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Samuel Mindra, 15, sophomore at Oregon Connections Academy, eyes 2022 Olympics

You might call this 15-year-old from Happy Valley the "comeback kid on ice skates." Samuel Mindra, a sophomore at Oregon Connections Academy, recently returned from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, where he competed in the Novice Men's Division.

PHOTO COURTESY: ACTIONPHOTOS BY MARIANNE - Happy Valley's Samuel Mindra, 15, an Oregon Connections Academy sophomore, recently returned from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit."It was really exciting to be able to go back to nationals," Mindra said. "Competing against the other boys again made me realize how much work I have to do to catch up."

This is the second time Mindra has competed at the USFS Championships. The first time was in 2016, finishing second in the Juvenile Boys Division. The following year, Mindra qualified by winning the Pacific Coast Sectionals in the Intermediate Men's Division.

A month before the competition Mindra suffered a serious fracture to his right ankle while practicing his routine at the Sherwood Ice Arena and had to withdraw from the competition.

Mindra had surgery to repair damaged cartilage and doctors placed two titanium pins in his ankle. It took three months before he could walk again and many months more of physical therapy. A year-and-a-half of recovery and he was back at the 2019 USFS Championships.

"Ultimately, it was very difficult to watch one of our top athletes endure such an injury, his dream of Olympic success was shook," Mindra's skating coach Mari Malama said. "After months and months of struggle, he decided to keep going and agreed to try another competitive season. To see how far he's come in such a short time is astonishing."

What about an Olympic medal for Mindra?

"He made it back to the U.S. Championships despite heavy odds against him," Malama said. "The great thing about Samuel is when he decides he wants something, he will do whatever he has to do to make it happen. For now, he has his sights set on representing Team USA. Looking ahead, he has all the ability and determination to be an Olympian. But we'll see if he has enough time to catch up by 2022."

Mindra is realistic and humble about his Olympic goals, saying, "I plan to work really hard and hope to improve enough that it will give me a shot at getting on Team USA. It would be awesome to make the team."

Mindra has been a student at a statewide online public charter school since sixth grade. He and his coach agree that the flexibility of online learning has been key to Mindra's success in school and on skates.

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