COLUMBIA — In Springfield, a sign reads: "Springfield is proud of Emily Scott."
And, rightly so. Scott is the one Missouri athlete competing on Team USA in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Age: 24 (born Feb. 16, 1989)
Olympic events: 500m, 1000m, 1500m in short track speedskating
OLYMPIC TRIALS RESULTS
Women’s 500m final
1. Jessica Smith
2. Emily Scott
Women’s 1000m final
1. Jessica Smith
2. Emily Scott
3. Alyson Dudek
Women’s 1500m final
1. Jessica Smith
2. Emily Scott
The 24-year-old short-track speedskater qualified last month for the 500-meter, 1000-meter and 1500-meter events. Scott won a bronze along with her teammates in the 2011 International Skating Union World Short Track Speedskating Championships, and finished second in overall American Cup standings in 2009-2010.
American speedskaters have won 85 Olympic medals, the most for the U.S. than in any other winter sport. Despite historically strong teams, this year the U.S. women face strong challenges from the Dutch, South Koreans, Norwegians, Germans, Russians and Czechs.
The U.S. women's short track skating team, however, was reduced to three members this year instead of five — Scott, Jessica Smith and Alyson Dudek — after they failed to qualify for a relay.
Making the team
Making the Olympic team is only part of Scott's story.
She made the transition from in-line skating champion on wood to Olympic competitor on ice just five years ago to give herself a shot at an Olympic team. Then, when her monthly stipend was cut from $1,950 to $600 after a poor skating season, Scott had to find a new way to fund her training.
She worked part time at a surgical supply factory for about $14 an hour, but it was not enough for rent and skating equipment. She applied for food stamps and ultimately started a crowdfunding site on gofundme.com.
Scott set out to raise $15,000, but USA Today picked up her story in July. That helped her raise $49,270 from 702 donors to finance her Olympic dream.
She is also being helped by the Missouri Beef Industry Council based in Columbia, and she will participate in a media tour for the organization after the Olympic Games.
"She is the ambassador and voice of what beef can do for protein. Not just for athletes but all people," said Beth Outz, the council's director of communication and education.
A father's devotion
Throughout Scott's Olympic quest, her father, Craig Scott, has been cheering her on.
His support for his daughter is evident in the way he talks about her Olympic quest — he always refers to it as "our dream" or "our goal."
He raised two daughters on his own in Springfield after their mother began a 12-year prison sentence on drug-related charges. Emily was in third grade.
"We’ve always been a real close family," he said. "Since they did not have a mother around, I was mom and dad."
With both daughters, Emily and Bridgett, competing in in-line skating, the family traveled a lot.
"It was a family deal," Craig Scott said. "We would pack up on vacations and weekends. We spent a lot of time together, me and my girls."
They still are close. Craig says he talks to Emily every day no matter where she is — Utah, where she has trained for the past five years, or Sochi, where she and the team are preparing for the speedskating events.
Emily's first race is Tuesday. She turns 25 five days later.
Switch to ice
Since the switch to ice, her father, who works for a sign company in Springfield, couldn’t afford to attend his daughter's competitions, particularly in locations he couldn't easily get to.
"It was either help support her, let her do her thing or me go to them and not really be able to support her," he said.
Watching her in the Olympic trials in January was the third time he had seen her compete. But next week, when she hits the ice to represent the United States, her father will be there.
A family member donated airline miles, his employer gave him the time off and his daughter paid for his housing with the donations she received. It will be the first time he has flown overseas.
"A lot of people have donated money to get me there," Craig Scott said.
"There is no possible way that I could afford this trip. A lot of people have stepped up and donated money, so I’m going."
A dedicated skater
Emily was always determined to be a champion skater — first on in-line skates, then on blades. When other kids would give up after 10 laps, her father said, she would continue skating.
"There was something about her," Craig Scott said. "A lot of times we would go ourselves when there wasn’t practice and she would skate in a parking lot. It was her love."
At age 14, Emily began to train with Team Florida. By the time she was 19, she was the top female in-line skater in the U.S., five times a world champion.
"She had a few sponsors and was living in West Palm Beach," he said. "I thought she had it made."
One day, she called her dad and said she wanted to switch to ice. He thought she was crazy. But, Emily told him she wanted to compete in the Olympics.
For a long time, the family banked on the hope that in-line skating would become part of the Games.
"We were always told, ‘next Olympics, next Olympics,'" he said. "I think we watched four to five Olympics go by, and they never did."
Still, Emily didn't want to give up on the dream.
"So, I said, 'Go for it,'" her dad said.
Emily Scott was always an outgoing and energetic child, according to her father. When her older sister began in-line skating, Emily wanted to join.
"I took them both up to the coach at Skateport here in Springfield and asked him if they could be on the speed team," Craig Scott said.
The coach, Ted Hall, owner of Skateport, agreed. Emily was 3 at the time.
"Her coach always told me that she was going to go somewhere," her father said.
According to Hall, speedskating on ice is completely different than racing on in-line skates.
"The way that you have to use your body, your skating position, your training is totally different. There is nothing similar about it," Hall said.
But, Hall said he always knew she could skate her way to the top.
"I knew she was going to be something bigger," he said. "I gave her some extra special attention and worked with her a little bit more. She had the backing from her dad, and she had the desire to do it on her own."
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.