EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WKBW) - A western New York native has earned a spot as an alternate in the 2018 Winter Olympic games.
21-year-old Kaitlin Hawayek, of East Aurora, and her partner, Jean-Luc Baker were named first alternates for ice dancing. That means if one of the three other pairs named to the team are unable to skate, Hawayek and Baker would take their place. “If for some unfortunate reason, one of the teams wasn't able to compete, we would be the first they'd call to fill in the spot,” said Hawayek. “I don't think there would be many nerves, if anything it's just excitement,” she added.
Being named alternates isn’t ideal for the Olympic hopefuls, but it's nonetheless an honor. “We would have loved to be on the team but just to be named an alternate is an honor.”
Hawayek has been skating since she was three-years-old. “There's something about gliding across the ice and have the speed and freedom. There's an amazing feeling.”
She's been training in Detroit since she was 13, and she said being away from East Aurora hasn't been easy. “Everyone in my family is still back in WNY and I often times miss being with them all.”
Skating keeps her busy. Today, the pair trains about five hours a day, six days a week. They're hoping to be named more than alternates in 2022. “We have goals and we know there's still areas to work on and improve on. So, we've got lots to do in the next four years.”
Still, Hawayek is proud of this latest accomplishment and she's just as proud of where she's come from. “It means a lot to have my hometown backing me up.”
The 2018 Olympic Winter Games take place February 9-25, in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Their training is privately funded. To help with the cost, click here.