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Two Hundred Feet of Ice MAG
Two hundred feet of ice, two hundred feet of blank canvas, compelling because of its contradictions; it’s quiet, yet full of sound. Clean and white, yet a tapestry of colorful memories, stories, and feelings. Somehow, this surface manages to be calming but thrilling; it pulls all the ambition from me so that I can see it as clearly as I can see anything else. While some seek mountains or rivers to clear their head and breathe, all I need is the swell of cold that makes me feel alive.
The smell, or perhaps the absence of smell, fills my lungs; maybe it’s the scent of pure oxygen, if that’s possible. Then there’s the sound, quiet at first, but as my body is pushed into drive there is nothing more noticeable and more focusing: the growl of a strong, clean edge to the skid of my feet.
But competition ice is a whole different beast. Entering the rink that day, the tranquil part of the ice was replaced by nerves and ambition. Dressed and ready, I stood by the rink, waiting. I did a few dips, shook out my legs, and rolled my neck. A mantra played in my head as I watched the zamboni go around: You’re ready, it’s your ice. But the truth was that I was not ready and it was not my ice, and what’s worse, I knew it. I had been having rough practices for two and a half weeks, the kind that were more damaging than beneficial.
You’re ready, it’s your ice. I had been popping jumps, going up but failing to rotate, because I was scared more than anything else.
“You’re so chicken,” was the way my coach had put it.
I played with the hem of my skirt and shook my legs out some more. You’re ready, it’s your ice.
It was the loop jump that really gave me trouble. I had been falling on my right hip time and again. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the flip jump! I would have to put all this behind me and pretend. I am good at pretending, I told myself. They don’t know what’s happened in your practices, make ’em think that they’re lucky to be watching you. Easier said than done.
The zamboni finished and all the competitors, including me, waited for the ice to dry a bit. This was the part where I talked to my coach.
“I’m not nervous,” I lied, and she played along.
“Right,” she said. “What do you have to be nervous about? It’s no big deal.”
I nodded. “Right, I just go out there and do my job. Nothing to it.” I began to like this game we were playing.
“Yes, of course, no pressure,” my heavily accented coach agreed. “But take your time, too. This is your chance to show off what you have been working for.”
I smiled. I felt the weight lift from my shoulders and I was actually excited to take the ice. I was really liking our little game.
Finally, our group was announced and we took the ice for a four-minute warm-up. I led the pack, and I was in charge. My friends were screaming for me, and I fed off it. I am ready, it is my ice.
When the warm-up ended, I skated first. I was still a little nervous, but I smiled as widely as I could. The judges sat watching, like elephants in the room that no one talked about, so I looked them all straight in the eye. All I had to do was make it to the start of the music; once the first note played I could relax and let the music take me.
I skated with very few mistakes and placed first in that competition. No words can describe how good that felt. It was a rush, that’s all I can say.
At every competition I wonder why I do it. It’s agony, but once it’s over I can’t wait until the next one. I guess it just gives me a natural high, doing it for the sheer joy of being able to do it. While some seek mountains or rivers to clear their head and breathe, all I need is the swell of cold that makes me feel alive.