Clinton Township Olympic speed skater inspires students

Students at Chippewa Valley High School watch Kelly Gunther compete in 1st race

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Olympic speed skater Kelly Gunther raced in the women's 1000m Thursday morning, while students from Chippewa Valley High School in her hometown of Clinton Township cheered her on.

Gunther, a graduate of Chippewa Valley High School, is serving as a role model to current students.

Shannon Armstrong, a speech language pathologist at Chippewa Valley and a longtime friend and mentor to Gunther, organized a viewing party for current students to celebrate Gunther's success.

"She is truly inspirational and there is nothing that gets her down. As much as she has felt like life has thrown her lemons, she continue to come up and better every time," said Armstrong. "The fact that she's there, she's already won in my game."

"I just like to call myself 'The Comeback Kid,' just because of everything that I went through, and how I really did just come back from it all," Gunther told Local 4 before heading to Sochi, Russia.

Everything she went through includes a devastating injury during the final race of the 2010 season. She suffered a double compound fracture and nearly lost her foot.

"I knew my ankle was broken. How bad it was? I had no idea," said Gunther. "The paramedics, I asked them if I was going to be able to skate again, and they were like, 'I don't think so, your foot's kind of hanging off your leg,' and I'm like, 'You know, I'm going to be OK.'"

Gunther had surgery and then underwent intense rehabilitation at the Olympic Center in Colorado Springs. 

She was back in skates within six months of her injury. Gunther continued competing and at the Olympic trials she qualified for the 1,000 meters in long track speed skating.

Armstrong wants other students to know Gunther's story, see how far Gunther has come, and consider what is possible for them.

"To actually have somebody from your backyard be in there, I think it opens doors for kids that are athletic and can possibly do something like that," said Armstrong.

She also wants Gunther's story of personal triumph to give others hope. Armstrong says that Gunther struggled with a learning disability during high school, but was able to overcome it and succeed in speed skating.  

"The fact that she set that disability aside and followed a dream I think says a lot about her character," said Armstrong.

Gunther suffered from problems with retention in high school.  She has just started speaking openly about it in the hopes of inspiring other students with challenges to still chase their dreams.  

Gunther returned to Chippewa Valley High School in January to speak to students about overcoming her disability, and now they have the chance to watch her achieve her dreams. The students are certainly motivated by watching her in compete in Sochi.

"It's pretty awesome knowing that people can be in the Olympics that graduated from Chippewa," said Madeline Desmyther.

Chippewa Valley student Molly Dove had the opportunity to interview Gunther for a story in the school newspaper. She considers the experience to be one of the most memorable of her life.

"She has accomplished so much," said Dove. "She's really down to earth and it's just amazing that I got to have the chance to talk about that and let the students know at Chippewa what an amazing person she is."

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