Competing for stepdad

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

A skeleton world championship would erase a whole lot of hurt for Michelle Kelly. It's been a painful season for the Calgary resident, both mentally and physically, as she prepares for today's opening men's and women's world championship heats at Canada Olympic Park (9 a.m.).

In addition to various nagging injuries, Kelly's step-father, Randy Blatz, died of lung disease after Christmas.

The 30-year-old slider said the season's been a roller-coaster of emotions.

"We were told he had a couple of years, lots of time. At the end of October it started getting more serious, right when I was heading off to Europe," said Kelly, the 2003 world and World Cup champ.

"I wasn't really mentally where I should be and at Christmas I came home basically in time to go to a hospital.

"I went to the funeral and, a few days later, I was at the Canadian championships. I really didn't want to be there."

This year marks the first time in three seasons she's failed to reach the podium and Kelly thought of quitting.

But that's not what her stepfather would have wanted.

"I had made him a promise before he went on life-support that I would carry on because he said it was important and he already felt bad enough because he thought he was the reason that I wasn't doing well," said Kelly, who also lost her father, Jock Kelly, in a car crash when she was 13.

"He was even sending me e-mails from the hospital in the first half, saying 'Come on, quit thinking about me, you've got a job to do.' "

Blatz's passing has inspired Kelly, who has her sights set on next year's Olympics in Turin, Italy -- something her step-father had always dreamed of seeing.

"I promised him I would do my best to get to the Games and do well. I want to do well for me but also for him," said Kelly.

As the season progressed, her results began to improve. Kelly finished sixth and seventh in her last two events heading into worlds.

"It's starting to come back. All I need to do is get a decent result at worlds and it kind of erases the year," she said.

Also carrying Canadian skeleton medal hopes are Calgary's Lindsay Alcock and Eckville's Mellisa Hollingsworth, who finished eighth overall in World Cup points.

On the men's side, Calgarian Jeff Pain is the favourite after claiming the World Cup title last week in Lake Placid, N.Y. Calgary's Duff Gibson and Paul Boehm are also podium contenders. The competition wraps up tomorrow.


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