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

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