U.S. represented in Sochi by skater with ties to Walker County
by Ron Harris
Feb 18, 2014 | 2263 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The United States is being represented by 230 athletes in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Among them is a female speedskater with ties to Walker County.

Lauren Cholewinski, 25, is a member of the U.S. women’s speedskating team and the daughter of Jasper native and Walker High School graduate Phil Warren. Her uncle, Steve Warren, also graduated from Walker. Cholewinski currently lives in York, South Carolina.

Lauren’s grandparents, Bill and Gwen Warren, still live in Cordova.

Cholewinski’s events were the 500-meter, 1,000-meter and sometimes the 1,500 meters, Phil Warren said this week. However, Cholewinski only qualified for the 500-meter event in Sochi and is a backup member on the 1,000-meter team.

Last week, Cholewinski finished 15th after two races in the 500-meter event.

Cholewinski is a two-time Olympian and competed in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010. She has traveled the world for more than 10 years and has skated in every country in Europe, Japan, Canada and every venue in the U.S. In middle school and high school in South Carolina, she was a track star running the 220 and 440 events.

Among Cholewinski’s biggest supporters are her grandparents.

Gwin Warren made several trips to South Carolina to watch her grandchild in some of her first competitions growing up.

Gwin Warren tuned in when Cholewinski made it to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and has been scanning through the channels at all hours of the day this week in hopes of catching a glimpse of her granddaughter.

“Whatever she does is exciting to me. It’s great just to know that she is there,” she said.

“My three kids — Clay, Lauren and Nicole — began skating when they were 8, 6 and 4 years of age at a local skating rink, which had an inline speed skating team,” Phil Warren said this week. “All three were interested in joining, so the next thing we knew, as parents we were investing in equipment and driving all over the Southeast to speed skating events. All three of my kids excelled at the sport.”

Cholewinski’s brother, Clay, is also a competitive speedskater and finished 29th in the combination at the 2010 World Sprint Championships in Obihiro, Japan. He failed to make the U.S. team.

“It was in 2002 that Clay decided to jump to ice, so we moved him to Salt Lake City, Utah,” Phil Warren said. “The Olympic Oval is there so all speed skaters relocate to train. A few years later, Lauren joined Clay in Utah, then my youngest Nicole joined them in 2009. Unfortunately, Clay never made the Olympic team. Lauren, however, is a two-time Olympian. My youngest girl left skating and is a snowboarder and attends the University of Utah.”

Lauren’s mom is Helen Cholewinski. She and Lauren’s brother Clay are both in Sochi, Russia, with her.

“It is very exciting as a parent to see your kids sacrifice a normal life for something that is so very difficult to achieve,” Phil Warren said. “As parents, we never pushed our kids into any sport. It was our goal to expose them to lots of different life experiences, let them choose and support them when they did choose. Our only request was that once you choose, dedicate yourself and go for your dreams.”

Warren, who did not make the trip to Sochi, said he has no trouble watching his kids compete at such a high lievel.

“It’s not hard to watch your kids strive for their dreams,” he said, “because we know the struggle and the sacrifice it took to just get there. It is as much a mental struggle as it is a physical struggle for them, and we are so proud of them regardless of what happens.”