Journeys allow us to travel from one place to another. Either that be physically across terrains or mentally through our imagination, nevertheless the type of journey, it is what the journey does to us that is the most important of all *** June, 1999, overseas trials – Blacktown Ice Arena, Sydney. The seats are packed, the change rooms full with ice skating teams checking last minute checkups – Hair, make up, tights, costumes, and skates! And as the tope NSW junior team the “Ice crystals” stand in a huddle five minutes before we skate, I remember back to when we first skated as a synchronized ice skating team.
I remember learning the routines, those early morning practices with the on – ice fights over the smallest things. Where the coaches are yelling at us to skate faster, bend your knees, use those edges, heads up, ultimately to bring us to our goal, to skate as one. Oh and offcourse to win gold at nationals to get the opportunity to skate overseas in Italy. But it is not about just winning gold and going overseas, it is more than that. It’s that feeling that you get just before an exam or a really important job interview, where your stomach clenches up and everything squirms inside.
You feel like you are going to be sick and then just before you have time to react. Before all that food you didn’t eat that morning can come out, you step on that ice, or start that exam or begin that interview, and all the anxiety begins to disappear. It’s like something inside of you has flicked the on switch and your body is doing what it is meant to do, as if you had practices it a hundred times. Then, just as quickly as it all began, its over. Nothing you can do can possibly change the result now. It is all out of your hands. So why do we do it?
Why do we put our bodies through hours of vigorous exercise for five minutes on the ice which will determine how good you are compared to the rest of Australia, the world even? Where one wrong move, one step out of place, and your dreams are over for the year? It is simple really when you think about it. We do it because we love it. We love to skate, not only the learning of the routines, and practicing them til they are perfect, but also the joy in watching other teams skate. The feeling you get from being apart of a team. Where everyone is valued and contributes in some way or another.
Where, I am able to be of benefit to others. Personally though, skating is much more than that. More than words can wield the matter. The freedom, where nothing else matters; as every time I step on the ice, the choice where I can be whatever I want to be. It is how I imagine a bird feels when it takes flight. Where you skate with your heart and before anyone else is able to believe in you, you already believe in yourself. The before you know it those limitation you thought you have, do not exist. All of a sudden a cold breeze wisps through the door, and glides across my face.
A shiver is sent down my spine and my knees begin to shake. Sarah whispers in my ear, “I think its time”. I look in her eyes and I see fear beginning to wash all over her, as if she has just stepped out into a storm. Then I remember what someone once told me before skating my gold medal performance two years prior: “People that never try never fall. But they will never fly either”. And just as it had reassured me, relief swept over her and that childish grin she has cracked across her face and I knew that she was going to be alright.
Then someone walked into the change room and was ushering our team out. The marks of the previous team were being announced over the P. A. system, but my mind was concentrating so hard on what I was about to do that the words just washed over me in a jumble of letters and numbers that didn’t connect and disappeared from my memory. The crowd begins to cheer, as my team is announced as the next team to skate. In the mass of the clapping and screams, our team steps onto the ice. My blade glides across its smooth surface and then that beautiful moment ccurs, between skater and audience. Where the audience sits in anticipation of what they are about to see, and even those parents who have seen the program skated over a hundred times, watch with anticipating eyes as if they are watching for the very first time. As our whole team waits for the music to begin, something changes in us to. We are no longer about to skat this program one more time; we are now performers about to give the audience the best show they have even seen. Where, every inch of our body is working simultaneously; heads, feets, and arms.
Where, you prepare yourself for what you are about to do. Where, you trust the people around you to do what they are meant to do. And when, everyone does it all so it matches, and we manage to pull off an amazing move. With that butterfly feeling you get which makes the pain you are meant to be feeling in your legs go away. Where, your body pushes harder than it has ever before in practice and you feel almost silly for wishing upon that star to skate well, because as a team we have just reached into the heavens and written our own destiny.
Just like before, it was all over. Time begins to tick away again, as if it had paused to watch our performance in anticipation along with the audience. The crowd roars with approval. We step off the ice and stand close together, our bodies now beginning to feel the pain of what they have just endured. Then the marks appear, and for a split moment we stand frozen as if in shock of our own achievement. Then the tears begin to fall, as the realisation of what has just occurred dawns upon us.
It was the best year of my skating careers. Every time I struggle just walking down the street, or when I am at physio and the pain becomes almost unbearable. I remember back to that year in 1999, and my body is filled with determination. It is as thought I have the energy to push myself harder, so I can recover that little bit quicker, so I can skate once again. As nothing will happen; my dreams wont come true; if I forget where I started in the first place, and ultimately where I will once again be.