Local women eyes Olympics

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    MONROE- Marci Francis' husband thinks she's nuts. Can you blame him as he watches his 5-foot-6, 130-pound wife streak down a one-mile course of ice at speeds reaching 80 mph on a sled that weighs 72 pounds?And she does it face first. "My goal is to get him on a sled," said Francis, who qualified this month for the 2004-2005 United States National Skeleton Team in Park City, Utah.But Francis' husband is not your ordinary spouse. Eric Flaim is a four-time Olympian in speed skating and holds two silver medals. Francis, 31, says that qualifying for the U.S. skeleton team is her first step to the 2006 Winter Olympics, in Turin, Italy. Next, the former Monroe resident and Photo News delivery girl will go onto the America's Cup Tour. "I am climbing the skeleton ladder," said Francis, who was in town this week visiting family. "I think I have a great chance to make the Olympics. But if I don't, I am grateful for all I have accomplished." Francis and her husband reside in Vermont. She works as a real estate investor and also hosts a sports show on the Resort Sports Network. Skeleton in a non-funded Olympic sports and she hopes landing the spot on the national team will result in endorsements. A skier since the age of two, Francis left Monroe-Woodbury High School as a sophomore to attend the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, NY. The school allowed her to train in the morning and concentrate on academics at night. She tired of ski racing and thought the luge would be "fun." Francis enjoyed it so much that she became a United States Junior National team candidate. But watching the United States Men and Women Skeleton teams each capture medals in the 2002 Olympic Games on TV sparked her competitive nature. "I have to thank TV for getting me started," she said. "It is such an incredible high. People get hurt and keep coming back for more. It is so addicting." The main difference between the skeleton and the luge is that on the luge you lay on your back with your feet pointing forward. In the skeleton, you ride on your stomach and you look straight ahead. People joke that the sport is named skeleton because you end up one if you miss a turn. Francis has a broken toe and bruises up and down her body from her latest event. She anticipates a "good crash" at each new course she conquers. To get started, the racers run with spiked shoes and push the sled to gain momentum. They steer by shifting their weight or lightly dragging a toe. Riders have 30 seconds to get up to speed and then plunge down a mile-long track with as many as 13 life-threatening turns. Despite the dangers Francis plan to recruit her eight-year-old niece Alex and five-year-old-nephew John as future skeleton riders. "I'll have them out there as soon as possible," she joked. And her parents who sent her away to become a skier? "Any other mother be terrified," she said. "But my mother is my biggest supporter." Marsha and Richard Francis still reside in Monroe.Not a bad gig for a person with a degree from Boston College in Environmental Geology and Geophysics. "I guess you could say I'm not using my degree at all," she said. "Maybe that's why I graduated in seven years."