Skating is the blood that runs through Aly Dudek's veins, and the Wisconsinite is pumped and ready for the chance to showcase her passion in Sochi.
Dudek started skating when she was 7 years old, and she often attended open skating at the Pettit National Ice Center with her family. Her love for the sport escalated after the '98 Winter Games, and she immediately joined Milwaukee's West Allis Speed Skating Club.
When she turned 17, Dudek made the bold decision to move to Salt Lake City and train with the 2007 National Team. It was a big move for such a young girl -- she even had to graduate high school early because of it -- but Dudek said she had a wealth of support.
"My family was behind me 100 percent," she said.
Since the big move, Dudek has competed in several World Cups, as well as the 2012 World Championships. Her life-long dream really became a reality, however, when she competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Dudek was 19 years old when she crossed the Canadian border, which made her one of the youngest athletes at the games that year. She was astounded by all of the excitement and said much of the experience was a blur. But despite the swirl of emotions, nothing interfered with her performance--and the bronze medal she won from it.
"Winning the bronze medal with my teammates was especially special because I got to share that winning experience with my teammates that I train with and compete with every day," she said.
After that, Dudek said she just became "hungrier for more."
"I've had my sights set on Sochi ever since," she said.
However, there's more to Dudek than her bronze medal and a pair of skates. When she's not busy training or competing, Dudek likes to return home to the Midwest and spend time with her family. She also makes the occasional visit to Altera Coffee, her favorite "homey" spot in Milwaukee.
And like all true Wisconsin residents, she's a huge Packers fan.
"Any time I can go watch a Packers game, I’m there," she said. Her most recent visit to Lambeau Field was during the Packers vs. Vikings game in November.
Despite her success in Vancouver, Dudek hasn't grown complacent. She has more experience with traveling and racing than she did in 2010, but also recognizes that Sochi is further from home and filled with cultural challenges.
"You have to expect the unexpected," she said. "You have to be prepared for just about anything."
Dudek is using this experience to set individual goals for herself. She can hardly believe it's been four years since Vancouver, but she's ready for the next chapter in her Olympic career.
"There’s a little bit more pressure, but I’m excited," she said.