As I write this, it’s 10:30 p.m. and the closing credits of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games from Pyeongchang are running in the background. And I won’t lie: I am now officially exhausted from two weeks of late-night TV coverage, post-show highlights, and the pressing need to replay clips of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Canadian gold medalists in Ice Dancing, on endless loop.
There was a lot going on in the figure skating arena during this Olympics. Two young Russian teens gave incredible performances in their battle for the gold in the Ladies competition. Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman in Olympic history to land a triple Axel. One poor French ice dancer lost her top at the beginning of her program, but ended with a silver. Everyone felt for Nathan Chen during his several unusual falls in the Men’s Short Program, and commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir kept us guessing on their next wardrobe and hairstyle choices.
But back to those Canadian ice dancers…
Okay. So anyway, a long time ago, in a galaxy very far away, I was a figure skater, too. When I was seven or so, my dad took up skating with his buddies on Saturday mornings and signed me up for group lessons. Things did not start well. I fell so many times trying to get out to the middle of the ice where the other kids were that I finally gave up and crawled toward the instructor. And because once I was actually moving I didn’t know how to stop, I had to crash into the boards to get off the ice.
Eventually, I did get my act together. I loved earning all the badges and buttons and ribbons for each proficiency test (soooo much easier than Brownies). Plus, my mom agreed to let me give up ballet, an activity for which I had less than zero affinity. By nine I was taking private lessons and joined the skating club. At eleven I bugged my coach to enter me in my first competition. He warned me I wasn’t ready but I was legit thrilled when I finished eleventh out of the thirteen skaters—so NOT last, woohoo!
Soon I was at the ice rink almost every day (the same one as Dorothy Hamel, before she had her famous haircut). And then my whole life changed: My coach teamed me up with a partner. A boy.
At first, we were both shy, and even holding hands was awkward. We were the same age and well- matched physically—we easily passed for brother and sister—but we had different skating styles. He was also way gutsier than I was. We were an ice dancing team, rather than a pairs team, so we didn’t do any jumps or scary throws (except occasionally, when our coach wasn’t there) but we took plenty of impressive tumbles. When we weren’t actually on the ice, we were thinking about it, running through our routines in parking lots, driveways, and swimming pools. Outside of school, we spent most of our waking hours together, either at a rink or traveling to another rink. Our moms drove and we did our homework, played heated games of War, or laced up our skates to save time in the back seat. We bickered endlessly, but we always had each other’s backs.
As we reached higher levels of competition, we also took ballroom dance lessons and (ugh) went back to the ballet barre. We worked with a choreographer, studied music, traveled to competitions, skated before school, after school (sometimes til midnight) and double-time in the summers. We also endured a lot of embarrassing costume fittings. Because I looked twelve by the time I was sixteen, and ice dancers had to appear “mature,” I wore tons of makeup, my hair up, and a padded bra for competitions. It was a crazy life, but I loved it.
Sadly, my partner and I never attained the heights of the sizzling Virtue and Moir. And trust me, we were never romantically involved, although he did take me to my junior prom. (Everyone always assumed we were a couple anyway.) We gave up competing when we went to separate colleges, but remain close to this day.
I still keep up with the skating world, although I haven’t actually been on the ice for ages. But for some reason, this particular Olympics was a real blast from the past for me. Maybe I should sharpen my blades and hit the rink—and maybe even now that I have this new burst of energy, the keyboard. It might behoove me to apply all that former discipline and diligence to finishing this new book.
Readers, do you have a special interest you used to pursue? Or one that you’d like to try? Let us know in the comments!