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UAlbany grad Amanda Bird slides headfirst toward the 2006 Olympics

Amanda Bird in EuropeAs a student at UAlbany, Amanda Bird excelled at juggling classes and training as a national-caliber skeleton sledder. Since her May 2003 graduation, life for Amanda has sped up even more as she aims to qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2006. She spent 6½ weeks in Europe training with Martin Rettl, the 2001 World Champion and 2002 Olympic silver medalist in skeleton sledding. “He’s a very accomplished slider,” said Bird. “I was excited to spend the summer training with him.”

After returning from Europe she attended the National Team summer training camps. The first she attended was in Lake Placid (her home track), where she did push training, treadmill work, sprint testing and plyometric training. “Plyometric training is basically jumping. We use boxes to jump from, practice hops, vertical jump. We train for an explosive start off of the block, like a sprinter would.” Bird trained on her own for a couple of weeks before flying to Calgary to train at the Ice House, an indoor push track, which is iced.

Next came the National Team trials where Amanda won a place on the America’s Cup team after a series of races in Park City and Lake Placid. She then flew back to Calgary where she competed in international racing. “It’s very demanding and difficult and I’m still learning how to race well,” she said. She placed 19th out of 32 in the 3rd race at Calgary and 15th out of 31 in the 4th race. “For the first time on that track, I was very pleased with my results.”

Amanda Bird in Salt Lake CityThis month she’s back in Lake Placid for the next series of America’s Cup races. She’ll be going for the gold in the Junior Nationals this year after placing 2nd last season. Then there will be the Nationals in March.

Bird’s ultimate goal is, of course, the Olympics. There are 18 women on the U.S. National team and only two will go on to the Olympics. Despite the pressure, she feels lucky just to be doing what she’s doing. “No one can say it won’t be me. In order to accomplish my goal, I need to believe in myself, continue to train hard, and realize that this is a sport between me, the track and the clock.”

With all this, UAlbany is still on her mind, as Bird hopes to come back to work on her master’s degree in English. Fitting it in won't be easy, but she did take 24 credits last spring while competing, and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. “I know it can be done,” says a confident Bird. “I normally do better when I am under pressure.” With that attitude can success be far behind?

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