I have a lot to write about! I am finally home and have the time to sit down and do it! I just ended my world traveling… for this season! I’ll pick it up where I left off.
I was lucky that I had the chance to train for Nationals in the States and also had the opportunity to see my friends and family again. I skated for about 2 weeks in Hackensack before it was time to leave for the competition. I knew that there was a lot of pressure on me to skate well and show everyone that the Junior Grand Prix Final wasn’t a fluke.
Before I left for the competition I just kept telling myself that all I had to do was what I had done in practice so many times before and I would be fine. When I arrived in St. Paul I was surprised to find out that the draw for the short program had already taken place. I was drawn to skate first. I was skating well and felt really comfortable on the ice. I was staying very focused, maybe too focused? During the 6 minute warm-up I crashed with Ricky Dornbush, nothing serious and no one got hurt, but it was enough to slap me back into reality and feel more relaxed. I skated around, spoke to Nikolai, skated to my starting position and began the Junior Men’s event. I skated a strong program. I wasn’t surprised that I had done it at all. I had been skating like that in practice and in competition all season. I was so happy that I had skated so well at Nationals!
Nationals is such a big competition for any skater and I was happy that I could show everyone what I had worked so hard to do. Also, on another note, I received a level 4 (!!!!!) for my circle step sequence! That was a success in itself. There was a day of rest between the short and the free skate. I felt relaxed and didn’t have much doubt that I would just go out there and do what I had done every day in practice. I skated last. I would begin and end this event and I wanted to do it well. I calmly went through all of the elements until I got to the footwork were I just exploded. It was a rush of emotions at the end of the program. I told myself not to go crazy and start pumping my fists and run around the ice, but I couldn’t help it. I was in my ending pose and I automatically pumped my fist and I remember telling myself, “don’t start jumping around” but I couldn’t help myself. I was so excited that I had skated so well in front of everyone from US Figure Skating, my friends, and for myself! After the competition I was immediately excited about skating in the exhibition. Ever since my first Nationals, I always wanted to be in the exhibition. I was asked by NBC if they could do a fluff piece on me and I of course I said yes! I was going to have my own fluff piece! Nationals this year was everything I had worked for it to be. The fans were great. It was great to see many of the people who kept telling me to believe in myself because they believed in me. I got to show them that I finally believed in myself and I could do it!
I was officially named to the Junior World team and I knew that the celebrations could not start just yet. I got home from Nationals on a Monday and I was flying back to Japan on Wednesday. Before I left for Japan, I made a stop at my old elementary school on Tuesday, where 4 of my younger siblings go to school and talked with their classes about being an international athlete and National Champion. It was very fun. I got to see my old teachers. They got to see what I was doing when I showed up to school late almost every day! It was a very good experience.
Wednesday I had a 6:00 AM flight to Japan. I was there for 10 days and by the end of my stay I was skating in new boots. The boots I was skating in at Nationals (and all season) were breaking down so badly, so it was something that had to be done. I still had 2 weeks to break them in. From Japan, I flew to Italy to skate with Valter while Nikolai went to 4 Continents with Miki and Daisuke. As soon as I arrived in Italy I had a bad feeling. The first bad feeling I had was the feeling of being sick. I was hoping it was just a 24 hour bug but it wasn’t. The second thing was my bag, carrying my skates. It didn’t arrive. Well, I was lucky. I went home to Valter’s apartment and the next morning my skates were delivered. I wasn’t so lucky because the morning my skates came, I felt so congested and sick. I am very lucky that I am an experienced traveler! 😉
I had everything with me. I started skating the next day and I realized something… trying to break in skates is not very easy when you are sick. I had a pretty rough 2 weeks getting ready for Junior Worlds and I was very fortunate that Nikolai was there for the final week. The hardest thing for me to do was to keep my head from getting out of control. Since the skates were new, I had to control everything a little bit more and bend a little bit deeper. I was getting nervous for the competition and starting to freak…. and stress myself out. By the last few days in Milan, I was finally feeling comfortable on the ice again.
Now it was time to go and compete!!!
I arrived Sunday night in Sofia, took two practice sessions on Monday and prepared for the short program on Tuesday. I went out to skate the short program and I skated it like those 2 weeks in Milan never happened. I had fun during the program. The long program was the next day and I don’t know why, but the stress had gotten to me. I wanted to win more than I wanted to skate my best. I didn’t think like this all season…. until the long program at the biggest competition I had all season. I knew I shouldn’t be thinking this way and I was getting angry with myself. There were so many things going through my head. Things like, I can’t let anyone down and I had to skate great… I had already skated in Bulgaria earlier in the year and lost it in the free skate and I couldn’t let it happen again… It just started to feel like too much. I was so lucky to have my Mom there. She helped me get my emotions in check and to start focusing on myself. Even Nikolai told me that I had to go and enjoy myself. I skated my long program, but not my best. I went to the locker room and played the waiting game. I didn’t want to watch anyone because I was worried I had let the title slip. I heard the door to the locker room open and it was Nikolai. He walked over to me and said, “You can’t do that again. You have to go out there and enjoy yourself because if you aren’t you shouldn’t be doing it.” He was right, I knew he was right. As he walked out of the locker room, he turned and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re still in first” he smiled and then left. I was a little shocked. I left the locker room and people were congratulating me in the hallway and I didn’t believe it until I saw the final results. The last skater was getting off the ice and the final results showed that I won. They showed up on the screen and I took a deep breath and was happy it was all over. I turned around and Nikolai was there, smiled, and said, “You’re the World Champion!” I was so relieved it was over.
When I was on the podium I was so proud. Not so much for winning Jr. Worlds but more for what I had done all season. I knew I just didn’t enjoy doing that free skate; I was on complete auto-pilot because my mind was going so fast. I feel like I’ve taken the speed course on learning how to compete on all levels. I stepped away from Jr. Worlds and realized that all of the pressure was put on me, from ME! I have learned so many things this year that will help me become an even better skater and competitor.
The fans in Bulgaria were all great and so positive! March 3rd was a national holiday and it was a privilege to be in Bulgaria and celebrate it with everyone. Instead of going home directly from Bulgaria, Nikolai asked me to go to Holland with him to skate before he left for Worlds. I was happy to go. I am home now and taking a short rest before I start getting ready for next season, which I am very excited for. This season was very important to me. I learned how to compete, and I learned that I can skate no matter what my head is doing. The hard work from practice pays off!
Thank you to all the great people at US Figure Skating, your assistance and support has meant a lot to me this year. Thank you to the Michael Weiss Foundation. It has been a true honor as a repeat recipient. Thank you to all of the fans that took the time to send me good wishes this season!
Thank you to Daphne of Figure Skaters Online for this website!
Thank you reading my journal.
I promise to write during my summer training!