My favorite sport to watch in the Winter Olympics is figure skating because, at one point, my existence (and my worth, sadly) centered on becoming the best figure skater I could be. But today my life is a far-cry from the 6-days-a-week I spent at the ice rink when I was a teen.
As I’ve been watching all the skating events at the Olympics, a tiny part of me still wishes I could’ve made it there! I’m 25 years old now and barring some crazy circumstances that would draw me back to the ice, find me an ice dancing partner, and grant me citizenship to some obscure country, I will never be an Olympian.
Ten years ago I never would’ve fathomed that I would be able to say that I was happy without getting to the Olympics. It was THE ultimate for me. In my eyes, anything less was failure, and I could never experience joy unless I made the Olympics.
I couldn’t understand Olympians who said their happiest or proudest moments were giving birth! ‘Weren’t the Olympics more awesome?!’ I’d wonder in my limited, skating-obsessed brain.
When I was about 15 years old, I made the switch from ladies single skating to ice dancing, which you do with a partner. It’s like ballroom dance on ice mixed in with contemporary dance and acrobatic lifts.
All of a sudden, my future in the sport became contingent on finding a partner. There is no solo ice dancing in the Olympics. During my freshman year in college, I moved from Michigan to Colorado Springs for a partner. When that ended, I kept going on tryouts across the country, looking for that elusive guy.
By my senior year of college, I felt desperate and determined to find someone. But I had a mysterious knee injury that landed me in the hospital just days before I was supposed to fly out to California to try out with a guy who I hoped would be my next skating partner. I don’t even remember his name now or what country he was from (most guys I tried out with were not from the USA). But back then, these details were all-consuming.
I called his coaches to ask if I could push back our try-out because of the injury (I downplayed it I’m sure). They told me that unless I could be out there immediately, then they were going to cancel our audition. I had stepped out of class to hear the news and came back in crying.
It felt like time was running out. I was 21, which isn’t old for an ice dancer but you’re also not considered a spring chicken. There was already a limited pool of guys who ice danced, so I had fewer and fewer options with each year.
But I finally was starting to think that maybe I needed to stop chasing this dream.
For one, I had had a minor concussion the previous fall that spooked me. I realized sport wasn’t worth my health, but as I got better so did the fire in my belly to give this thing another try.
Secondly, the reality of graduating was also weighing on me. I would be on my own financially and I didn’t have a job lined up yet. I knew my parents would help me if I found an ice dance partner, but I still needed to earn money for basic living expenses.
All I wanted was one full season with a partner and to compete at Nationals. At that point, the Olympics seemed so far-fetched that I changed my expectations. One of my friends who was a very accomplished skater told me that maybe an ice dance partnership just wasn’t meant to be. I shook my head. I wasn’t giving up.
I ended up having a very short-lived partnership about a year after graduating, in 2015, while I was working full-time. We never competed or performed. When it ended, so did my search for another partner. I decided to embrace my status as a solo skater and take advantage of different opportunities to perform in shows.
There was a freedom in knowing I didn’t have to look around for a skating partner anymore. So, I took some time away from the ice to enjoy my job in TV news and live a more “normal” life in 2016.
A Facebook post my mom saw called me back to the ice in 2017, so I signed up to perform with other professionals in an ensemble at the US Open Professional Championships.
The choreographer of that piece also pushed me to perform by myself (eek!) at an upcoming show. I was resistant at first, but realized I could look at this performance differently than any I’d ever done before. I wasn’t skating for myself or for medals; I wanted to give God a performance He could enjoy watching.
The piece I chose to perform to was “Recovering” by Celine Dion (my favorite). It was therapeutic for me to choreograph it.
There were no rules to follow, no “required elements”, no points to calculate.
The lyrics spoke to my heart:
Little by little, day by day
One step at a time
Shake off the devil, oh
Take back my peace of mind
As I fall apart, baby
Here in the dark
‘Cause the old me
Run just as far as I could from my heart
Well, I’m going back to the start
Jesus was holding me in all of my heartbreak of not achieving my goals in figure skating. In so many ways, skating had become my god. When I was ready, Jesus was still waiting with open arms to tell me it didn’t matter that I had never made the Olympics and wasn’t a household name.
When I performed “Recovering” in public, it was the most freeing skate I’d ever done. I may not have had a physical partner, but I realized I never was alone on the ice.