The Need for Speed: MS Olympic hopeful already training for 201 - - The News for South Mississippi

The Need for Speed: MS Olympic hopeful already training for 2018

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Only one Mississippian has ever competed in the U. S. Olympic Winter Games. But one local athlete is hoping to change that.

Allen Blackwell is built for speed, competing in one of the fastest sports on earth. Despite some setbacks Blackwell is looking to keep his Olympic dreams alive.

Blackwell, a Jackson native, wants to be the first person from Mississippi to compete in skeleton at the winter Olympics.

"I want to represent Mississippi and the United States on this world scale that very, very few people get to do," said Blackwell.

Unlike bobsled, skeleton is an individual sport where athletes ride headfirst down a track.

"We push our sleds at the start, we lay it on the ice," said Blackwell. "In the one of the bobsled crews we put a runner in and push the sled 50 meters and then jump on it."

Blackwell discovered the sport while watching participants compete in the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City.

"We watched Jimmy Shay win gold and Tristan Gale win gold and Leanne Parsley win silver, all for the U. S. and I was like, 'this is 100 percent what I need to do.'"

Allen was used to flying down tracks of a different sort as a sprinter for Jackson Prep.

"The start is crucial for the sport, said Blackwell. "That is why we recruit a bunch of track athletes is because they are usually quick at the start."

But the circular track at Jackson Prep could not prepare him for the speeds of skeleton.

"It's like driving a motorcycle down the interstate at 90 miles an hour is probably the closest description," said Blackwell.

At age 14, Allen was invited to Utah to do a testrun for the U. S. Development team. He did well enough that he eventually moved to Park City to train with the team fulltime.

"I was running faster and jumping higher than people were in their 20s," said Blackwell. "And they were like, 'you've got some natural athletic ability. We will let you try it on ice.'"

But moving across country while studying at Jackson Prep presented some difficulties for Blackwell and his teachers, so he ultimately transferred to the education center school in Jackson.

"they took me in with open arms," said Blackwell. "They were like, 'awesome, come on! we will do whatever we can to help you graduate high school and still do your sport.'"

Skeleton also created financial burdens for Allen and his family, but that never detoured him.

"We are self-funded athletes, we don't have big sponsorships," said Blackwell. "You gotta do what you can. I started acting, just anything to try to get money anyway you can to go with your dream."

Each year, Blackwell has gotten closer to his goal. This year, he missed the U. S. National Team by one spot, becoming an alternate for the games.

"I was actually really proud of myself," said Blackwell. "I got tons of messages from friends in Mississippi and around the world, and my coaches and everything saying, 'you had an amazing season.'"

We have not seen the last of Allen on the icy tracks. He has already started training for the 2018 winter Olympics.

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