“Skating was the vessel into which I could pour my heart and soul.” ~ Peggy Fleming
A Skater’s Heart
There is literally nothing, NOTHING like gliding across the ice, hearing your blades scratch sweet music and even sweeter etchings into the ice. Trusting that these tiny blades will hold you as you execute required elements adding your own flare to impress judges.
Even the darker aspects, injuries, your derrière constantly becoming one with the ice, coaches yelling at you, struggling to look the “part,” hours upon hours at the rink, and of course the real bitch of the life of any athlete but especially skating: Age.
Oh, yes, age is a little bastard, constantly giving skaters a complex, a constant reminder that this is it, if you don’t go for it, you most likely won’t get another chance.
And yet their is something skating does to an athlete. It draws us in, making us want more never relenting its’ grip, even when we are “old.”
Is it a Sport?
First and foremost let’s put to rest the long tiresome debate of, “Is skating a sport?” I swear it could be an SNL skit. Even now, years later, I still get comments about how skating isn’t a sport.
Seriously I would love to see you try landing on a tiny blade.
That aside we are just skating around and doing all those ol’ “tricks,” looking pretty.
Yup, totally a fashion show on ice.
I won’t dispute that we are the most fashionable sport in the sporting world. Sorry football fans, but those pads do nothing for you.
But here is the thing, not only do we need to look glamorous, we have to do it while landing jumps with an impact ten times our body weight. We spin up to 308 RPM, and never have a hair out of place. Of course Aqua Net helps, but the point is, as glamorous as it looks, it is the epitome of blood, sweat and tears all for seven minutes of possible glory.
Why do we do it then?
Why does anyone do anything? Passion.
Going for Gold
Olympians are a very unique type of person. They spend long hours at the gym, training and practicing, forgoing extracurriculars, holidays, time with family, basically any semblance of fun or a life, for glory that only ever comes around every four years. Their chosen sport, IS their life.
Four years for a chance to prove your worth. To make your country, their sport, your family, your coaches, everyone who has ever had an impact on your life, proud. Four years whittled down to sometimes only minutes, even seconds to make or break it.
Despite knowing the slim chances of ever making it to the Olympics, (heck even making it out of regionals is a feat and a half) it didn’t stop me from training hours on end. Doing everything from off ice training, to weights to miles upon miles of cardio, just to perform better on the ice. Breaking my body down, and building it up, knowing the odds.
It might seem crazy. But quite simply, I loved it. I still do. Having the ability to fearlessly throw myself into the air, yet still be graceful, made me feel empowered. I felt strong and beautiful. Even the times when I felt broken and imperfect, like I was constantly knocking my head against the boards because I couldn’t do an element, the triumph when I did, made me feel like I had already won that medal.
Skating isn’t just a sport, but a foundation to live, not just on the ice, but also off of it. It taught me perseverance. It taught me when you fall (and you will…A lot!) you get up again. And again. And again. You don’t stop. You fight. You keep going.
Despite my competitive career ending with a foot injury when I was sixteen, I am still drawn to the ice. Lacing up my skates and having my ol’ achy body run through footwork and attempting the occasional jump or two. I am not as much of a daredevil as I was when I was younger, but the draw and passion for skating is still there.
Every four years, the world gets the chance to see a glimpse of what I still love so much. They see what makes an Athlete. The struggles, and perseverance, being the underdog and triumphing to make it to the Olympics. Because win or lose that gold, that is an incredible accomplishment to make it to the world stage.
It doesn’t matter what country you represent, athletes are united in that one goal. The goal of not just being the best in their sport, but of inspiring their country and the world. I can not wait to cheer on my friends who have worked so hard to make it to the Olympics and for others to see a sport I so passionately love.
As Al Michaels said “Do you believe in Miracles!?”
At least for two weeks the world definitely does.
Will you watch the Olympics? What is your favorite event?