Olympic dreams on hold for Bellingham native

A former Bellingham man’s dream of representing the country of Colombia in the sport of skeleton in the 2010 Winter Olympics has hit an obstacle.

Jimmy Healey, who has dual American-Colombian citizenship, moved to Park City, Utah, Dec. 3 to pursue his quest — even though he had never been on a skeleton, the stripped-down sled that gives the sport its name.But his plans went awry soon after his arrival.

Healey’s housing fell through twice, which would have required him to pay three to four times more for a place than he expected. A program he was counting on to pay his expenses for a sled and time on the ice was cut. And he realized he wouldn’t be able to work part-time because of the demand of training.

In all, it was an unexpected $6,000 to $7,000 in monthly expenses.

So the 28-year-old Healey has had to regroup.

The Bellingham native is now staying in Miami with relatives from the Colombian side of his family. He will fly to Colombia on Jan. 23, where he will learn Spanish, immerse himself in Colombian culture, and work to find sponsors.

If all goes well, he hopes to return to the Northwest in the fall to get ice time by training at the skeleton track in Whistler, B.C., which will host the competition for the Winter Games.

In skeleton, a competitor sprint-pushes a 90-pound skeleton for 55 yards before diving onto the sled for a head-first slide down a mile-long bobsled track with speeds that can reach 80 mph. Body movements steer the sled.

Healey is best known locally as a runner and triathlete who has done seven marathons, competed in nine consecutive Ski to Sea races, the Ironman triathlon and the Powerman duathlon, among other events. He became fascinated by the sport of skeleton while watching TV coverage of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, then again during the 2006 games in Turin, Italy.

While he has yet to slide down ice on a skeleton, he’s been doing dry-land training for at least six months, working to transform his body from the lighter frame of the endurance athlete he’s been to the explosive muscle that is the ideal of the skeleton competitor.

The setback has been a disappointment.

“For me, it chewed up about a month of time,” he says.

But Healey is still on the road to the Olympics. He’ll just “take it one day at a time because it’s a lot of switching gears.”