Skaters approaching the stairs leading up to the simple brick building
Are greeted by the wall of whitish gray clouds vastly extending in all directions of the sky.
It is 5:25 in the morning.
Fatigued athletes of all ages fill the locker room, talking about anything
From competitions to math exams.
As I slide my foot into the slightly damp boot of my skates, I begin to zero in on how to spend
The next precious hour.
Maybe today’s the day
I’ll finally get that jump consistent, or perfect that cool spin.
Maybe I’ll realize what I’m missing from those turn series’ and nail them at long last.
I press my knees down, loosening the tongue of my skates, take my guards off, and I’m free.
I do my best to hide my concentration as I try to achieve an “effortless look.”
My blades cut through the ice like a knife through softened butter,
And I hope my edges are finally deep enough.
The music plays a final dramatic chord as I hit my ending pose.
My grin as I stare into the wildly cheering audience is no longer just expression,
It is the raw joy that has been bubbling inside me for the entire program.
Finally, I can let it overflow.
As soon as the bow is finished I rush to the center of the ice
Where most of the team is already gathered,
And join the ecstatic bodies, all hugging and crying.
That was the most beautiful program you’ve done all year,
Our fearless, teary eyed leader chokes once we are beside the ice awaiting the scores.
Standing beside my true friends, hearing our coach’s gratitude, was better than any medal.
And now the score for the Ice Mates…
But I don’t even listen.
I can already tell that we are U.S. champions.
I have learned loads of lessons in the 11 years since I first stepped foot on ice.
I have learned to turn, leap, spin, and glide,
But the most meaningful of all
Were finding out what dedication really means,
Who the best kind of friends are,
The feeling of pure passion knotting up in my stomach until it bursts through my skin,
And being unashamedly,
Proud of myself.