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Note: The ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Obertsdorf, Germany began earlier this week and so for the next few weeks I am reposting my experiences from 2012.
Can life go back to normal after competing at the ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition?
Returned home last Thursday and immediately was catapulted back into reality due to the fact that I had to work Friday and Saturday. Today I can finally start sorting through all the notes, photos and memories….not as exhilarating as actually living them but all good things must come to an end in one way or another. Continue reading
So, what do you think? What percent of ice skating is a mental game?
At the Olympic level, it is almost entirely mental since on any given day they are all medal contenders, equally capable of completing the big difficult elements.
But can the same be said about adult figure skaters?
Yes and no. Certainly the Olympians have an advantage over the average adult ice skater for no other reason than they are younger, fitter and more talented than we are. In a sense, their entire lives have been leading up to this moment and the only thing that stands between the athlete and a gold medal is found between the athlete’s two ears.
As adult figure skaters, we certainly do not have the expectations of our country / the media / our families weighing on us. In fact on test days, the only person watching you is the judge. The only expectations weighing on you are your own, but that doesn’t mean your heart isn’t pounding and your legs aren’t turning to Jello.
Maybe this is the time to reframe the experience. As sports psychologist, Peter Jenson, puts it, “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.”
On one hand, you do want some adrenaline to get you through the program, but not so much that you stiffen up, panic, or lose your focus. After many years of competing, I know from experience that I’ll always get antsy and worried while waiting to go on the warm up. Experience has taught me that these worries are unfounded, since I have had the experience of having a good warm up despite these thoughts. I have learned that you will always have to deal with nerves, but it doesn’t have to mean that you won’t do well.
I am also learning to create personalized coping strategies when things aren’t working properly. Not that I have a perfect system; I’m quite physically capable of landing an axel, but pop it at least 50% of the time due to a specific brand of mental fog that only occurs when doing this jump.
But this is one of the things I love about figure skating – everything you do is always a combination of mental and physical. I believe that if you can rise to the challenge, it will make you a much better person both on and off the ice.
What are you struggling with more at this point – mental or physical challenges? Share your thoughts with us!
No report on my figure skating club’s annual show would be complete without acknowledging the efforts of all the volunteers. As with most amateur sport organisations, local figure skating clubs are run entirely by volunteers who put in many hours of unpaid labor and carry significant responsibility. Club officials also often must endure both legitimate and non-legitimate complaints from disgruntled parents, skaters and coaches, often about things over which they have little control.
This week, International Adult Figure Skating salutes all ice skating club volunteers.
Thank you to the planning committee: your job begins early in the year and you are more than likely busy with keeping the club running on a daily basis.
Thank you to the costume coordinators and seamstresses. In some clubs, the costumes are all created and sewn by volunteers. In our case, they were rented from another local skating club. Our dedicated team made frequent visits to the warehouse to pick up costumes, assign them to each skater and make alterations as needed. They also packed all costumes and accessories the day after the show.
Thank you to the lighting and sound technicians and DJ who made us look so good out on the ice. Trust me, you want to be very nice to these people, the wrong lighting can cause you to appear ghastly pale or just leave you in the dark.
Thank you to the room-monitors and small-children wranglers, for keeping all those five to ten year-olds entertained, calm, tidy and costumed for several hours at a time – also to the back stage manager for patiently maintaining calm and order.
Thank you to the set-up crew who transformed a local hockey arena into a beautiful theatre.
Thank you to our photographers for capturing the most beautiful moments of the day.
Thank you to whoever left a table of delicious food in the senior skater’s dressing room and the folks who returned our skate guards from the back stage area back to the dressing rooms. These may have seemed like small things to you, but we skaters really appreciated your efforts!
Thank you to the front of house, ticket / programme vendors and security volunteers.
Thank you to the parents, who transported kids back and forth to the arena on almost a daily basis the week of the show.
Thank you to all the spectators who make the time to come and cheer for us and to our sponsors for their financial and material support.
The virtual bouquet of intense admiration goes to those who I like to think of as “ground-zero” volunteers – the ones who serve on multiple committees, who are the first to arrive at the arena and the last to leave, who take time off from work the week of the show and in short, are the go-to people. As my Aunt Clarice always said, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.”
Want to make a volunteer’s day? Just say tell them, “thank you,” for doing what they do. Even better, offer to help!
Do you volunteer at your club? Share your memorable volunteer moments with us.
I’ve trained on the senior session for several years now and have watched many of these “kids” grow up. Roughly a third of the group are seniors in high school or junior college students. Their work ethic during rehearsals was extraordinary. They were focused and attentive; the older and more advanced skaters were always quick to help the younger ones, so we were able to master the choreography in record time.
Of course in the world of theatre, nothing ever goes as planned. The week leading up to the two shows was intense. Even with daily two-hour practices, there were still a few glitches in the choreography, costumes didn’t fit and panic was setting in, but everyone managed to keep their Zen. After all, competitive figure skaters are masters of stress management.
But then things started getting weird.
Early in the week, the novice-level competitive ice dance gentleman, who was to partner me for the waltz, sprained his ankle in a training injury and was not allowed to skate for two weeks. We went to our happy place, re-worked the choreography and gave a junior level singles gentleman a 60-second overview on partnering and everything was good.
Then, our first dress rehearsal was interrupted by a fire alarm – big people grabbed the little people, evacuated the entire building, and the whole cast was out on the street in skates and full costumes. Parents, coaches and senior skaters maintained a security perimeter around the small children and kept them calm and entertained. No problem! The second dress rehearsal was un-eventful and we were optimistic that it would be clear sailing from that point on.
By Saturday, the day of the two shows, we were all pretty tired but too excited to admit it! The first show went well enough, but we had a little too much adrenaline happening and we made several minor errors; I’m sure the spectators didn’t even notice, but we did!
I chatted with some of the competitive skaters and we realized that the state of mind needed for a show is different from the one needed for a competition. Something about having 500 people cheering you on inspires you and you want to give your best back to your fans. In a figure skating competition, you may smile because you’re happy with how you skated, but in a show, you smile because you want your audience to have as much fun as you are having! In actual fact, we all felt this shift during our opening number and as we exited the ice, our coach’s first words were, “Did you feel that? It was magical!”
Speaking of magic, there was a point at which we senior skaters were hurrying down the corridor to the ice in our opening number costumes, when we met a group of little girls. When they saw us in all our purple prom-dress loveliness, their reaction was a look of pure delight and they exclaimed “ohhh, des belles princesses!!!” (beautiful princesses!). Considering I’m old enough to be the mother of my teen skating buddies, this remark absolutely made my day. I’m going to treasure it for the rest of my life.
Are you involved in your club’s show? What are your best memories?
Take a look at the photo of our senior group. Can you find which one is me?
Several weeks ago I received a request from JoAnn Schneider Farris for a recent photo as she was planning to feature International Adult Figure Skating in an upcoming About .com figure skating column. We played Skype tag for a few weeks but finally connected and had a nice but far too brief chat.
JoAnn is a US-based figure skating coach, author and journalist, she has skated since childhood and was a competitive ice dancer at the junior level. If you are passionate about the history of United Skates figure skating you will want to read her autobiography My Skating Life: 50 Plus Years of Skating
I’ve been writing posts for nearly five years about myself and other adult ice skaters and it was fun to have someone else write about me for a change I am honored that she thought my humble efforts to encourage the adult figure skating community a worthy topic.
JoAnn’s column covers all aspects figure skating from reporting on international competitions to getting your four year old started on the ice. Her site is an excellent resource and is worth following.
Here’s the link to JoAnn’s article
And the picture? That’s me after landing both axels in competition for the first time ever!!
To celebrate the World Synchronized Skating Championships held this past weekend, I found this charming short film made by a University of Toronto film student. In Time With Skates is a documentary about synchronized skaters and the people who love them.
As with all figure skating disciplines, there are numerous adult figure skaters who participate in synchro as well.
As a singles adult ice skater who likes lots of personal space around me, I marvel at how close synchro skaters are and the speed they travel at. I tried it once and was absolutely terrified!
So if you are a sychro girl or guy all I have to say is you are flaming bonkers but in a good kind of way!
Synchro Skaters: tell us what team you skate with and what you love about synchro.
Last week I attended a one day workshop on creative movement for figure skaters with former Canadian Men’s champion Sebastien Britten. I attended his workshop last year and was pleasantly surprised with my elderly adult ice skater body’s ability to keep up with and in one or two cases surpass the teens.
The day started with an 8:30AM session with sports psychologist Angela Malorney on building your capacity to maintain focus in a competitive situation. Losing focus guarantees that your skating will suffer and you may pop jumps or lose your timing, mental focus is like a muscle and can be strengthened. We ended the session in fine Jedi Padawan fashion by learning to move paper clips with nothing more than our eyes. Maybe next year we’ll have advanced sufficiently and will attempt to lift spaceships out of swamps.
The next session and the rest of the day were spent with Sebastien. Before we even stepped on the ice, he had us first do a short breathing exercise, then step on the ice with our left foot, take successive right and left steps and holding each for a count of 8. During each step we were to focus on the feeling of gliding, what sensations you were experience through your whole body and ultimately just enjoying everything. The fun began when he then asked us to add different body positions for each step, the only requirements being: make me believe you, connect with me, and make the movement your own. Everyone rose to the challenge and the energy at that point completely changed!
For the next exercise we learned a fairly simple set of edges and turns and then added arm positions as well as changes of body level, of course the senior competitors were flying across the ice but by the end of the session we were all pretty comfortable with the steps. Sebastien comes from the figures era and makes even the simplest of turns a thing of beauty.
After lunch, he challenged us to match our style of skating to the style and character of music we were hearing. Using the step sequence we had learned earlier the challenge was to make the steps fit the beat, character and even the lyrics of the songs.
For the last hour, we borrowed from the dance world and did contact improvisation with a partner, each exercise became progressively more complicated and demanding, and we had to progressively increase the difficulty of the steps as well as add turns and jumps….and create a character, mood or tell a story. It was over two hours of non-stop movement! One last breathing exercise to bring us back down to planet Earth and we were done.
During the off-ice debrief /Q & A with Sebastien, he spoke about what drew him to figure skating when he was a young boy and what strategies he used when he encountered obstacles. To skate well during a competition a good ice skater is able to breathe, let the music move them and will have developed autonomy in training i.e. be aware of their weaknesses and always push themselves to improve without constant supervision.
We all shared three reasons why we skated, some of the answers? Jumping, self-expression, gliding, going beyond your limits, ice skating shows.
My three words? Challenge, Accomplishment and Community.
What are your three words?
Last week I skated in my last adult figure skating competition for the 2014-15 season. Originally I had hoped to participate in Canadian Adult Nationals but finances and urgent business on the home front conspired against me so I elected to skate in our provincial adult event instead. As usual I participated in both free skate and the interpretive skating events.
Unlike Adult Nationals, our provincial event does not divide the categories by age so I ended up competing against another 19 year-old in the free skate. In spite of the fact that she had a program full of doubles and her score was nearly twice mine I was very happy with my second place skate, I got 2 out of 3 spins, both axels and apart from a slight deduction on a jump combo no –GOE on anything else. Over all have I been very pleased with my free skate results this year, and as far as I was concerned the battle was for the silver medal that night.
I was not expecting a podium finish for the interpretive since there were 4 teenagers who were all strong skaters and had consistently beaten me all season, having said that I was pleased that my scores had not been significantly lower than theirs. So I was absolutely floored to finish in 9th (ie last) place that night!!
In all the years I have competed interpretive, I have never finished last, even when I skate against the kids I have never come last. I was even beaten by other adults (real, over the age of 25 adults). Honestly I thought I skated well enough but my points were the lowest I have ever received for this program.
Really not the results I wanted or expected. Talk about disappointment!
But I was in good company, the day before I had watched our national ladies’ champion, Gabrielle Daleman self destruct in the short program at the world figure skating championships and finish 21st, talk about disappointment. Gabby is one of those fireball skaters with loads of energy and huge jumps, she had an Olympic medal to her credit and a great season behind her. What was impressive was the strength of character and maturity beyond her 17 years that she showed in the interview after wards. In summary she accepted all responsibility for her performance and stated it was her job to make the necessary corrections and prepare for the free skate, no tears, no blaming and no pity party.
I’d love to tell you she had a Hollywood happy ending in the long program but that didn’t end well either.
So now we are two peas in a pod trying to figure out what went wrong…in my case I’m wondering if I should just scrap the program and start over. Re-work the steps? Maybe it was just that bad! For both of us the worse thing we can do is spend time on excessive rumination, Gabby’s right: fix it and move on!
What was your biggest ice skating disappointment? What did you learn from it and how did you move on?
Last week I ended with a challenge to share how you coped with all those irrational thoughts that coursed through your brains while waiting for your moment in the sun as a competitive adult ice skater.
I received some great practical advice from Kerry:
“I prepare for skating as much as possible. I try to do run throughs of a program or test for a month before I step on the ice. I learn what is an issue, what isn’t, and try to learn as much as I can during practice.
At competition or testing, I try to remember that no one else in the entire rink is nervous about me skating. The spectators, judges, and my coach want me to give them a performance. They are rooting for me. I concentrate on the first few moves, and then focus in on the music. I don’t remember much after that.
I do have a few “superstitions” that I do. First, I jokingly ask a really good skater to skate my routine. Second, I like to skate a half circle of crossovers before going to my starting spot. That helps me feel the ice one last time. Third, I try to laugh a little right before the music. Because, you can’t be nervous if you laugh.”
Cathy was more philosophical, questioning one’s sanity apparently just goes with the territory when you are an adult figure skater;
“I completely agree with you Lori! After countless competitions in Canada the US and Europe, I will still, minutes before the warm up when all the skaters in my group are jockeying for position at the gate, ask myself why the hell I signed up for this!!”
And then there’s Betsy, who despite the possibility of surgery, has no intention of quitting, I think she has the makings of a d**m good pairs skater! Those girls are fearless!
“I just started skating again after a 30+ year hiatus. I’m 42. All has been going great, until this past Saturday when I fell hard and injured my shoulder, and now I’m facing a possible ruptured rotator cuff tendon and surgery. Yikes! Skating is a dangerous (and expensive) hobby. But once I’m healed I’m not going to give it up. I’ll just take it more slowly.”
So, it seems that when you are and adult ice skating competitor, you should have the following items in your skate bag: your own personal rituals/warm-up routines, comfort with your level of insanity and a heck of a lot of grit!
As of this date, Canadian and American adult ice skaters are preparing for their national events and many more adult skaters are preparing for the International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Oberstdorf. Let’s celebrate the fact that we are all, a)Looney Tunes and at the same time b)tough as nails.
And let’s all wish Betsy a speedy recovery!