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My Former Figure Skating Life

LAUREN PEACE, HOST: And now for the next installment in our commentary series. Reporter Megan Cattel talks about her former figure skating life and what the sport taught her.

MEGAN CATTEL, BYLINE When I tell people I used to be a figure skater, their usual reaction is surprise. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Florida, the sunshine state. And I think I’m pretty klutzy, not someone who is full of grace or poise.

But at one point, my entire life revolved around the ice. It all sw started when I was five years old. My family had moved to a new town. My mom and I checked out the local mall, and there was an ice rink. I laced up some brown rental skates two sizes too big and jumped onto the ice.

Other girls latched onto the railing, afraid to fall. But I wanted to skate so fast I could feel the wind whip across my face!

I signed up for classes and a few months later, my mom entered me in a beginner’s competition, and I won. Coaches told my parents I had talent and I should start formal training.

Skating is masochistic. It’s going 20 miles per hour, launching yourself in the air, and landing on a blade half an inch thick with the impact of four times your body weight. And all this on a surface where most people struggle to stand. Once when doing a backbend for a layback spin, my coach told me, “If you’re in pain that means you’re in the right position.”

When I was a kid, Michelle Kwan was America’s best figure skater and I watched every competition. She could make everyone in a stadium burst into tears or explode into applause. People would lose their minds when they saw her! Watching her, I wanted to move people like that too, and have that power.

((SOUND: Applause, commentator, “That one half split right there, the best in the business. Oh and look at that heart on her sleeve! This is magnificent! Good for her, good for her! Applause))

By the time I was 11, I was going to the rink 5 days a week. Even on Saturday, I’d get myself up at 5:45 AM. so I could be at the rink to start training by 7. I thought man, there was nothing else I’d rather be doing.

But when I was around fourteen, I had a couple of growth spurts. Most skaters are tiny and compact. I was becoming tall. I started to have jump problems and couldn’t rotate well. I started to dread every takeoff, fearing I couldn’t get the timing right. And without jumps, a skater can’t win.

At fifteen, I went from competing just within my state to regionals. It was make it or break it time and I placed second to last in my division.

The next year, I quit. the way I thought, why would I continue doing something that made everyone in my house unhappy? It was expected that with everything I did, I should be the best at it. And when I wasn’t the best, it was an issue. So, I quit.

Suddenly, a huge chunk of my life was gone. For the rest of high school and in college, I struggled to fill that void. I wondered if anything could make me want to jump out of bed at 5 in the morning ever again. Around this time, my mother said, “All that hard work really was a waste of time.”

Those words haunted me for years.

I never became a national champion. I didn’t even make it out of regionals. But I also realized failure isn’t time wasted.

Now I don’t skate much anymore. Hardly ever. But whenever I’m in my hometown, I drive out to the rink and lace up my skates. I can’t jump at all but I can still turn and spin. I do still enjoy it just the same as I did before it all became about winning

PEACE: Megan is happy to report that she does jump out of bed at 5 AM as a reporter--but only when necessary.

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