The Kids Who Would Be Olympians
It is always thrilling to watch the figure-skating competition at the Winter Olympics: the speed, the grace, the way the men and women skaters make it look so easy and natural. And when the slow-mo camera zooms in on spins and jumps, it seems like the skaters defy gravity.Skip to next paragraph
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But the road to the Olympics is a long and difficult one. It takes years of dedication and practice. And only the tiniest fraction of skaters ever get there. Two young skaters who someday hope to compete in the Olympics spoke with the Monitor about their lives on and off the ice.
WHEN most junior high students are still in bed, or just sitting down to breakfast before the school day starts, Michelle Cho and Derrick Delmore have already laced up their ice skates and are at the rink practicing spins and jumps. Michelle leaves her house at 5:30 in the morning and is skating by 6:00. Derrick is out the door at 6:30. By 7:00, ice is sparkling on the blades of his skates.
Needless to say, Derrick and Michelle love to skate.
Getting up early each morning is no chore at all for either of them. Both young skaters, Michelle (age 12) and Derrick (age 13) competed last month in the novice division of the United States Figure Skating Championships in Orlando, Fla.
Seeing them in competition, though, where each cuts an impressive figure, is only part of their story. For every minute they are on the ice at the National Championships there were hours and days and weeks of practice. For both of them, each day is packed with things to do.
During an interview, however, neither of them is so busy that they forget to express their thanks to their parents. It is mom and dad who make sure they get back and forth from skating practice to school each day and keep up with homework, who travel with them to skating competitions, cheer them on when they win, and encourage them if they fall.
Michelle skates at the Orange County Figure Skating Club in California and lives in Costa Mesa, Calif. Derrick skates at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center in Alexandria, Va., and lives in Fort Washington, Md.
Michelle knew she wanted to be a skater when she was seven years old. She saw "Walt Disney's World on Ice" and that was it. At the time she lived in New Orleans. She became so involved in skating that when the local ice rink closed, her family moved to California and enrolled her in a private school and a skating club. They even hired a private tutor to help her with her school work (she gets straight A's). Her favorite subjects are math and reading. "I read all the time when I am not skating or in scho ol," she says.
Michelle is like a butterfly when she skates. Her spins look effortless, as if she were on a cloud rather than ice. An average day of skating for her means five hours of practice. And though she weighs just over 90 pounds - with her skates on - she has a black belt in tae kwon do, a Korean form of martial arts. Ask Michelle why she takes tae kwon do, and she explains that it helps her develop coordination, stamina, and balance. It also gives her a better sense of her Korean heritage.
Her skating coach, John Nicks, is confident she has the talent to be a national champion. Mr. Nicks is recognized as one of the leading US figure skating coaches.
In addition to Michelle, one of his "star pupils" is Christopher Bowman, the current US national champion. "I am glad [Michelle] came to Orlando so that she can get the experience to skate in the main arena, see and experience the atmosphere and the environment she'll be competing in one day," Nicks says. Later that day Michelle won first place in Novice Ladies Free Skating.