Let me explain..
After you've been around the block - or the rink, in this case - for a number of years, you get to know A LOT of people. I look back at the skaters we've known since they were six or seven years old; the ones who are still competing and who care so deeply about this sport. Regardless of the discipline in which they now compete, I remember them as fresh faced young children, wide-eyed with the overwhelming responsibility of presenting their pre-pre or juv programs. I remember, too, the skaters who were so fearsome in those days. I wonder where some of them are now - probably doctors, lawyers or teachers, both on and off the ice.
- I remember a young boy from Denver who was on the same practice ice as our skater years ago in Pueblo. He was juvenile then and had just learned his single axel. Our skater was preliminary (moving up since there was no competition at pre-preliminary). That young boy is now a grown man and one of the best young choreographers in the business, after having had a long and successful career as a competitor. I cherish all those years of knowing him and his wonderful mother and lifelong coach.
- I remember two brothers at pre-juv who took great pleasure in double-teaming competitors on practice ice, obstructing every move.
- I remember some tall, blonde kid who "dared" to skate with gloves on when one simply didn't do that. Everyone was so convinced he was going to be the next, great Olympic skater, until the next season he disappeared from the sport.
- I remember the skater whose dad bought an RV so they could travel coast-to-coast just to compete; school meant nothing to them. He competed about two years before everyone lost track of him.
- I remember a DV dad who rode in an elevator with us in Buffalo and managed to completely intimidate me between floors 1 and 2. I actually don't wonder where he is.
- I remember an incredible dinner in Vail where our skater discovered lobster, thanks to a competitor's amazing dad. And I remember how devastated we all were when, a few years later, this kind, sweet and caring man was killed in a car accident.
- I remember a wonderfully talented young boy whose parents were both musicians with the symphony in Phoenix, and another talented skater from that club who mesmerized everyone each time he stepped on the ice. I have no idea where they are now.
- I remember a sweet young boy from Santa Fe. He was a wonderful singles skater who went on to compete dance until we lost track of him. His parents had to drive him many miles from where they lived so he could train. For years, we would meet in Denver and give him costumes. His mom gave me a "Dream Catcher" that I still have.
- I remember a young man from our own club in Aspen who was one of the greatest entertainers on the ice. He competed singles and pairs in those days. Now, he's a businessman in China and extremely successful.
- And, I remember another wonderful young man from Aspen who was - and still is - one of the most highly decorated and recognized athletes in Special Olympics. He and his parents recently came to visit me at work in Colorado Springs. He is still an inspiration.
Where did I begin? Oh, yes..
I was watching Sectionals on Ice Net tonight after a long and very emotional day. I perused the list of competitors in Senior Men, watching many whom I have known since they were six or seven. The fresh-faced adolescents of those summers long ago are now all grown up. They still compete because they truly love this insane sport. They've come a long way. So have we.