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Mukwonago grad heads to Vancouver Olympics

Jan. 19, 2010

For as long as he can remember, Mukwonago High School graduate Nick Pearson has wanted to go to the Olympics. This February, he will skate in his second Olympics; he hopes to end his career with a medal.

Pearson's father, Eric, grew up in West Allis, where he skated on flooded baseball fields. Pearson, who began skating at just 5 years old, remembers his dad taking him to watch one of his friends speed skate. All along, his dream has always been the same: to make it to the Olympics.

"When I was growing up, my only goal was to be in the Olympics," said Pearson. "I never thought I could medal. But when I got there (the 2002 Olympics) I was just two-tenths of a second away from a medal."

As a young boy, Pearson skated at the Wisconsin Olympic Rink in Milwaukee. According to Pearson's competitive bio, he credits his parents, who drove him all over the Midwest for competitions and provided him with moral support, for his success.

In 1998, just before the Olympic Trials for the Nagano Games, Pearson was diagnosed with mononucleosis and did not qualify for the Olympic team. In 2002, however, Pearson was healthy and competed in the Salt Lake Games, placing sixth in both the 1,500-meter and 1,000-meter races, finishing just a few tenths of a second away from the medal-winning pace in both races.

After realizing how close his time was to the winning places, Pearson said, he started to question himself, thinking maybe he should have trained harder.

2006 was an off year, explained Pearson, who did not qualify that year.

"I quit for a year and a half after that. I thought it was the end," said Pearson. "But then I decided I didn't want to end on a bad note. I decided it to give it another go, and here I am."

Pearson qualified for the Olympic team in both the 500-meter and the 1,000-meter races.

"This is going to be my last Olympics," said Pearson of the February games. "I hope that all my training will push me over the edge. Hopefully, I'll end up on the podium."

Pearson, who was born in West Allis but later moved to the Town of Vernon with his parents, Eric and Althea, and his sister, Erica Rauls, moved to Salt Lake City with the entire national team in 2002 when the U.S. Speedskating Federation moved its team from Milwaukee. He and his wife, Ann, who is also a speed skater and a U.S. Olympian, have been in Utah ever since.

Pearson says his strongest event is the 1,000 meters - it's one he's medaled in at the World Cup. Although he hopes to do well at the 500 meter, Pearson said he'll use that race as a warmup for his 1,000-meter race, which will be two days after the 500.

"I'm as happy as can be," said Pearson of making the team this year. "After all this work I've been doing, to finally go back and walk into the opening ceremonies…there are more emotions knowing it will be my last year, and hopefully I will be on the podium. But as long as I do my best, it will be a cool way to go out in my last Olympics."

So what will Pearson do once the winter games have ended?

He and Ann, who is from Minnesota, aren't sure where they'll end up, although Pearson said he would like to move back to Milwaukee someday.

"I'm 30 years old. It's time to get a job or go back to school. It's time to get on with my life," he said.

With theSstate of Wisconsin rooting for him, Pearson can look back on his extraordinary career with pride.

"After achieving my life-long goal of skating in the Olympics in 2002 and being just out of the medals, I now know I can go and have a chance of winning Olympic gold," he said. "I was given everything I need to become the best in the world and now it's all up to me."

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