.I never knew that when I first stepped onto the ice at eight years old, that ice skating would forever play an important role in my life. Until I was in third grade, I had grown up in Queens. I had always been involved in ballet, tap and jazz. I loved the way I could move to the music and express myself. Anyone who knew me growing up always saw me performing a dance move in any setting. When my family moved to Long Island (NY), my mom suggested that I try figure skating.
She had always felt that skating was the perfect combination of artistry and athleticism. She had always wanted to try it herself but in Haiti, ice rinks were hard to come by. At that time, there was also another African American skater. Debbie Thomas, who was on the scene and was also interested in pursuing a medical career. I felt I could do the same, knowing that I was beginning this activity relatively late compared to others. I was drawn to this sport and knew I could catch up in no time. In my mind, there were no boundaries!
MY CONNECTION WITH THE ICE
The minute I stepped onto the ice, I felt this natural connection. Ironically, I detest cold weather but for some reason, my body ignored that fact and I just loved the serenity. I felt on the ice immediately as I was starting to learn to glide. I took to it pretty quickly because I had my dance background. You would have thought that getting up at 4am to practice would be tough for an eight year old. But I absolutely loved that part of my day. The mornings spent doing figure eights on the ice with my coach. Then practicing my programs before school was the highlight of every day. I loved that feeling of floating across the fresh ice and practicing my spins and jumps.
When I think back on my childhood, that was the best time of my life. I loved that I was fearless attempting those difficult jumps. I learned not to be afraid to be graceful and express my emotions in front of a crowd which is sometimes hard to do as a young child. Skating allowed me to acquire patience when learning and mastering new jumps. Sometimes it could take several weeks to correctly land or complete that jump or perfect that spin but when I accomplished that task, I felt enormous joy and pride. My skating coaches and my ice skating friends were my family during those years and it felt wonderful to have people who knew me so well supporting me on and off the ice.
GETTING BACK ON THE ICE AFTER FALLING
Knowing that I had to get back on the ice after falling and continuing my performance with a smile during competition was probably the hardest thing I had to do at the time. The feeling of disappointment I would feel if I didn’t do a perfect program during competition would consume me sometimes. Sometimes I felt that I let myself down and everyone around me who put so much effort into my training. I eventually learned not to put so much pressure on myself and enjoy the extraordinary life experience I was given. I wanted to just be in the moment when I skated.
MY MEMORABLE PERFORMANCE
There is one performance as a teenager that I always remember and dream about often. It was my Middle Atlantics performance at Sky Rink in Chelsea piers. I remember wearing this simple but elegant light blue dress and skating to this beautiful classical music that my coach picked out. Still remember feeling so nervous at this big competition and I had worked so hard on my confidence and athletic power to execute the program to the best of my ability.
I can still visualize my coach sitting at the box watching me skate and just telling me to relax and enjoy myself on the ice. That day, I completed the performance I am most proud of. I just remember taking each spin and jump one at a time and moving through the program with confidence and grace. I wanted to skate because I loved the sport and how it made me feel, not just to win a medal. At the end, when I did my final spin and stopped, I saw my coach cheering and my mother jumping up and down. I actually did win a medal that day and it was a huge accomplishment for me. It was a day I would never forget. I still get emotional thinking about it.
HOW SKATING HELPED ME
When I was going through a rough transition a few years ago, my mind would often go back to that moment so I could remind myself how self-assured I felt that day and that I could accomplish anything in life. I started to go back to the ice rink and skate by myself and my daughter to get back to that determined person I was all those years ago. I found strength again in doing something that I relish and brought me so much happiness.
This past summer, I had the pleasure of watching my daughter skate with one of my old coaches and watching her take to the ice as did all those years ago was a surreal moment. I never had the chance to go to the Olympics or the World Championships but I am blessed that I found something in my life that I will always cherish and will always be a part of the woman I am today. I wanted to thank all of the amazing people I met and became an important part of my life while I was figure skating. You will never know how much you all mean to me.