1990s U.S. Olympic speedskater reveals how she gave it all up to follow her true calling – and became a NUN


  • Kirstin Holum had a promising career ahead of her after finishing 6th and 7th in events at the Nagano Olympics in 1998
  • Now serves with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in Leeds
  • Her mother, Olympic champion Dianne Holum, said she supports her daughter’s decision

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 18:03 EST, 9 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:34 EST, 9 August 2012

Miles away from the history that is being made in London, a former Olympian is living an entirely different life – one of service and devotion to God.

Back then, she was Kirstin Holum, a promising teenage speedskater making her Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano games.

Now 32, she’s Sr Catherine Mary, in the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, driven by a calling that she first began to receive in Nagano.

Rising star: Kirstin Holum looked like a promising athlete when she competed in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics as a 17-year-oldRising star: Kirstin Holum looked like a promising athlete when she competed in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics as a 17-year-old

That’s where she realised that the life of an Olympic champion may not be for her.

Sr Catherine told ABCNews.com:  ‘I couldn’t see myself continuing all through my 20s and 30s like other athletes.’

She added: ‘I remember it vividly, one day practicing: I said [to my mother], ‘I just want to be in a play or a musical in school rather than this.’ I had a feeling there was something else for me.’

In a December 1997 interview with the Associated Press, Holum – who was 17 at the time – said she was ready to quit speedskating to pursue a career as an artist.

Sr. Catherine Mary
Kirstin Holum

Now and then: Holum, now Sr Catherine Mary, left, said she couldn’t see herself continuing speedskating into her 20s and 30s. At right, she’s pictured in the 1998 Olympics at 17 years old

That same year, she broke her own American record for the 3,000 meters three times, but was looking to leave it all behind.

Holum said at the time: ‘There’s so much more out there than speedskating. It’s too consuming. I don’t know what it’s like not to skate. I want to get on with [my life].’

Several months later, Holum competed in her first and only Olympic games in Nagano, where she came in 6th place in the 3,000m and 7th place in the 5,000m.

Her mother and coach was Dianne Holum, who has four Olympic medals under her belt – including a gold she won in the 1972 Sapporo games.

Devotion: Looking back at her life, Sr Catherine says she wouldn't change a thingDevotion: Looking back at her life, Sr Catherine says she wouldn’t change a thing

Dianne Holum said that when her daughter first told her that she was looking to hang up her skates, she was relieved.

‘We were real close and I always knew,’ said her mother. ‘She was getting more and more focused on her faith and I was happy for that.’

Looking back at her life now, Sr Catherine says she wouldn’t change anything.

In a 2010 interview with CHN Online, she said: ‘I don’t miss any of those things, because life is so rich and so full.

‘Without all of the technology, we have more time for one another as sisters and also more time to serve God’s people. Life is so much simpler that way.’


Posted on August 10, 2012, in Religion / Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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