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On: Hopeful Olympic Dreams

FORWARD

I think my story really begins the night I watched my mom skating on a seven-foot by eight- foot homemade ice pond in our backyard. The space was illuminated just enough by a small floodlight and I could see her from my bedroom window; she looked so pretty.  It was one of those misty nights so it seemed like the air was thick and maybe even visible in that single beam of the light shining in her direction. I was seven years old then.


Little did I know that my first experience with ice skating would spark a 12-year drive towards an Olympic dream. Over the next decade, I spent hundreds of hours perfecting technique, and my parents spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on skates, competitions, ice time, and coaching fees. Nine years after my first day on the ice, I was an international and national medalist, and my desire to reach higher filled me. In 2000, my climb to the top was halted. I learned hundreds of intricate things during my push to find my ultimate potential, one of those things being that people idealistically forget to factor in the set backs that sometimes keep them from accomplishing the things they so desire. We don't plan for injury, or confidence issues; we don't plan for the flu or loss. We plan and aim in a way that only factors in the  goals, the good, and what we assume it takes to move only upwards on our map. 

This is the story that rarely gets told; the story just beyond the glow of the lime light of an aspiring Olympic athlete. The determination and commitment that is part of trying, I now realize, is equal for those who make it and those who do not. What goes into trying to be an Olympian demands the same skill, determination, and persistence whether or not it becomes reality.

CHAPTER 1

My older sister was actually the first in my family to be enrolled in skating classes, and I was hauled along to watch her.  As my mom intently focused on my sister, I learned I could slip away without being noticed to play and explore. Soon, I discovered that I could find money under arcade games and hide behind vending machines. What glorious freedom it was. One day, I found 25 hockey pucks under the cold metal bleachers, and it was that same day, I discovered, I quite enjoyed going to the rink. All of those things, plus a 'Slurpee' on good days--the rink was my favorite escape. I couldn’t wait for the weekly trip; I made plans and imagined what I would do once that minivan door rolled open on its squeaky hinges. Welcome to St. Clair Shores Civic Arena – a tomboy’s dream house.

I loved the smell of the cold air, and I loved not feeling hot after I ran around for a half an hour straight. I love being there. I was a messy, hyper, little kid with scraggly hair and likely a food stain on my shirt; the palms of my hands were brown from crawling under the seats
and if I wasn't embarrassing my mother with said Kool-Aid mustache, it was some other combination of a sloppy trifecta. Any other scenario was a miserable day at the rink for me.  

One day, I was strictly ordered to stay put, right next to my mother, in the seats. I remember the lecture on the way through the expansive parking lot, "no escaping", she said, "today is not about adventures, got it?!?" It was true, I had to endure an entire hour just watching my sister take her lesson. I remembered being dressed nicely, if memory serves, I think we had to go straight to Catechism from the rink that evening.

Soon however, I found myself amazed by my mandatory alternative. She was good! She was fast and not at all wobbly-like; basically -- different than I had remembered. Autumn made skating look so easy, how was she doing that, I wondered?



This is when my lack of internal monologue had me blurting out, "I think I can do all that stuff she's doing too, mom... when can I take ice skating lessons?"

My dreams had come true, soon I was enrolled in the next six-week program alongside my sister, and my days of playing under the bleachers were over.  Once a week, for next six weeks, I laced up little, white ice skates and went to class.

 Unfortunately, there was one tiny problem, I ABSOLUTELY hated it; skating was NOT fun, was NOT easy and my sister was still better than I was, unacceptable. I wanted out! Denied; it didn’t take long for me to learn one of my mother’s rules: I paid in full, so you participate in full -- non-negotiable.  "Because I am the mom, and I said so."
Therefore, keeping with "OUR" commitment to finish the learn-to-skate semester, I did so, but I spent my sessions endlessly day-dreaming about the future. I couldn’t wait to go back to my tom-boy games, to roll around in the glorious dust bunnies behind the Coca-Cola vending machine. This early mentality may or may not have contributed to the large number of dramatics falls I experienced before the six-weeks had finally elapsed, a trauma my knee caps will never let me forget.


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