC Boutiette, of Tacoma, leads the team during a 2006 Winter Olympics men’s speedskating race in 2006.
KC Boutiette, of Tacoma, leads the team during a 2006 Winter Olympics men’s speedskating race in 2006. Associated Press file, 2006

A Tacoma sports legend is attempting to make Winter Olympic history.

KC Boutiette, seen as a trailblazer in speedskating, is on a quest to make the U.S. team for the Winter Olympics, Feb. 9-25, in Pyeongchang, South Korea. If he’s successful, he will be the oldest Olympic speedskater since 1924. He is 47.

So far, the Mount Tahoma High graduate and veteran of four Olympics is making a strong case. In 2016, Boutiette became the oldest speedskater ever to win a World Cup medal when he earned a silver in the mass start at a race in Nagano, Japan.

“That was awesome,” Boutiette said to USA Today. “When I got on the podium, I was like, should I call it? Should this be it?’ Then me and the wife talk and she’s like, ‘We’re so close, it’s only a year away.’ 

The mass start event makes its debut at the Pyeongchang Games and is the sport that inspired Boutiette to come out of retirement in 2015. He previously competed in the 1994, ’98, ’02 and ’06 Olympics.

Series of two-skater time trials are the basis of most long-track speedskating races at the Olympics, but in the mass start 24 skaters race at the same time in the 16-lap event. The sprints and breakaways make strategy a key part of the race, allowing Boutiette’s experience to offset his age.

“It caters to somebody with a little bit more brains and a little more patience,” Joey Mantia, the 2016 mass start world champ, told USA Today. “Obviously, when you’re aged 47, you’ve seen a lot of racing and you’ve done a lot of things. It suits him well.”

Boutiette has never won an Olympic medal, but he is famous in skating circles for being the first person to successfully transition from inline skating to ice. He shocked the skating world in 1993, when he entered a race on ice as a cross-training activity and ended up making the Olympic team. Others, like Olympic short track medalists Apolo Anton Ohno and J.R. Celski of Federal Way, followed his path.

Boutiette was a bleached-blond, pierced-tongue outsider at the 1994 Olympics. This time around, he’s a middle-age dad.

“My family hasn’t seen this side of my life, and I have an opportunity to go to another Olympics. That’s why I’m doing it,” Boutiette told USA Today. “And I’ve got a 5-year-old son and he’s learning how to win, how to lose, what it’s like in sport, because you can’t win everything.

“He wants Dad to win so bad,” Boutiette said, talking about a fifth-place finish at a meet in the Netherlands. “After that race, I picked him up and I took him for a lap with me on the ice. That’s our time to talk. That’s our time for me to say, ‘You can’t win them all. I did my best. I had fun. I was fifth place, still pretty awesome.’

“It’s fantastic for me to be able to live that with him.”

The U.S. long-track Olympic trials are scheduled for Jan. 2-7 in Milwaukee.

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