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Skating Through the Cold

Posted by Hannah Straw 1/10/2018

As North Dakotans we are accustomed to extremely cold winters. When the first snow flake falls from the sky and the winter coats are brought out from storage, some citizens of the state bunker down in their warm cozy homes and dream of warmer temperatures. But for others, winter offers many activities, most of which take place outside. Lucky for me, growing up my winter activity was spent indoors, yet somedays it was just as cold as the temperatures outside. 

My parents enrolled me in figure skating lessons when I was just three years old. There I was with my extremely puffy coat marching around in those tiny figure skates attempting to glide on the ice. At that point, there were lots of stumbles and I’m sure quite a few tears. Thankfully, my parents kept bringing me to my lessons, even though I had a meltdown every time my skates were put on. Let’s just say I wasn’t that kid who enjoyed wearing socks.. Through the years, my abilities improved (thank goodness) and my passion for the sport continued to grow. Throughout middle school and high school, I spent six to seven days a week, sometimes twice a day, at the rink and it wasn’t a chore, more like a treat.

When I was in the third grade I began competing, both individually and on a synchronized team. Both aspects of the sport were very different, yet extremely similar. Individually I worked with multiple coaches in what we called private lessons developing around five routines for competition season. Some routines were serious and full of difficult elements, while others gave us the chance to dress up in costumes other than dresses and show off our personality. With all the spins, jumps, footwork sequences and everything else in between, I was held accountable to make sure I was getting enough time out on the ice. With only one to two hours per week spent in private lessons, most of the hard work was done by myself.

Synchronized or “Synchro” was a lot different. A group of around 16 skaters, depending on the level and requirements, worked together to learn one routine that we would use throughout the year. Very seldom were huge changes in the routine made, rather little details after receiving feedback from judges, who would travel from across the country to judge competitions. For synchro, we would practice three to four days a week, depending where we were at in the season and would have sessions on and off the ice. Not only were we there to hold each other accountable, but we were there to laugh, giggle and form life lasting friendships with one another.

Along with the time commitment at the rink during the week, most winter weekends were spent in the car or a charter bus traveling to competitions that we worked so hard for. For individual, you would skate multiple times, but for synchro we might only get one chance to show our program off. With that, my team and I were always questioned, “Why would you drive all the way to Michigan to skate for two and a half minutes”? That was a question that was extremely difficult to answer as no one ever quite understood how hard we worked to produce that short, which didn’t always feel short to us, two-and-a-half-minute routine. No one would ever understand that nervous yet exciting feeling that shot through your entire body just moments before you stepped on the ice. They didn’t get the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a clean skate. All those long bus rides and time spent in the hotel with my teammates and our crazy skating moms were completely worth it as we created so many memories that I still laugh about today.

Although I haven’t laced up my skates to compete since 2012, the memories are still fresh in my mind. The long days spent in the cold rink, private lessons, early morning and late-night practices, the fancy dresses, dramatic makeup and hair (my head is no longer sensitive thanks to all the tugging and pulling), the failures, the successes, the road trips and everything else in between, I can’t help but be thankful for all those wonderful memories that were created through the sport of figure skating.   

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