Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On The Edge of a New Beginning

It is early morning. A mother sits alone in the dark of an ice hall watching her young skater in practice. A father stands by the boards. They stare intently at their child who is learning a new jump or spin. While their eyes are laser focused, their thoughts wander.

“Can I afford this?”

“Did I do the right thing?”

They are lost in their thoughts while watching every movement, every attempt; every fall. It is their dream. It is their child’s dream. No matter what, they are going to make it happen. If they have to work two jobs, they are going to make it happen.

The mother hurries the child off the ice at the end of the session. School starts in less than an hour. The father does the same. They cannot be late to work, even if they want to stay and absorb it all –validate what they know in their hearts to be true. They are sacrificing so much, but it doesn’t matter now. It’s their child. It’s a dream.

Yes, this could be your rink. It was ours. This could be your life. It was ours. But I’m not talking about you, or me. I’m talking about a universal experience all of us as skating parents share at one time or another. It is what binds us; sometimes it is what divides us. But either way, it is what makes all of us part of a very special family, no matter where we live.

I’m telling you this because I want you to understand how truly alike we are, no matter what our culture or country. Skating, like smiling, is a universal language – instantly recognized and understood. There are no barriers; no cultural differences.

Last week, I was asked to assist some young skaters in the Republic of Moldova. If you’re not familiar with Moldova, you are not alone. I wasn’t, either.
From Wikipedia: “Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe located between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991 as part of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “

Initially, the request came in the form of an email from my Moldovian/Russian journalist friend, Vlad:

“Hi Allison! I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you but I'd like to ask you one thing. The country where I live, Republic of Moldova (Moldavia) now organizes its own figure skating federation. I also involved in this issue. I have a double citizenship - Russia and Moldova. And now we are looking for some help from already developed skating countries. I just wanted to ask maybe you know some skating club in the US or some organization which can help us with skating equipment (I mean not new - some used or like "second-hand")? Actually we appreciate any help. If it's possible somehow, of course.”

Vlad told me that the club has skaters from the ages of 5 to 13, and a few non-competitive adult skaters, too. Right now, they are all girls, but with support they’re sure boys will follow since figure skating is very popular in Europe.

“Vlad - you know I am always happy to help anything that promotes skating,” I wrote. “Here’s an idea: Why not create a "Sister Cities" skating club connection? “

“I definitely love your idea about creation a sister cities connection!” Vlad replied, “Presently we have only young skaters in our club, but we hope that they will grow in mastery. Also, we plan to invite some competitive skaters from other countries (who fills unappreciated, for example) to compete for Moldova (we allow double citizenship), when ISU will confirmed our federation. Hope it will take place at this summer's ISU congress. We hope to do all bureaucratic things before summer with our Ministry of Sport. Could you ask those skating clubs what they think about the idea of Sister Cities?”

My thought: I’ll do better than that. I’ll blog about it.

Polina Stepankina

We all share a dream. It doesn’t matter if it is in the USA, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, the Philippines, Turkey, Thailand or Moldova. Everywhere around the world, parents are sitting in the stands watching their children do something they truly love. Everywhere around the world there are parents who know they need to help make a dream come true, no matter what the cost; no matter how hard they have to work to get there. Moldova or Moline. It’s all the same. We’re all the same. We love the art and sport of figure skating and we will do everything in our power to make sure we continue the legacy of the sport. If it is with our skater, that’s an honor. If it is without, there is no loss. Skating is a lesson in life and a lesson in passion. It is our job to preserve it. It is our obligation to show the young ones coming up that these are more than ice lessons, they are life lessons.

I’ve never asked for help before, but I am asking now. Reach out across borders to the Axel Skating club of Tiraspol, Moldova. Help these young skaters, and the people who are trying so hard to get their program off the ground, by contacting them with any level of support you can give. If you have outgrown practice outfits, skates, costumes – anything in good condition that would encourage these young kids to keep skating – help them out. Become pen pals. Have your skaters learn about life in Moldova. Teach them about life in your city or town. Help make the world smaller by showing how big your heart is.

We are on the cusp of Worlds and I’m sitting here talking about something seemingly unrelated. But it really isn’t - not if you think about it. This could not be more relevant. Next week, many of us will be focused on France; the Axel Skating Club will be preparing to compete in Odessa while continuing to plan the hosting their first competition in their new rink later this year. Nerves will be on edge; expectations will be high. Emotions will be worn on sleeves. There will be victors and there will be disappointments. It doesn’t matter the venue; the stakes are great. It is what makes our sport so compelling.
How to Help: If your skater, or your club, wants to be part of this wonderful process, please contact my friend Vlad at this email. Just as he reached out to me, return the favor. Contact him and start the conversation. We are sending things – not only for the young girls, but for the boys we know they will have in the months to come. Make a difference. Let those parents sitting in the stands or standing at the boards in Tiraspol know they are not alone. We’ve all been there. It is our shared experience and it knows no bounds.

Videos of young Moldovian skaters competing in Nesquick Cup, in Poland last January.


To learn more, follow World Figure Skating online sports edition, the news  and general information sponsor of the Axel Skating Club and the future Figure Skating Federation of Moldova.


  1. Thank you very much, Allison! Skating is really amazing world with amazing people!

  2. I absolutely LOVE that their club includes non-competitive adult skaters as well.

    Thanks for blogging about this. I hope they are able to get ISU recognition, and lots of support. I think there are similar situations like this across the globe, and the sport as a whole doesn't make it easy for federations to develop. (I've actually been reading articles by a former skater, now cyclist talking about the difficulty of emerging nations to be able to field teams at the Olympics. I imagine it is just as difficult for skating.)

    I'll bring this up to my club soon.

  3. Done! Thanks for the post I'll get our club on it right away and we have great boy stuff waiting for a home, it would be good for teens or adult men. Been waiting for something like this. :)

  4. This is awesome on so many levels!!! And I am very, very excited to hear that they have adult skaters too (and someone keep encouraging those adults just as much as the children!). Vlad, I'll be contacting you soon regardless of whether my club gets involved or not (but I hope they do!).

  5. Wow, thank you everyone! The important thing now is putting words into action. It doesn't even have to be a club; one individual with an open heart can truly make a world of difference! Keep spreading the word. Help as you can. Learn more about these youngsters and the country they call home. THIS is what skating is really about.

  6. Thank you all very, very, very much for your support! This world is beautiful because of such people like you and because of kind hearts like yours!

  7. http://technorati.com/sports/article/why-united-states-is-really-great/ And thank you, Vlad, for this wonderful article on Technorati. While some journalists may be jaded, we know skating friends and fans in Russia, and all over the world, are not. They are there to help any skater who needs it - no matter where they are from. Skating is like smiling; it's the universal language of sport.

  8. This blog brought me to tears as just this morning I watched my daughter land her first double and wondered what next, can we afford more lessons, can we do what it takes to help her fulfull that dream of hers? We have some dresses she just outgrew and probably sooner than I like some skates. I will share this blog and contact Vlad to see what we can do as well. My nine year old will be very excited about helping-she loves this sort of thing. We will do what we can to spread the word. Thanks!

  9. Canadian Skating MomMarch 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    I have some girls skating dresses and a couple of adult skating pants (from a skinnier incarnation of me) that I'd be very happy to send off. My 10 year-old will be very happy to think of a little girl across the world skating in her clothes. Thanks for the opportunity to do this. :)

  10. Dear Ms Scott(aka JA's Mom)~

    Hope you and your skater have a great time in Nice at Worlds. I enjoy your blog and love to watch your skater on the ice.

    ... and because I'm sure you don't have nearly enough strangers sending you random internet links:

    TED Talk: Elizabeth Gilbert -- A New Way to Think about Creativity (author of "Eat, Pray, Love")~18min

    ( Blog reader and skating fan TCollins from Silver Spring, MD.)

  11. Sent this link to the Chicago Sister Cities program; I hope they'll have some resources that your friend can use!