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Stephen Paul Kilari is a 23-year-old Indian speed skater training for the 2018 Winter Olympics here in Salt Lake (he’s training at the Kearns Winter Olympics oval).  He is truly a remarkable young man—he survived the death of his father and a bad leg injury (needing a rod) to place 48th out of 110 in the recent 2014 Olympic qualifiers. To give you some perspective, he would need to place in the top 40 to qualify for the 2018 Seoul Olympics. He really has a shot--he placed 9th out of 90 in Canadian cup a few weeks ago. And he's done all this with no government or corporate backing. 

Stephen was born and raised in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, to David Raju & Esther Rani Kilari. At age eight, his instinctive passion for sports made him interested in skating. Being in India, he took up roller speed skating at school as an extracurricular activity. In the same year he competed in his first district tournament and achieved a silver and two bronze medals. Training once a week at school wasn't simply enough for Stephen, so he then decided to dedicate more time at practicing and gaining experience in this field.

In 2002, he joined Lasania's Roller Skating Academy, the premiere skating institute in Hyderabad which, since then, has been churning out international skaters, national champions, and state and district medalists. With intense training, and under the coaching of Abbas Iqbal Lasania, a national champion in roller skating and the first senior gold medalist from the state of Andhra Pradesh, Stephen got the chance to hold his first district gold medal in the same year, and continued aiming for higher achievements. 

The breakthrough in Stephen's career took place three years later, when he participated in his first national championship in 2005, and although he had broken his hand, he managed to win a silver and a bronze medal. In the next year, Stephen stepped up to the international level, competing in the Swiss Inline Cup championship and finishing 5th. In 2007, he represented India in the World Inline Speed Skating Championship which was held in Colombia, finishing among the top 30 skaters. The next year, Stephen competed in the 2008 Asian Championships held in China, and finished 4th in the team relay and 6th in the individual category. 

Stephen earned the title of India's fastest roller skater with the timing of 27.08 seconds in the 300 meters category of the 2009 World Championships,held in China. In 2010, he became the first Indian individual to break the barrier of 26.00 seconds for the 300 meters race by clocking 25.98 in the Asian Championships held in Taiwan. During the twelve years between 2000 and 2012, Stephen obtained a total of 56 gold, 29 silver, and 14 bronze medals.

Back in 2006, Stephen attended a 10-day ice speed skating camp held in Kolkata under the supervision of the Austrian coach Marek Stanuch, where he got a taste of ice. Since roller speed skating is not considered to be an Olympic sport, Stephen, like many other roller speed skating champions, decided to shift to ice speed skating in a hope to become the first Indian to win a gold medal at the winter Olympics. As you might imagine, being a hot developing country, India doesn't have the facilities to train a professional-level winter athlete, so he moved to Utah a few years ago to give himself a serious chance at the Olympics. In December 2012, Stephen moved to Salt Lake City, U.S.A., to start his ice speed skating career. He joined the Utah Olympic Oval Speed Skating Club and began practicing under the coaching of the Olympic gold medalist Derek Parra, and KD Todd.

Stephen trains six days a week and spends four hours a day, undergoing intense training at the Utah Olympic Oval, and day by day, he gets closer to his ultimate dream of raising India's flag at the Winter Olympics. In the last two years, he has brought his time down from over 42 seconds to 37.04 seconds for the 500 meter ice speed skating event, just 0.44 seconds to go to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Seoul.