Fresh Slates and Figure-Eights

MPH senior turns her passion into a career//MPH senior fulfills lifelong passion

By Brittany Grund


I’ve been figure skating as long as I can remember. My childhood memories are filled with cold early mornings, bruised knees and skating as fast as I could with my friends.


From the second I stepped on the ice at age 5, I loved it. I loved the cold air on my face and going fast. I would skate as fast as I possibly could and let the boards break my fall. When other kids would fall, they would cry, but I’d get back up and skate. It never bothered me. I had found my passion at a young age.


I had no idea how far that passion was going to take me and how many new opportunities and sacrifices would come with it.


I started skating at a small recreational rink down the road from my house in learn-to-skate classes. I was the youngest in the class, but that never stopped me from being the first in line for exercises. I was determined to be the best, even though I was younger and smaller than the other girls.


After practice I would go home and watch YouTube videos of professional skaters. I was in awe of how they could combine grace and athleticism and make it all look so easy. I would close my eyes and picture myself on the ice in front of the world, smiling down at the shiny medal around my neck.


Then I would practice jumps down the hallway of my elementary school and spin in gym classes, which drove my teachers crazy.


Figure skating had totally consumed me. I quickly advanced when a coach suggested I started taking private lessons. So I did. At 11, I started skating five days a week. When I enrolled in middle school at Christian Brothers Academy, my skating schedule became really demanding. My local coach couldn’t teach me the new things I desperately wanted to learn, so my parents started driving me to Buffalo to train with more advanced coaches.


Twice a week, I would leave school at lunch and drive to Buffalo for three hours of training. I had to do my homework in the car, and after getting home most nights at 10 p.m, I went in early to school to work with the teachers whose classes I had missed.


Buffalo worked out for a while, but by the end of freshman year it was time for the next big thing. If I was really going to go for it in for skating, I would have to make a change. I spent many hours pondering if giving my whole life to skating would make me happy.


The more I thought about it the more I wanted it. I wanted to win more than I ever wanted anything in my life, and to be able to do that, online school was the only option. We looked at training centers in New York city, California, Colorado, Delaware and Florida.


The place that stood out to me the most was the rink in Coral Springs, Fla.. This program sent an astonishing number of girls to U.S. Nationals each year and was known for having the best coaching teams. It was also known as most strict, but the best.


My choice became clear. My family moved to Naples, Fla., which is almost two hours from the training center. I moved in with a family whose daughter was also training at the rink.


This was the biggest change I’d had in my life. I was 15 when I moved in with that family and I’d never felt so out of place. Aside from moving in with complete strangers, the training at the rink was another story altogether. The first month was absolutely brutal. The alarm would buzz at 4:30 a.m. and we’d roll out of bed to start the day. Most nights we would sleep in our skating clothes because that 10 minutes of extra sleep went a long way. We would quickly get ready so we could be on the ice without yawning at 5:30 a.m.


After morning ice we would go to off-ice training for an hour in a workout room upstairs. We went for light runs on the treadmill, then stretched. After that we had a quick couple pieces of fruit for breakfast.


The rest of the day consisted of intense on-ice sessions, off-ice jump technique classes, meeting with our nutritionist, ballet classes, running classes, getting yelled at  — in Russian  —  by the coaching staff and a very small window of time to eat and do schoolwork.


The weeks went by and I started advancing more and more. I was always the first one on the ice and the last one off it. The other girls became my sisters and the rink a home away from home. I eventually looked forward to getting up at 4:30 a.m. When competition season came, I always left with a gold medal around my neck. Standing on top of that podium felt like standing on top of  the world. Looking down at the gold medal and hearing the applause of the spectators made all of the work worth it.


The sense of accomplishment I would get, from something as small as landing a new jump to something as big as winning a competition, made the bruises, sweat and tears all worth it. There’s no feeling like it.


But then, one early morning session, I went into a triple flip. I landed wrong and hurt my ankle very badly. It was a fluke accident, but that fluke resulted in the end of my competitive career. Although I can no longer compete, I still skate for myself, and may work for Feld Entertainment, which produces shows like Disney on Ice, to skate professionally in shows and travel in the future.


Although I left the training center, I took the many life lessons with me that I could never have learned in a classroom. For that I am forever thankful.