Hi, I’m Chloe! I’m a 16 year old ice dancer from Portland, Oregon living in the Detroit area. I moved to Michigan to pursue my ice dance goals in 2014. I train 5 days a week preparing for competition season and my ultimate dream is to become an Olympian ( although I try to focus on where i’m at now and not get TOO ahead of myself). I’m passionate about art, reading, music, writing, dancing and being happy. When i’m not training, I’m probably listening to records (specifically Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones). I’m also obsessed with Ben and Jerry’s, plants and solo dance parties. Below are some of my diary entries from the past couple months. This is my story; what it’s like to be a girl, a teenager, and a Team USA ice dancer all at once. I hope you enjoy!
A Full Day of Training, April 8th
On an average morning I would have probably been awake at 6 am, but today I’m finally finished with online school for the year, so I actually slept in! I live within walking distance of the ice rink where I train, so I walked there and still had enough time to do an off ice warm-up before ballroom dance class. We have ballroom class because a big focus of ice dance is the dancing! Every season we have a different short dance “theme”, and the free dance is basically whatever you want to skate to, but it has to have an audible rhythm. Free dance is really fun and I LOVE that part of our program. Anyways, the short dance theme this year is blues and swing, so in ballroom class we are learning some swing movements which we will then bring to the ice and incorporate into our choreography. After ballroom we got on the ice and had a lesson with some of our coaches.
Towards the end of the lesson, I must have started to stiffen up because my coach got frustrated with my body movement. It can be really tough sometimes to learn new choreography and try to do it well enough to please our coaches on the first day, because they have very high expectations. After that lesson our day on the ice was over, and I went into the locker room feeling kinda discouraged and mostly frustrated. We had ballet after with Nikolai, who is a former ballerina from the Bolshoi Theatre in Russia. After ballet, we had our final 45 minutes of training with our coach Oleg. Oleg was an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil, so if you couldn’t tell, our coaching team is pretty incredible! I finished the day physically and mentally exhausted, but after I ate I felt much better ( I can get quite, “hangry”). I finished the day by going to watch a friend in an aerial show, which was a blast, and now here I am! I have an exam tomorrow morning and then I have to run to get on the ice.
Old Friends/New Friends, April 12th
Drifting away from friends is painful. Many people have strong friendships purely through technology and social media, but ever since I moved away I have lost consistent communication with the majority of my friends in Portland. When I visit we are as close as ever, but because our lives have taken off in such exciting directions, we’re all preoccupied. I completely understand, but my world here in Michigan is quite small at the moment. I’ve only done online school since I first moved here for skating. I have made some incredible friends who I train with every day, but these friendships can’t replace what I had with Portland friends.
Over time, there are a few people in Michigan that I have really gotten to know. Interestingly enough, I think that if we had grown up together and gone to school together we probably wouldn’t have become friends. But skating has brought us together, and I feel very grateful for that. These friends might not be exactly like my Portland friends, but these friends are people who I’ve learned to trust, whom I’ve spent hours of my life with; doubled over on the floor with laughter. These friends have also gotten to know me for who I really am, and I have gotten to know them. My friends in Portland know me from years of friendship, similarities and interests, but I think there’s something special about the bond I have with my friends in Michigan. We share really unique connections because we’re all so different. We‘ve gotten to know each other in broader ways, starting with where we came from; anywhere from Russia to Germany to California.
Blessings in Disguise, May 10th
Today started out stressful but ended on a positive note. I woke up to the bad news that the music we had wanted to skate to was denied. We were SO excited to skate to this song, so when we heard back that it wouldn’t work, I was thoroughly disappointed. The song was cool, sensual, mysterious, and perfect. To make matters worse, it’s also pretty late in the season to be changing our music… we have our first competition of the season in a month.
This news pretty much started my day with tears of frustration, but then my mom shared an article from the New York Times with me; about a young boy with cancer that can’t be cured. Hearing a devastating story of literal life and death put my music struggles into perspective. I got to the rink with fear of what my coach would say, ( because he also loved our music). Luckily, he was frustrated but handled the news well, and we joked around about the whole situation.
Within minutes I mostly moved on and we started listening to other music options. It’s still a pretty stressful scenario to me, but I know that soon we will have new music and it will be wonderful. I try to tell myself that little things like this are (although difficult to admit at the moment) blessings in disguise. Why? Well…the fact that this is something of MAJOR concern in my little reality means that I literally could not be luckier in life. I’m pretty fortune for this to be one of my biggest problems. The “tragic” day came and went!
Honestly, Athletes Struggle, May 16th
I feel like I’m portraying a life that is generally stressful and upsetting, but that’s not how it is! My life is incredible. I feel so unbelievably lucky to have the opportunities I do, and 98% of the time I AM a happy, bubbly girl. However, I think athletes always portray a strong, put together image for the public, but it’s not the full truth. Olympic athletes need to show mental and physical strength to the public in order to motivate and inspire the aspiring athletes of the world. I know this firsthand, because I train alongside some of the best in the world. And athletes do work just as hard as the media portrays, but everyone has their struggles throughout training. Those stories just don’t get shared with the public.
I’m not one of the best athletes in the world by any means, but that is one of my goals, and I hope to share the truth of my journey along the way. So I hope I don’t come off as ungrateful, negative, or as though I don’t love what I’m doing. Of course I love it! In order to dedicate most of your life to something, you absolutely have to be in love with whatever that is. But, back to my original point: the great majority of the time I am completely joyous, full of laughter, and reflecting on just how lucky I am. But I think writing about that over and over might get boring or seem pretentious, because I know we all have an enormous range of emotions even throughout a single day.
Like I said, I don’t want to be sharing with you things you’ve already seen, heard, or read about athletes. I hope to share a very raw and honest perspective. So far, for the 6 years I have skated I’ve had the MOST incredible experiences. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many states in America for competitions, as well as Mexico, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, and Norway! Arriving in these amazing places to represent the U.S. is extremely gratifying, but I’m always striving for bigger and better things. Part of the striving is enduring constant highs, lows and difficult setbacks.
Taking It Personally, May 18th
Some days are hard. Sometimes people are grumpy and it affects me more than it should. I don’t know why, but I am deeply affected by other people’s emotions. It is pretty intense… when I’m on the road and someone honks or gives me a dirty look, I’ll think about it for the rest of my drive. So being in such a close knit community means if my coaches are in a funk, it really gets to me. Some days my coaches bring their emotions from personal life onto the ice, just like anyone else does. I respect that 100%, of course, but it also changes the entire dynamic of the training day. For instance, if a coach is not in a good mood all the skaters warn each other about it in the locker room before lessons: that way we all go into the day with our emotional guards up.
I think that for some skaters it’s easier to not be affected by harsh coaching because they can better compartmentalize their emotions, For me, it’s not so easy. I am strong, and I am also emotional and vulnerable. These are qualities that I wouldn’t change if given a choice, but sometimes it makes training harder.
To train, it’s important to block out my emotional vulnerability so I can stay focused on the feedback I get. On the other hand, as a dancer and an athlete it’s important to tune into my emotions so I can dance with passion and feeling. It’s a bit tough to balance these, but I think I am getting better at it daily. I want so badly to prove to myself and to my coaches that I can do it, whatever it may be. I’m working on understanding that everything takes time to develop, yet all of us can get heated in the moment and say things we don’t mean. Coaches can snap, I can cry, and everyone doubts themselves and their abilities. I am working so hard on improving my training mindset and consequently improving as an ice dancer.
Almost Vacation, May 21st
Everyone is getting ready to leave for vacation. All the skaters take vacations at the same time every year, and it feels a bit cult-ish, but cute. I love it. Those of us remaining will all be gone by Saturday.
I went to the rink for a couple hours, had lift training, three more hours of on-ice training, and finished with a workout. We worked through rough areas of our new free dance routine and fixed a bit of the choreography. It’s so gratifying when things work perfectly; the music, timing, and each other. It’s a little hard to explain without showing, but you get the idea. After a difficult workout I was completely wiped out but satisfied, and slowly walked home surrounded by happy animals and beautiful weather. I counted 6 geese, 3 birds, a duck, and 3 squirrels all on my walk home; yes I’m easily amused!!
After dinner with my aunt and mama, I realized something on the drive home. Suddenly it felt like everything was going wrong! I realized me and my partner Logan still didn’t have music for our short dance, and our flash drive with thousands of songs was missing, Logan had planned college orientation and would be M.I.A. soon. Our upcoming competition started to feel kind of doomed.
In an effort to do some damage control, we swooped into Logan’s apartment complex and he walked out in his PJs. We had a very stressful conversation about all the problems, found the flash drive, and got nowhere on the other problems. How is it that even when I’m not on the ice, skating still takes over?! Writing this, I find myself getting slightly tight in the chest, as it reminds me of the unsolved problems. Also, there’s quite a bit of stress and tension between me and Logan, so skating with him might be kind of difficult tomorrow. It’ll be hard for me to reach out and be a good friend on the ice. BUT, I remind myself that I’m strong, and that I can push myself to work through my emotions. Wish me luck.. ahhh!