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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Olympics: Rodriguez may hang up clapskates for good


BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

RICHMOND, British Columbia Jennifer Rodriguez is mostly savoring the experience of her fourth Olympics, knowing she may hang up her clapskates before 2014.

A poor finish in Sunday's 1,500 meters could keep her around.

Skating in the final pairing with Canada's Christine Nesbitt, Rodriguez finished 18th in 2 minutes, 0.08 seconds.

"It was a terrible race," she said. "But I really did give it my all. I couldn't have today done any better I don't think, even though it was terrible and I'm embarrassed and all that good stuff."

It was Rodriguez's last individual event of the Vancouver Games. She was 21st in the 500 and had her best result in the 1,000, with a seventh-place finish.

She isn't sure she'll be chosen to skate for the United States in the team pursuit Friday.

"If I skate the way I did today, I don't even know that I'd be too beneficial for the group," she said, "but if I can get my feel back and my snap back after a couple days' rest, then maybe we'll see."

At 33, Rodriguez's body isn't holding up as well. She has a torn labrum in her right hip that she discovered too late in the season to have surgery on before the Olympics. It bothers her more during training than skating.

Then, after the 1,000, Rodriguez felt wiped out by the drawn-out Olympic schedule. Speedskating events are completed in a weekend during World Cup season.

"My first 500, I was having the time of my life. I was laughing, I was smiling to the crowd. As the races continued on, that kind of dwindled. I found myself wanting to sleep a lot," she said, coughing frequently. "It's kind of taking a toll on me, the stress."

The former inline skater from Miami made her first Olympic speedskating team in 1998 and won two bronze medals four years later in Salt Lake City. She overtrained coming into the 2006 Turin Games, and finished no better than eighth in the 1,500, prompting her to retire.

In early 2008, she was lured back to the ice by her then-husband, former speedskater KC Boutiette, and soon was training with an eye on Vancouver.

A few months after Rodriguez returned, her marriage ended. Then her mother died of breast cancer last June, and she struggled to regain major sponsorship while fending off bill collectors.

Still, she's glad she came back to the sport she loves after two years off. Whether she sticks around remains to be seen.

"I have to sit down and talk to my family. It won't just be my decision this time around," she said. "I have to see if it's worth it. There's a lot of things to contemplate."

Rodriguez's top-10 finish in the 1,000 would provide enough funding to continue, so that's not a concern.

"Do I really have the heart and drive to keep competing at a high level?" she said. "The love for skating will always be there."