Reflective Thoughts: 2018 World Synchronized Skating Championships

Written By: 2018 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Haydenettes Member, Eri Lee

This April, one of the most exciting World Synchronized Skating Championships took place in Stockholm, Sweden. 25 teams from 20 countries came together to compete and conclude a long and intense season. Being my first senior World Championships, the atmosphere was incredibly vibrant, and Skate Sweden did such an amazing job organizing the competition. The Ericsson Globe was the perfect location for the event, with the hotel and the competition rink under the same roof. My favorite feature of this venue was that athletes and staff were able to observe practices from the dining area, adding a unique touch to the entire experience. As a whole, the competition ran seamlessly, making the event stress free and fun for all athletes.

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The opening sequence to our short program, “Run Boy Run” 

The short program competition was an exciting start to the event, showcasing the strengths of each team. After two clean skates, The Haydenettes placed 4th, and the Skyliners placed 9th.  The Haydenettes felt incredibly confident on the ice, and we skated one of the best short programs of our season. The audience was so energetic, and contributed to the dynamic beat of our “Run Boy Run” themed program. It was such an amazing experience, and a feeling that I will never forget. Skating in front of such a large and receptive audience is something that is extremely special, and makes competing so much more memorable. The competition was close, with teams 2nd through 7th being less than three points apart.

The free skate event was especially exciting since the short program had been so successful; the top 7 teams had equal chance of landing on the podium, making for an unpredictable night. Many teams had put out their strongest free skates of the season. Unfortunately, we hadn’t skated to the best of our abilities, placing us in 7th overall and 8th in the free. We were disappointed with our skate that day, but we are incredibly proud to represent Team USA and display our growth at such an esteemed event. Despite our unexpected placement, we are so impressed with the caliber of skating that was presented at this World Championships.

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In the “Kiss and Cry” after the free skate

The majority of teams put out clean, strong programs, both in the short and free, really showcasing the growth of our sport and the hard work that all the teams have put in this season. In total, there were 36 clean performances in the entire event, a huge improvement from last season’s 25. Skate Sweden did an outstanding job of bringing media attention to the event as well, with posters scattered all over the city of Stockholm and even having the opening ceremonies on live TV. The entire event was a huge step forward for synchronized skating, both in media exposure and overall performance, at an especially important time with the upcoming decisions for adding new sports and disciplines to the 2020 Winter Games. I loved seeing all the teams evolve from last season, and to be a competitor rather than a spectator made the event unforgettable. It was inspiring to see so many teams display their strongest skates, and I am hopeful for the future of our sport.

~Eri 

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The Haydenettes at the competitors dinner at Stockholm City Hall
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Preparation for Stockholm

2017-18 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Skyliners Senior Team Member, Emily Kirillov 

As a team, our main goal this season was to qualify to be a part of the 2018 World Team. We worked so hard all year and were determined to accomplish our goal! The entire team is beyond thrilled and so honored that we will be competing at the World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden next week!

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We have set a new goal for ourselves and are striving to put forth our best possible performances at Worlds. Coming off Nationals, we went right back into our regular practice schedule. This season is very different from my previous experience competing at the junior level, because Junior teams leave for Worlds shortly after returning from Nationals. Since there is about a month in between Nationals and Worlds, we have time to perfect our programs before heading to our final competition.  In our recent practices, our coaches, Josh and Pam, have been working to refine the details of our programs focusing on transitions and skating quality. We loved having Gale Tanger, an international judge, attend our practice the week after Nationals! Gale gave us very helpful feedback on how we can work to improve our components and the artistic side of our programs.

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To stay in shape and conditioned, we have fitness along with our on-ice practices each weekend. Our trainer, Sandra Shakalov, gives us strengthening exercises that correspond to elements and moves we have to perform on the ice, such as lifts, spirals, and death spirals. Also, we workout on our own by attending fitness classes, going to the gym, and skating individually throughout the week.

On the Skyliners Senior line, we have skaters from 10 different states although, we all share a unique bond that carries into our skating. One of my favorite memories of our team bonding before Nationals was talking about why we started skating and what brought each of us to where we are now. The stories we share inspire everyone on the team and get us ready to skate not only just for ourselves but also for our teammates.

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I am so incredibly excited to have the opportunity to compete alongside all of the teams that I have looked up to for so many years. Skyliners Senior all can’t wait to make our debut at the 2018 ISU World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden soon!

Good luck to all the teams at Worlds and GO USA!!

-Emily

Overcoming Adversity

Written By: 2017-18 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Crystallettes Senior Team Member, Rachel Teets 

Coming off of the World Championships, we jumped into this season and immediately set new goals to help us further achieve our dreams; we took chances on a new choreographer and an abstract theme. We were excited about the possibilities the new season held for us, the opportunity to retain our spot on the World Team and to make a move for USA 1. We began to work to make our dreams a reality; then came one unexpected obstacle after another.

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Detroit Tree lighting ceremony at Campus Martius in December 2017

As our summer training came to a close, we had four skaters who chose not to fulfill their obligation, a few months later we had two more skaters who could no longer skate due to medical reasons, we experienced broken bones overseas, and lost luggage with skates in them (never to be returned and only one week between Switzerland and France to break in new skates)… I could go on and on.

These unfortunate circumstances could be seen in many ways; they could be seen as a threat, an opportunity or even a puzzle to solve. Our coach, my mom, Holly Malewski, has told us time and time again “mistakes and obstacles do not define us, how we choose to react is what defines us”.

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Free Program at the 2018 French Cup

If we had accepted these obstacles as defeat, we would have been overwhelmed with irrecoverable thoughts and emotions, pressure that surely would have made us crumble. It would have been easy, but Crystallettes are fighters. As a team we reached out to help each other prepare for a new spot or to work on something we were struggling with. Our coaches came in early and stayed late. We faced each challenge and adversity head on, together as the “Beautiful” team we are.

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Receiving Free Program Scores at the 2018 French Cup

The ending result of the season may not be what we wanted, but reflecting back on each challenge we overcame, I cannot deny our success. We never gave up. We never turned on one another; instead we turned to one another. We accepted those things that were out of our control and moved forward. We accepted mistakes as a normal part of the process. We did not let our obstacles define us, instead we let our determination define us.

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Awards ceremony at the 2018 French Cup

As synchronized skaters, we are so lucky to each be apart of a team, in the truest sense of the word. I promise you that matter what obstacle you face, no matter the mountain you feel you simply cannot conquer, you, and your team, are unstoppable.

-Rachel

 

Junior Worlds…here we come!

Written By: 2018 U.S. Dream Program and Skyliners Junior Team Member, Kylie Saloma

This past month has been very busy for us. After coming off of a great Nationals in Portland and capturing the Junior title, it was back to work at home in New York. With only two weeks between the end of Nationals and the beginning of the Junior World Championships, it was important for my team and I to stay focused and use our practice time efficiently.

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We were fortunate as a team to have the opportunity to work with international skating judge, Gale Tanger following Nationals. She gave us feedback on our programs and provided us with motivation going into Junior Worlds.

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Our practices have remained challenging because our coaches, Josh Babb and Pam May, believe in us and want us to show the audience our full potential. Along with doing run throughs of both our short and long programs, we have also been spending time breaking down sections of the programs to focus on specific details.

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This is a very exciting point in our season. My team and I are so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to represent the United States as Team USA 1 this coming week in Zagreb, Croatia. We can’t wait to show the audience what we are capable of as a team and represent our country well. GO USA!!

-Kylie

For an inside look at the 2018 Junior World Synchronized Skating Championships, follow us on Instagram at @usdreamsynchro

Being An Alternate

Written By: 2017-18 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Crystallettes Team Member, Emily Fitzgerald 

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DonAe and I at the Eiffel Tower this year before competing at the 2018 French Cup
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Our entire team at Worlds after Holly and Shannon told us who would be competing.
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DonAe came off the ice and immediately hugged me after we competed our short program at the 2017 French Cup. I had injured my hamstring and could not get dressed to take the ice.

Honestly, I have never thought much of anything about the “alternate” title, until I was an alternate.

At any time last season there were at least 17 skaters that could execute both of our programs, including lifts, in almost any position. And as we all know, only 16 skaters are able to compete. As we finalized our preparation for the 2017 Cup of Berlin, I was suddenly thrown into a position I never thought I would be in. Shannon walked up to me during an ice make and told me I would be competing for a spot in the top sixteen.

On the Crystallettes, we refer to those competing as “the top sixteen”. However Shannon and Holly are very clear, those that compete may not be the best technical skaters… the 16 skaters who compete will be the best combination of skaters possible. Synchro, in my opinion, is the one true team sport, one skater can not shine enough for 16. Holly and Shannon never hesitate to do what is best for the team.

For those of you who do not know DonAe Poe, she is a senior veteran since 2010, an International Champion, and a three-time World Team member; not only is she a great technical skater, she is a phenomenal performer. Not to mention, she is one of my absolute best friends.

The love and respect we have for each other goes far beyond skating, but I was well aware that this would not be an easy fight. And honestly competing with her for a spot pushed me far and beyond what I thought I was capable of. (There are still days when I think “okay what would DonAe do… get deeper, use your eyes more, be bigger”)

I began to realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in “the top sixteen”; if I wasn’t competing, what was I doing? This is an extremely unhealthy mindset, and if you find yourself relating to it, please call me. Who you are is so much more than how many starting poses you have struck in competition. Skating is an undeniable passion we all have, but you have to be someone without it; you cannot rely on it to validate yourself. You must be happy completely independent of it, which I discovered, for me, was way easier said than done.

Our top sixteen continuously evolved throughout our season last year, there were people in new spots, and new alternates, almost every competition. Being apart of a team that was so deeply talented and passionate was extremely humbling.

The experience of being an alternate completely changed my mindset. Not only did it push me to becoming a better skater and teammate, it showed me what I needed to do to become a better person.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an alternate. Whether you are standing on the ice waiting for the music to start, or standing by the boards, you are an equal member of your team. Never stop pushing yourself, use everything as fuel to become the best person.

-Emily

What Does It Take to Be a Part of Team USA?

Written By 2017-18 DREAM Program and Miami University Senior Varsity Synchronized Skating Team Member, Lindsey Maynard

Every athlete in the sport of synchronized skating dreams of representing our country and becoming a member of Team USA. There is no better feeling than knowing you represent something so much bigger than yourself; especially representing a country as incredible as the United States. Being a member of Team USA has been the biggest honor of my life and I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunities it has given me.

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So what does it take to be a part of Team USA?

Commitment.

To be committed is key to success in the sport of synchronized skating. To me, this means doing everything you can be to be the best version of yourself. It means sacrificing other things, things that maybe a normal kid your age gets to do, to be better at your sport. It means putting your team first. To be 100% dedicated to your teammates is so important as a member of Team USA.

Driven.

A member of Team USA has the drive to push past their comfort zone. A driven person finds the motivation within themselves to push even harder at the end of a tough practice or a double run through of the program. A driven person does what it is necessary to reach their goals. I truly believe that having this drive is what sets a part an excellent athlete from the ordinary.

Resilient.

We get up. No matter how many times we fall or fail, we get up. When it feels like you just can’t skate any longer, you keep going anyways. When your legs are burning, and you don’t know if you can finish that last element of the freeskate, you remember why you started. To me, being resilient means fighting for everything. It means fighting to keep your line up in the no hold. It’s fighting to stretch your leg even higher on that spiral. It’s fighting to keep your teammate above your head in the group lift. It’s giving a full performance even if its 6:00 AM and the stands are empty. Being resilient is what makes us synchronized skaters; it’s what makes us our best selves.

Passionate.

You must love what you do. I believe the love for the sport is what carries Team USA athletes through the ups and the downs. This doesn’t mean you have to love every second of training; there are times when I question why we do what we do as synchronized skaters. But when you hit your ending pose after an incredible skate, you remember that everything is worth it. When you are surrounded by your teammates and feel as though you have found your 19 best friends, you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be. To be a part of Team USA, you must love the sport and your teammates through every failure, every setback, and every hardship. A great athlete’s purpose is the love of their sport. This passion is what drives Team USA athletes to be better every single day.

Resourceful.

A successful athlete capitalizes on the opportunities they’re given. As Team USA athletes at Miami University, it is so important that we take advantage of our resources. Meaning, we go to our athletic trainer if our spread eagle isn’t where it needs to be to work on hip flexibility. We see a sports psychologist to up our mental toughness. It means we spend an extra hour with a student-athlete tutor to ensure we make up for what we missed when we traveled. Having the ability to ask for help from coaches, teammates, trainers, etc. is critical to success as a Team USA athlete. Using the resources provided is how elite athletes can overcome adversity. Team USA athletes are never afraid to ask for help!

Undoubtedly, there are countless other attributes that Team USA athletes possess; but I believe these characteristics are at the core of any elite athlete. Representing Team USA has exceeded all my expectations and means more to me than I could ever put into words. The opportunities I’ve had as a Team USA athlete have shaped me into who I am today.

To any skater that someday wants to be a part of Team USA, dream big and never give up. Chase after your dreams and don’t stop until you get there. Hard work and dedication always pay off in the end.

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“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” -Tom Hanks

Best of luck to every team at the 2018 National Championships this upcoming week! Love each and every moment! Don’t be afraid to stop by and say hi to all the DREAM skaters.

Keep Dreamin’

Lindsey Maynard

 

Embrace the Experience

Written By: 2017-18 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Crystallettes Team Member, Emily Fitzgerald 

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I would never be able to live this dream if it was not for my unbelievably supportive parents.
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My sister and I after she won the Intermediate National Championship Title with DC Edge
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Skating our 2015 long program alongside my best friend and DREAM alumni Katilyn Peterson
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My team (Crystallettes Senior) after we were officially named to the 2017 World Team

I come from a very, very small organization in Frederick, MD that, until I was a senior in high school, did not have any Nationally-qualifying teams. In 2014, our inaugural Novice team did not make the cut for Nationals, which resulted in me actually competing internationally as a member of Team USA before I had ever touched National ice.

As a first-year senior skater, I kept hearing about “Nationals week”, having absolutely no relatable antidote or even a basic conceptual idea of what that week was like.

Everyone knows that Nationals is all about the peak; how you finally get to sit back and enjoy the moment you have worked so hard to create. Plus, you get to watch hundreds of other skaters experience their peak. The week we have all been talking about and working for since we started training, is finally here.

The moment we took the ice to compete our short program (Dare by Shakira, still a favorite to this day) I was struck with the overwhelming realization of where I was and what I had accomplished.

Competing is what drives all of us, the adrenaline rush is almost euphoric. But, for me, the rush I get at Nationals is almost in a class of its own. There is something about being on that ice, that gives me a newfound energy, performing takes on a new meaning. It takes me back to the days when this was all just a dream, and allows me to fully appreciate everything I have been through.

If this is your first Nationals, or your third, or your fifteenth, I beg you to enjoy every minute of it. Celebrate all of your hard work, the failures and the successes that have brought you here. Bask in the cheers that erupt all around you, soak in the adrenaline that pumps through your body; do not take any of it for granted. I promise you there is a skater somewhere dreaming of the day they get to be there.

-Emily

 

The Life of a Student-Athlete

2018 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Miami University Varsity Synchronized Skating Team Member, Lindsey Maynard 

Starting Pose

It’s 5:30 AM and my alarm is ringing. Get up.

Somedays are harder than others. No matter what, we get up.

I start my day with a cup of coffee and oatmeal. I prepare myself for practice; I warm-up, stretch, foam roll, and tie my skates.

We start off with our team practice. Somedays, we focus on improving small sections and specific elements. Other days we work on our bigger sections of our programs and full runs.

After team practice, we skate on-ice cardio. We skate for 2 and half minutes focusing solely on power and speed. We finish the set of intervals by skating to a slower song focusing on our finish through our body positions. After each fast interval, we record our heartbeat and count how many laps we complete in those 2 and half minutes. We use this as a way to track our progress. Typically, we do 6 sets of intervals. It is exhausting, but it’s rewarding! I make sure that I cool down or recover so I’m not too sore the next day. We have an awesome facility at Goggin Ice Center; our training room has so many supplies and resources. I love getting in the cold tub to help prevent soreness so I can recover from tough practices faster.

Workout

I usually always have an early morning class, so preparation is key. When I leave for practice at 6:00 AM, I don’t return until my day is done. I pack my clothes for class, snacks for the day, and clothes for our afternoon work-out.

I am double majoring in kinesiology and public health as well as pre-medical studies. Balancing skating and school is a difficult task, but it’s doable! Time management is key. School work takes up a large portion of my day; I typically spend around 6 hours a day doing homework or studying outside of class time. 6 hours seems like a lot, but the time is spread out throughout my day.

Everyday, I plan out the school work and studying I need to accomplish for the day, as well as any other extra tasks I may have. I create a “to do list” for each day that way I can stop on top of my homework and keep organized! It feels great to check off a task from my list!

I use every opportunity I can to get in time to do homework or to study! I’m the person who walks around campus with flashcards in their hands to try to get 15-20 extra minutes of study time before a big exam. If I have a break in between my classes, I use this time to try to accomplish something in my list of things I need to do for the day. The task may be as small as emailing a professor about a homework question, but it helps to reduce my stress and ensure that I am not overwhelmed by my “to do list”.

My classes and practice are typically finished around 6 pm each day. I go home, eat dinner, shower, and head to the library. On certain nights, there is free tutoring for athletes in subjects like math, chemistry, statistics, physics, etc. at Miami. I most definitely take advantage of that perk of being a student-athlete!

The best part about studying at the library is knowing that you can always find a “skater table”. Meaning, there is always at least one other skater at the library that you can sit with. It is great to be surrounded by your teammates when you need a break from your work!

I typically try to get 6-7 hours of sleep every night. This definitely doesn’t happen every night! I try my best, but sometimes I am up finishing homework or studying later than I would want to be. Those next mornings are always the hardest. But the best part is knowing that my teammates are in the exact same position!

Being a student-athlete is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. There are days when I am exhausted and drained, and I wonder if I can really wake up and do it all over again. But there is never one day that goes by where I am not thankful and so incredibly honored for this opportunity. Being a student-athlete has changed me; it has given me so many skills that I will use for the rest of my life. Representing Miami University when I step on the ice is a dream come true. Whenever I question if it’s all worth it, I remember that feeling when I hear, “representing Miami University…”; I think back to myself at 9 years old dreaming of skating for Miami. I picture myself getting my degree in just one short year. And I know that every difficult morning, late night, hard practice, and huge exam was worth it. Being a student-athlete has been the most difficult, rewarding, and best years of my life so far. I am forever thankful to Miami University and the legacy of Miami Skating for allowing me to live out my dreams.

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Best of luck to everyone at Sectionals and congratulations to those who have already competed! Good luck to Team USA in the upcoming international competitions. Looking forward to seeing you all at Nationals in Portland!

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Keep Dreamin’

Lindsey

 

“What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire.”

By: 2018 DREAM Program and Adrian Synchronized Skating Senior Team Member, Kara Klomparens 

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The Winterfest competition in Mississauga, Ontario has been an event to look forward to for many Canadian and some U.S. synchro skaters since 1995. It is highly competitive and held in a beautiful arena. This year our team decided to attend in hopes of new experiences and great skating. However, the weekend turned out to not be any of what we expected.

Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? It’s the idea that anything that could go wrong can and will go wrong. This is what it felt like this past weekend at Winterfest as a member of the Adrian Senior Team.

We came back from our winter break early, ready and eager to get back to practice in preparation for our trip to Canada. We skated many hours in addition to off-ice practices to improve our programs in the week leading up to the event. The night before we left, we encountered our first obstacle.  A team member fell and suffered a grade 3 ankle sprain, leaving her unable to compete. Injuries are no stranger to our sport as we all know, so we quickly adapted and put another skater into her spot for both programs the morning we were leaving.

And then came the second obstacle…There was a click in our whip intersection causing the end skater and a great leader on our team to hit her head on the ice. The rink fell dead silent while our coaches rushed over to her. With one hour left before we were scheduled to leave, we again recovered and filled her spot for both programs.

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Feeling distraught and unlucky, we hit the road determined to give it our best no matter what. Our 6 hour drive quickly turned into 10 due to a blizzard coming through Canada. We all felt down in our luck, but nothing was going to stop us. After our official practice for short program the following day spirits were high.  We felt capable in confident in our ability to put out a great skate. Even so, the program again didn’t quite go as planned. Every element felt slightly off, we were in our heads and timid. After a disappointing skate, we headed back to the hotel and got ourselves into a strong mental state for long the next day.

We got up early to go to unofficial practice. We needed to practice the program with new people in the two spots that we hadn’t had time for before we left. We started putting lifts up one by one to get them ready. This is when we hit our final obstacle. A mishap in the lift left another skater with an injury and unable to skate. With a half hour of practice left, we taught her spot to another girl. It felt unreal, having such bad injuries almost every day of the weekend.

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We continued on to official practice not sure of what would happen. And to be honest, it was scary. A lift fell and another almost crashed into it with no one injured thankfully. We were cautious and apprehensive.  After much debate of whether or not to withdraw, we refused. We would not let our circumstances stop us from skating. We decided to mark the split lift for safety, but there was no reason to not go for everything else.

And so we continued onto senior long that night beaming with determination. We got on the ice and fought for every element. We focused on what we could control and gave it everything we had. We smiled through everything and kept our heads held high. At the end of the day, the score didn’t matter. What mattered most was our ability to pull together through many obstacles and put out the best program we could.

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I have never met a more resilient group of skaters and coaches. In life and in skating, things more times than not never go as you plan them. You need to be flexible and capable of handling everything life throws at you. The ability of these girls to overcome all of the obstacles we faced in just three short days astounds me and I will be forever grateful and proud to be a member of this amazing team.

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Favorite Olympic Moments (Part 2)

Meryl Davis and Charlie White during ice dance free dance program at Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
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Photo Credit: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images

My favorite Olympic moment was Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s 2014 free skate to Scheherazade in Sochi. After placing second in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver behind Tessa Viture and Scott Moir, it was truly inspiring to watch them achieve the gold medal. They are perfect examples of athletes that persisted and strived to achieve their ultimate goal in the sport.

-Kylie Saloma 


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Photo Credit: Getty Images

My favorite Olympic moment was, hands down, watching Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov perform their free program at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

I vividly remember sitting on the couch with my mom as the commentators began telling the back-story of a Russian pairs team I had never heard of before, Trankov and Volosozhar. While his parents believed he was staying in a dormitory, 15-year-old Maxim Trankov literally lived at his rink; he would sleep in the stands or the coaches’ room, and often struggled for food. Eventually he moved in with two soldiers that helped him get food on a daily basis, and eventually he was able to get his own apartment. This was accompanied by frequent partner turnover, at one point a U.S. partnership was attempted, but Trankov’s visa application was declined.

I was blown away by the decisions and sacrifices Maxim made to follow his passion, the tremendous struggle he faced everyday. Then he and Volosozhar took the ice, their free program to “Jesus Christ Superstar” is still one of the most amazing programs I have ever seen; they were breathtakingly powerful and effortless. (Seriously, you should go watch it right now.) But the emotion I felt watching their program was nothing compared to the overwhelming feeling that hit me when they ended… As soon as that music stopped, they erupted. They cheered and cried and celebrated just as two genuine human beings that had just accomplished their lifelong goal, would.

Whenever I am struggling with my own skating career I think about 15-year-old Maxim Trankov; how he didn’t have a bed to sleep in or know where his next meal was going to come from, and how indescribable it must’ve felt when he and Volosozhar continuously set and broke their own World records, and went on to win two Olympic gold medals in the Pairs and inaugural Team event. I chase that feeling.

-Emily Fitzgerald


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Photo Credit: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger

My all time favorite Olympic moment was Evan Lysacek’s long program from the 2010 Winter Games. After a breathtaking long program, he pumped his fists in the air with pure joy and passion. You could see how all his hard work paid off in that one program. This is a moment all skaters can connect to after that perfect skate and one that has stuck with me for many years.

-Kara Klomparens