In the Steel City, Pittsburgh skaters have the edge. Just ask 21-year-old Slippery Rock University senior Stephanie Clark of McDonald, Pa. who began skating just two weeks before her fifth birthday. In this week’s “Skater’s spotlight,” Clark, a collegiate member of U.S. Figure Skating working toward a degree in Journalism and a minor in Sports Management, shares how she got involved in figure skating, her goals and what she loves most about the sport.
Q: How did you get started skating?
A: I got started skating because I did not want to go to preschool and my parents weren't going to make me, so they felt that I still needed to get involved in something to be around other children and away from them all the time. We went to dance classes and I thought those were boring, and any other sport where I got dirty was just out of the question. One day we went to the Iceoplex [at Southpointe] and watched a freestyle session; following that, Kristi Yamaguchi was on television and I fell in love with her. That was all it took and my parents signed me up for the next set of group lessons.
Q: Who are your coaches?
A: Currently, with college and being away from home so much, I am not with a coach on a regular basis, but when I am, most of my lessons and training is done with Carrie Smilowitz with a few pointers from another coach, Joy Gaffney.
Q: How often do you skate?
A: I am skating as much as I can get on the ice when I am home from college. When I am at school, I focus on running track and cross-country for Slippery Rock University. Right now, though, skating has taken more precedence due to landing an audition with Disney On Ice.
Q: Where do you train?
A: My home rink is the Iceoplex at Southpointe, but I also skate out of Valley Sports Complex.
Q: What are your favorite skating elements?
A: My favorite skating elements would have to be a double flip jump, a combination spin consisting of a camel-layback-back sit-back tuck behind, a flying camel-illusion spin and footwork sequences.
Q: What are your highest skating tests passed?
A: I have passed my Senior moves in the field, Senior free skate and gold dance tests.
Q: Do you have any notable skating awards, test/competition medals or accomplishments?
A: I have a total of 81 medals and ribbons that I have earned over my competitive skating career as well as three individual trophies and one club trophy. Among those medals are some that stand out more than others, including the ones that led me out of the initial round to the middle round and then to final round at the South Atlantic Regional Championships. It was from there that I qualified to go on to Junior Nationals and compete against the top 36 girls in the country at the Juvenile level.
Q: What skating moment are you most proud of?
A: I actually have two skating moments that I am most proud of: When I qualified from regionals to advance to Junior Nationals and, more recently, when I found out that I was invited to do a personal audition with Disney On Ice.
Q: What are your short-term skating goals?
A: As of now, the upcoming audition is weighing pretty heavily on me, so I am brushing up on all my skills and taking the necessary time to practice each individual element hoping that when the day comes, the hours, effort and passion that I have put in will pay off in some way or another. My fingers are crossed and I hope that there is enough to spark an interest.
Q: What are your long-term skating goals?
A: No matter what happens in the end, skating will always be a part of me and I will never be able to give it up or push it aside. It is my life and one thing that has always been there for me no matter what I am going through. It is my release and my escape; no matter what may be bothering me, I am able to take the ice and forget about it. I never want to lose the feeling that I have as soon as I take the ice.
Q: What do you love most about skating?
A: I love that no matter what is on my mind, what kind of day I had or how I am feeling, as soon as I step on the ice everything just escapes my mind. Skating is so refreshing and it is a way for me to get away from everything. When it is time to come off the ice, I leave feeling better than what I did when I got there. Not only is skating a good workout but it is an outlet for me to be me and skate my heart out.
Q: Who is your favorite skater?
A: My all-time favorite skater is Kristi Yamaguchi who won the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: I run track and cross-country at Slippery Rock University where I am also a member of its Honors Program. I will be graduating in May and completing an internship both this spring and summer for my major and minor. I currently work for Adidas and Body Systems Fitness, and I babysit, coach private lessons and coach group lessons when I am home from college. When I am at school, I am a FYRST Seminar Peer Leader and Rock Blogger. I have worked for the CBS Sports Network as a Campus Rep. My family has been there for me through everything and has stood behind me no matter what I have decided to do or where I may end up. My dad especially has devoted so much of his time to my skating career. He was an ice monitor at the rink, made sure I got to all my lessons and practices on time and was willing to do anything he could to help.
Pittsburgh Ice Skating Examiner wants to feature local figure skaters with a Pittsburgh connection. If you’re interested in being featured in an upcoming “Skater’s spotlight,” visit the “Notes” tab at www.facebook.com/PittsburghIceSkatingExaminer and submit your fully-completed questionnaire along with at least one photograph of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses may be edited for content, length and quality.