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American Skates After Grandfather’s Death

February 25, 2006

TURIN, Italy (AP) _ Kimberly Derrick took the ice with her head bowed and a pained expression. The American short track skater competed without her biggest fan in the audience Saturday night. Derrick was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 1,000 meters, the day after her grandfather died while attending the Winter Games.

Darrel Edwards, 74, suffered an apparent heart attack after coming to Turin to see his granddaughter skate in her first Olympics.

Derrick was the last skater to take the ice for her heat. She was crying and brushed away a tear when she stepped to the starting line.

``This was the most emotional day of my life,″ she said in a statement after the race. ``I’m proud to be at the Olympics and at the same time, my heart hurts so much. When I got onto the ice I was overcome by emotions, but I knew I had to race.″

Derrick got off to an early lead in the four-woman race, but quickly fell back to second, then third and finally last. She bumped Liesbeth Mau Asam of the Netherlands while trying to pass in a turn, but never came close to catching the top two skaters, Canada’s Amanda Overland and South Korea’s Choi Eun-kyung.

Derrick was disqualified for impeding, but it didn’t really matter. She crossed the line in last place, her hands on her knees. Only the top two skaters advanced. The U.S. women have never won an Olympic medal in the 1,000.

``She’s really, really broken up,″ U.S. Speedskating spokeswoman Melissa Scott said.

Edwards had traveled from Memphis, Tenn., to cheer on Derrick, who also was part of the 3,000-meter relay team that finished fourth.

``I knew I had to race because that’s what my grandfather would want me to do,″ Derrick said. ``He was my biggest fan, the one who held my hand while chasing my dream. He was and forever will be my pillar of strength.″

Edwards’ daughters, Patty Edwards and Holly Derrick (the skater’s mother), were with him when he died at 6 p.m. Friday. Derrick, a 20-year-old college sophomore from Caledonia, Mich., quickly joined her mourning family.

Derrick is one of several former inline skaters who made a successful transition to the ice. She was a member of the World Cup team last fall that helped the U.S. earn spots in Turin. She plans to become an elementary school teacher.

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