Completing the Circle with Team USA
It’s interesting how things can come full circle. My goal as a skater was to earn a place on Team USA, whose members travel internationally. I achieved that back in 2001, and my partner and I were assigned competitions in Japan and the Czech Republic. Then, right before we were to leave to compete, the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, and the U.S. skating federation felt it was safer to keep the younger athletes home for that year. Unfortunately, due to other circumstances, that year was our only shot at international competition.
I began my career path as a physical therapist following a consultation with a wonderful advisor at the University of Delaware, who was helping me explore my post-competitive options. My advisor informed me that physical therapists could now earn a clinical doctorate degree, and that if I earned a D.P.T., I would eventually be able to join the selection pool to travel with the U.S. team as a medical provider one day. That inspired my consideration of becoming a physical therapist. I now thank that adviser daily, as I could not imagine a more rewarding and fitting career.
And one of the greatest rewards yet came a couple months ago, when I was selected to be a PT for the very first Junior Grand Prix skating event, to be held on our home turf in the iconic Olympic Village of Lake Placid, N.Y. I was thrilled to once again be named as a member of Team USA!
The trip began with a short flight to Albany and then a longer bus ride to the village. Skaters all convened on a large bus, and I think I was as excited as any of them to feel a part of the event. Prior to arriving, we received the team list and I found out I would be working side-by-side with my childhood idol, Kyoko Ina, who won the U.S. Pairs National title the first year I competed at the Junior level in 2000.
The last time I visited this venue was during the 2004 Eastern Sectional Championships. My partner and I took home the silver medal, moving on to the U.S. Nationals that year. It was very different walking into the arena 15 years later, knowing I would have a totally different hat on now, helping these talented young athletes achieve their competitive goals.
It was amazing to work with athletes, judges, and coaches I’ve known for years in such a collaborative, team-oriented environment. Competing internationally really brings a different sense of comradery to a very individually oriented sport. The U.S. skating team gives each skater and volunteer a bag of Team USA pins to trade with all those who make the event possible as a gesture of kindness and thankfulness, which really sets a wonderful tone.
Our team leader was an amazing judge and referee that was always kind while I competed many years ago and it was so incredible getting to know him as a peer. I was under the mentorship of a wonderfully seasoned PT who has volunteered for countless events and been a PT for the Olympic team. It was amazing to hear all her travel stories. As for the skaters, they could not have been more respectful and involved when utilizing our PT services. It was great to be able to assess them onsite and treat them prior to their skating sessions in order to make sure they were only concerned about the competition and not worried about any potential injury.
As wonderful as my experience was, many dreams came true for the competitors, too. The skating community has recently been abuzz with our latest U.S. Ladies champion, Alysa Liu, as she was only 13 when winning the 2019 national title. This competition would be her first international event, and some historic elements were planned in her program. She skated incredibly and became the first American woman to land a quadruple jump in a qualifying competition, winning the Ladies event by an epic 22 points. Our ice dance team also took home the gold.
Overall, it was an experience that I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to cheer on these young skaters as they skate for Team USA in the future!