Progressive Ascent or Slippery Downfall?

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As the metal rods unlatch, with their bellowing “gggggirrump,” the door is thrust open— the woman on the opposing side means business. I glance over to shivering Chloe, only to be distracted by her methodic rocking from heel to toe pick and notice the wavering fringes of her sparkling magenta dress. They dance with the air’s circulation—not against it. The omnipresent gust picks up again, stronger in force this time, and colder, as the Zamboni re-enters its cave, after an adventure into the wild.

“Alright. Three laps. Stretch. You know the drill. Break into the groups from yesterday. No axels. Yet.” Dawn blows into her reddened hands and glowers at Brittany, whose yawn is slowly closing up, only seconds to go—in the gun lap. Once their eyes meet, her lips force themselves shut, and Dawn murmurs, “Let the cold wake you up. Come on.” She skates away, scratching and shredding the slippery surface.

The ice you see on TV, and the routines of Rachael Flatt and Michelle Kwan, are surface lies. It all looks so beautiful and effortless. Yet, the real story, the story minus the sequins, blaring lights, and hairspray completely contradict these first impressions. For instance, when newly sharpened blades reconnect to newly resurfaced ice, the jolt startles the entire body. If the cold doesn’t wake me up, this slide sure will. I’ve been thinking lately what this feeling reminds me of, this feeling of uncontrollable spinning. I have yet to come up with anything good. Maybe the unnerving feeling of accidentally sliding, in your white socks, on a mopped floor comes somewhat close. You try to stabilize, usually by clutching a counter’s edge and steadying yourself, and then gradually move on with the rest of your day, forgetting entirely about the occurrence. The difference with skating is that, at 6:39 am, you’re supposed to let yourself slip around and fall straight down. You’re supposed to get up and hit the ice ten times harder, and spin atop the frozen water until you can close your eyes and forget that discombobulated reality of early morning.

Breaking off into a group and discussing next Sunday’s competition in Vermont, I try to focus. Dina’s barking something about coming in 3rd last year, because Lori had twisted her ankle in performing the Salchow. I remember that whole ordeal pretty clearly, but I won’t think of it now because peering off elsewhere shows lost attention. I’ve already been called out on that once…or twice. Anyway, my latest trick is staring at the mole on Dina’s face and re-inventing “The Life of Fred.” Fred’s the mole near her left dimple. The one with the black hair. And the outer ring of freckles. Fascinating, especially for 6:39 am. Dina has this whole collection of moles—different sizes and shapes, too. I think my stories about Fred are pretty good—maybe novel-worthy someday. Who knows?

However, crank the dial to the right five years. Drummond’s speech about paying for progress ignited a whole series of thoughts. I paralleled his idea to America fighting an arduous battle for independence or even on a smaller scale, a student writing an extensively laborious lab report for science. Paying an obvious price? Sure. Making progress? Sure. Yet, this notion of Drummond’s, for me, resonates best in my experience with skating. Academics, sleep, and double whammy all-nighters with Katie B were put on hold for progressing further into the highly competitive world of figure skating. I had those far-reaching aspirations to be the next Sasha Cohen or Jane Torvill. I could have been doing something else with my time, instead of hearing the drone of “do it over!” or “back to the red line and slower this time!” Although I paid this mighty price for something that wasn’t always buckets of fun, I progressed as a figure skater. And created Fred. In the end, regardless of all those fussy Lutz’s and numerous blistered toes, figure skating was worth it. The best representation of this experience’s worth would be a direct flashing of large white cards, inked with 10-10-10. And that’s no surface lie.





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