As the world watches Olympians grace the ice with their blades in Beijing, our very own SHU Figure Skaters (SHUFS) are carving out their own triumphs. While the Winter Games were getting started last weekend in China, the SHUFS journeyed to MIT and secured a third-place spot, qualifying them for Collegiate Nationals.
As with the Olympics, skaters on the college circuit must compete in a variety of disciplines from dance to freestyle (jumps, spins, and footwork). The judging and scoring are also similar to the Games. Our competitors earned an impressive 185.5 points, placing them just behind skating powerhouses Boston University and Dartmouth College.
Although collegiate figure skating is growing, Sacred Heart is one of the few universities and colleges to have a thriving team. Many select this school because of the opportunity to skate and become part of a close community that does the same. Coach Lisa Fedick has created a cohesive club of young women who have genuine passion for this sport and art.
Skating can be a solitary activity, but the Sacred Heart University Figure Skaters experience their joyful journey on the ice together. As a lifelong competitive figure skater, I marvel at these young women who have maintained their love for a sport that can be difficult for aging athletes to maintain. It has been a pleasure for me, a SHU professor, to skate with some of my students!
As a professor of English, I truly love the storytelling that takes place on ice. If you have tuned in to this year’s Olympic Games, you may have noticed some of these narratives: American Ice Dance Team Madison Chock and Evan Bates perform an otherworldly routine, entitled “Lovers from Outer Space” to the music of Daft Punk; Gold Medal winner, Nathan Chen, has wowed even the “Rocket Man” with his spectacular number to the Elton John medley; and, perhaps most powerfully, American Jason Brown’s program to Schindler’s List truly tugs at the viewers’ heartstrings.
The beauty of this sport is that it is also an art, which has the power to take us the audience to a higher place. According to Canadian champion, Josee Chouinard, “Skating is an amazing form of self-expression. It’s like my soul at play.” Our young women skate from the heart, and I have had the privilege to see this soulful skating in person.
As controversial conversations about Russian meddling occur in the media, we must remember that the truest joys come not from medals and earnings, but rather from the process. Iconic legend Peggy Fleming says it best: “Love your sport. Never do it to please someone else; it has to be yours. That is all that will justify the hard work. Compete against yourself, not others, for that is who is truly your best competition.”
Maintaining humor and humility is also central to lifelong ice skating. In a sport where flips and falls are common, maintaining a light-hearted attitude is key. Indeed, Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw said, “A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed, he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself.” Skating teaches us to persevere through life’s humps and hurdles; by continuing the sport into young adulthood, our SHU Skaters live and breath this lesson.