I often wonder what people are passionate about. And, I mean insanely in love and an enthusiastic passion towards a sport, music, topic, class, person, anything! A sort of passion that ignites a fire inside them that really shows when they are doing it. This idea of passion is something to be proud of. If a person can learn to love something so much to the point where it becomes a passion they should be proud! Especially because it is not easy. When it comes to falling in love with someone or something, hardships, struggles and disappointments are bound to come with the process. People can be torn down so easily that sometimes it is difficult to stand back up. Through the sport of figure skating I have learned just that. And I will say right off the bat that it was a long, rough journey, but eventually being on the ice became my passion and I am immensely proud to be able to say that.
Skating is a very demanding sport to say the least. Skaters are expected to be perfect in every sense. Every move, every spin, every jump has to be perfect, strong, gentle, and well presented all at the same time. Skaters train day after day for hours with private coaches, off ice instructors, choreographers, and trainers to build up the endurance it takes to get through a long program and look fine as a dime while doing it. I have skated for fourteen years, and just two years ago my love for the sport was truly tested. As a skater, falling is an occupational hazard, it just comes with the territory of skating. Along with being physically difficult, skating is one huge mental game. The fear of falling can stop even the best skaters from trying to throw their jumps because being injured simply means time off the ice, and that is something most of us can’t even bare to imagine. Being the risky skater I am, I was never afraid of falling or taking a chance and trying something new on the ice. Whether it be a new footwork sequence, spin, or advanced jump, whatever my coach told me to try, I went out there and tried it. Life loves throwing obstacles in your way; for me, life decided to throw my double salchow in the way. It sounds like a funny jump and yes, it is pronounced “sow-cow.” It is a jump that takes off while the skater is facing backwards and she rotates twice in the air to land over her right side in a perfect landing position once again. It takes practice, and most importantly repetition. I always caught onto things fairly quickly so when it took me longer than usual to land my double I started getting frustrated with myself. Was I not as good as I thought I was? What was I doing wrong that I couldn’t get past this jump? After attempting the jump multiple times in a row and not achieving a successful landing brought my self-esteem WAY down. One day, in the midst of practicing I had, what is still, the worst fall I have ever taken.
I had a decent amount of speed going into the jump, took off in what seemed like the right way but while I was in the air my body did not rotate correctly. Instead of being vertically and slightly to the right I leaned way too far to the right and in the midst of trying to fix it I ended up leaning too far to the left. My lower body was in the right position, and since I had so much height to my jump I was able to rotate fully. When my feet touched the ice my right leg went to the left and my left leg when to the right, and my upper body was rotated and my shoulder hit the ice at full force. It was most definitely the worst fall I have ever had. Also the scariest moment of my life. The speed that everything takes place is the worst part of it all. Skaters are never in the air for more than a second and a half. One moment we are flying through the air and then the next we are sprawled out on the ice feeling our bodies tingle from the force of the impact. The fall had gotten the wind knocked out of me. I felt like there wasn’t enough air to fully fill my lungs and my hands were tingling as if a billion needles were poking at me. I managed to roll over on my back but by that moment my coach had rushed to me and told me not to try and get up yet. Everyone at the rink knows that if I spend more than a few seconds on the ice without getting up or laughing for whatever reason, something has to be wrong. Other skaters and coaches on the ice at the time came over to make sure I was okay. In moments of distress people often try and show how tough they are and brush it off like everything is fine. I simply could not keep it together; I broke into tears. The pure pain, frustration of not being able to land it, and fear of being put on medical leave made me cry my eyes out right there on the ice. I was helped up and put on a chair so they could push me back to the door. My parents were called and I had to be taken to the doctor’s office to check my shoulder out. Long story short, I was about and inch and a half from dislocating my shoulder and being obligated to spend at least a month off the ice. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was that I hadn’t seriously hurt myself. I would have to be off for about a week to let my body take a break and heal itself, but one week is not nearly as bad as one month!
The mandatory week that I spent off the ice really made me think about my love for the sport. I thought back to why I started skating and why I continued to practice so much and spend so much time on the ice. I fell in love with the ice when my mom took me to my first skating lesson at the age of four. All I wanted to do was be like the older girls across the ice spinning and jumping like it was no big deal. I continued to love to be in the artificial cold of an ice rink when I flew through all the basic levels of skating because I caught onto things so quickly. Once I was far enough into the sport it was time to get a private coach. Carmen Allen ended up being the coach I chose and she ended up becoming my skating mommy, best friend, biggest supporter, and therapist. She was there for all my big milestones on the ice. When I first landed my axel, she screamed with joy and hugged me so tight that I knew exactly why I kept skating. Not only was I doing something that made me happy, but the people around me would be happy watching me on the ice. Frustration comes with the sport. I thought it through and the fact that physically we need to be so precise but mentally we need to be completely focused on so many things all at once was so exciting that I could not imagine never doing it again. For example, during a jump we need to make sure we have enough speed to get up in the air and get enough distance. But, at the same time, when we take off we need to listen to the smallest toe pick closest to the rest of the blade because it makes a very special sound that lets us know if we are about to be able to rotate completely or come falling back down to our unforgiving ice that we love so much. While all of that is going through our heads we need to make sure we take off vertically and rotate slightly leaning to our right but not too far because too far, and our blade will not be able to grip the ice on the landing and we will fall over.
Getting back up after a fall is what skating is all about and it is what motivates me to keep trying both on the ice and off the ice in everyday life. After the week of resting was up, I was allowed back on the ice. Stepping onto the ice and gliding across the smooth surface was the greatest feeling in the world after not being able to for a whole week. That moment, I knew that figure skating was my passion. I was so in love with the ice that looking back on all my memories in my icy world helped that passion burn more and more every time I skated. This whole experience with my double is what set my passion to the ultimate test. Would I still be so in love with my skates and the ice after that fall? Would I still be the same on the ice? Would I want to spend countless hours training to only move on to learn a harder element? The mental game that skating plays in my mind was stronger than ever. I never wanted to go through that feeling of laying on the ice helpless and not knowing if I was broken or not. I lost my double salchow for four months. But eventually I landed it again after a long time. The jump never was consistent enough for me to learn other jumps though. So here I am, training when I can to get my jump back but the mental fear of falling again stops me from taking so many risks. In all though, that is what makes people stronger right? For me especially, I hate when people tell me that I cannot do something. Like, how do you know I can’t do it? My double salchow was my test, but also my motivation to keep going. And the answers to all those questions is yes! Yes, I was still me out there on the ice, and yes, I loved my skates and the ice just as much as before the fall. I most definitely wanted to keep training and continue to learn everything there is to learn about skating. Dedication is key to anything in life, because if you want something that bad, you should be able to work hard enough for it to achieve it. In the end, skating is my passion, my intense love, my drive to do the impossible, my struggle, and my favorite place to be. That is what makes a passion so difficult to find. Being able to be okay with loving something but sometimes hating it too comes with that passion.