Personal Essay: Keeping Cool

three girls at figure skating competition

I’ve zip-lined in Costa Rican rainforests. I’ve been kissed by a rock star. I’ve hob-knobbed with world leaders and Fortune 500 CEOs. A quick weekend getaway in Napa? Pre-family, no problem. The furthest thing from my mind at that point was an ice skating competition. But two kids later, my habits have perhaps changed while my requirement for perfection has not. And let’s face it, I never knew I could get an adrenaline rush from watching my darling daughter Elle compete in her first ice skating competition.

It all started so innocently, with one simple Snow Plow Sam class with Coach Andrew to learn to ice skate. Next, it was a couple of private lessons with him, and then it was a package of more lessons to complete the season. What started as learning to skate transformed into being hopelessly devoted to ice skating. This devotion meant Elle would need her own skates, to skate as often as possible, and to look the look with ice skating gear. And she got it all. After all, depriving my tot of the experience nowadays could result in years of therapy down the line.

Thanks to Coach Andrew my little lady had a steep, escalating level of intensity and a true love for ice skating. And I had a new vocabulary of ice skating terms and an obligation to nurture this new love. Everything was going smoothly. Then Coach Andrew suggested she enter a competition. Why a competition for a Kindergartner? It was a good reach, plus a nice mental and physical challenge, and anyone who knows Elle knows she loves a good challenge.

Elle accepted the challenge. Coach Andrew grew up on the ice and has 25 solid years of ice skating experience. He is always telling Elle: “You fall, you get up and you do it again.” Every skater falls in a competition; the serious ones get up and go even harder. He told us it’s a painful sport and you can’t be an ice skater without being tough as nails. According to him, we had a serious skater on our hands.

[gravityform id=”16″ title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”true”]

My serious skater confided in me that she only wanted to win a gold medal. I told her we just wanted her to have fun and do her best, but she had her heart set on it. So now I did, too. Elle was beyond excited about the competition and happily woke up with the sun to go to practice. She worked hard, even bringing her skates on her school breaks, to practice anywhere and everywhere she could to prepare for her big day. She wanted that gold medal.

We were in awe that her first competitive athletic event would be on Wollman Rink in Central Park with hundreds of spectators and passersby. It takes a lot of guts to step onto the ice, and more if you do it alone. I will never know how much pressure this little kid put on herself. Elle trained for months for this one minute in the spotlight. The morning of the event, Elle admitted she was nervous but excited. As she took the ice she looked so little on the big rink, but I know she felt right at home. During her warmup, Elle had a rough fall on her hardest move, and we honestly were not sure how she would recover. When the music was cued, she nailed her difficult routine and remained graceful and poised under pressure. It was her best performance yet. She was fire on ice!

Then it was a waiting game to hear the results at the medal ceremony. They called Elle’s name as the champion two times before she realized she won the gold medal. Once it registered, she ran so fast to take the podium she tripped, but made it on top and was glowing bright like her first gold medal. And I couldn’t have been prouder.

Her coach always has the best advice: “Work hard. Talent will take you far, but hard work will take you to the finish line.” And her hard work certainly paid off in spades. She won gold and we wouldn’t have it any
other way.

Jana Beauchamp is a New York City writer and mom-of-two.