Hello and thanks for tuning into our blog once again! This blog is written by Josh, but, as always, is double checked by Jessica.
The last time we wrote a blog, Jessica just dislocated her left knee. This was after a diagnosis of arthritis in her right foot, herniated discs in my neck, and my return from tears in both of my feet. The injury bug was eating us alive mid-season, but we kept our chins up and looked forward to being back in competition.
Our first competition this year was not until September; Southwest Florida Fall Classic. At this point we had only returned to training for a few weeks following Jessica’s knee injury, so we decided to do our program with double jumps and just get our feet wet. Doing an event like this serves the purpose of getting valuable feedback from the judges on the layout of the program and on all the leveled elements; even if it is as late in the season as September. After Fall Classic we did not have anything planned until November, so I went to California to visit my Grandfather, who was not feeling well.
The night I arrived in California we went straight from the airport to see my Grandfather, he told us that he was not doing well and he was not sure how much longer he had left. He passed away the next day. Although it was sad to see him go, it was a blessing to see him one last time before he passed away. On top of that, he had fought through 9 years of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, heart problems, and many other health issues that had him in debilitating pain. When I talked to him the night before he died, he knew that his clock had run out and he had come to terms with it. He lived a full, happy life and was loved by everyone he met. Grandpa always encouraged me to chase my dreams and even as he talked to me the day before that fateful day, he inquired about my future and my skating. I knew that he wanted me to do what I love and love what I do.
I returned back from my trip in California ready to train for our next event: the newly-formatted US Pairs Final in Allen, Texas. After a long history of injuries holding us back for the last few years, we were finally able to stay healthy enough to train! The last two seasons had not been kind to us and we went in to the Pair Final with a goal of skating well regardless of outcome. Consistent training and having the time to actually build our programs paid off, for the first time in two seasons we put together two programs that we could be proud of. Were they perfect? Far from it, but they at least represented what we were capable of. We finished about a point out of first and had ourselves set up to ride a wave of momentum into the US Championships.
The few weeks following the Pair Final were a period of rest combined with still keeping our bodies ready. Sure, we did not come back and run programs full-out right away, but we were still doing our elements, doing watered down run-throughs, and preparing for our annual Christmas show. We have both always loved to do the Christmas show at the rink because it gives us an opportunity to present ourselves artistically without the constraints of a judging system to tell us how to present ourselves. Unfortunately, last season Jessica had to do the show on her own due to my injuries. Funny as it may seem though, I remember the day after I hurt my right foot last season I came in to do walk-throughs of our Christmas program off the ice because I was hoping I could still do the show; it really means a lot for us to do those shows under the spotlights for our friends and family to see. Because of the artistic nature of the show, our programs have always been a hit and this year we got to close out the show for the very first time. We finally made it to a point where we can be the stars at our own rink and in our community and I think that means a lot to both of us.
Somehow, on the final lift of our Christmas show program (our star carry), I injured my right wrist. I am not sure why or how it got injured on this lift, but I did not even notice it until I got off the ice. My wrist had been bothering me leading up to the show, but all of a sudden after the show I could not even take my skates off without pain. I went to the doctor and he said it was probably tendonitis, but could not be sure without an MRI. Of course, I do not have health insurance (What am I, a billionaire?), so I skipped out on treatment and just did some physical therapy that I found online to treat my wrist. Combined with a couple weeks off of lifts and anything else that hurt it (pretty much everything; initially even jumping and spinning hurt), I worked my way back up to health. If you may have noticed at the US Championships, Jessica and I had matching tape on our right wrists because she also has tendonitis along with a ganglion cyst.
Despite our wrist issues and Jessica’s lingering arthritis issues, we went in to the US Championships as healthy as we ever have. Just like before the US Pairs Final, we were able to build our training so that we could peak properly for competition. We showed up for competition with one goal in mind: skate well. We wanted to skate for ourselves in Greensboro, we wanted to show off the improvements we’ve made over the last two years, we wanted to put out programs that we were proud of, but most importantly we wanted to heed the advice my Grandfather gave me; to love what we do.
Every practice in Greensboro was fantastic, we hardly missed a beat at all. We did the most elements during run-throughs of any team there because we treated it just like a normal training week. We built up our confidence and prepared ourselves for the short program. When we stepped out for our six-minute warm-up it was our first time on the arena ice, our first time placing our blades on the ice we were to compete on. The warm-up was a whirlwind, we hit the sals, but uncharacteristically missed the throw loop. We circled around again for another attempt and still we had a step-out. I told Jessica not to worry about it because I knew that adrenaline would help. After the warm-up we got off the ice until it was our turn to do our program. Stepping back on the ice, waiting for our names to be called I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m here… All this work to get back and I’m finally here.”. We set into our opening position and I imagined myself in my character’s shoes. We each went through the program methodically, thinking of our key words and using our time spent with our sports psychologist to our advantage. Although there was room for improvement on some of the small stuff, we did a program we could be proud of and set ourselves up nicely for the free skate.
Initially I did not like our free skate draw (we drew first in our warm-up), but in hindsight I am glad we ended up where we did; it gave me less time to get antsy in between the warm-up and the program. The next day we had practice and we did almost a full free skate, a far cry from what the other teams were doing. Everything went well except that I doubled my toe in the run-through, but I went back and did it just fine. The day of the free skate everything went as planned and we had a great 20-minute warm-up for the event as well. Skating first in our group meant that we had to move through our six-minute warm-up rather quickly so that we would have time to breathe before we competed. We crossed patterns with another team on our warm-up going into our triple toes and had to circle around to do it; the next time we went into it, again we were close to someone and I still pulled mine off, but Jessica went down. I told her not to worry about it and we carried on to a good warm-up the rest of the way.
Once again, I found myself waiting for our names to be called, feeling so very present in the moment. I took a deep breath as we entered our starting pose and counted out our movements every step of the way. As I went into our triple toe combination, the thoughts of my mistake on our practice ice the day before flooded my brain. I could not risk doubling the way that I did yesterday, I thought to myself. I started off correctly with my key words, but right before I took-off I only thought of “pull in”. I did pull in on the jump, but because I was so focused on pulling in, I never thought about when to come out. I fell, seemingly for no reason on replay, except for that I just did not come out in time. I got up quicker than I thought was possible, and got back into the program without missing a beat (sans the beat when my butt was on the ice). We got the twist done, smoothly did the axel lasso, and I approached my triple sal knowing that this was where I was to reclaim the program. I wanted to show that I had changed from the boy who let mistakes domino to the man who moved on and had learned to conquer his doubts. We both completed the salchows well and moved throughout the next parts of the program with ease; the death spiral and the pair spin were both done to our liking, the throw was an incredible improvement from the pair final and the reverse lasso was probably our best lift in the program. As we approached the throw salchow I hit a rut and lost my balance somewhat, but I remained focused and ready for the one element we fell on in Allen just two months prior. I set correctly and made the adjustment that we had fixed since then and threw Jessica into the air and she absolutely nailed it. Her face lit up with joy and excitement in a way that I have hardly seen before in my five seasons with her. We skated into the last element and I made the mistake of calling for an extra push into the lift, taking us way far down the ice. Suddenly our lift was headed straight at the wall, my mind was full of thoughts from the star in St. Paul and from the star in San Jose that came down too. I wasn’t going to allow it to happen again. I kept my arm pushing upwards no matter what, Jessica said “don’t!” loud and clear, she had just as much will power if not more than I did at this part of the program. I took my crossovers around the corner and finished the lift, setting her down and hitting the ending position as Jessica had a smile brightly across her face.
We had finally done it; we had finally skated a pair of programs that we could be proud of. We skated for ourselves, we did what we loved and we loved what we did and for the first time in a long time, we were happy on the ice. As we exited our ending position and took to our bows, I said two things: “Thank you”; thanks for making that last lift work and doing such a damn good job, and the only thing left to say, “I love you”. We made our way into the Kiss and Cry and reviewed our scores and got a pep talk from Cindy and Lyndon. Then, we headed back to the locker rooms to change and before we went in I said to Jessica, “I am so proud to skate with you, I am so lucky to share this journey with you, and I am so lucky to have you as a partner.”
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences at the US Championships and everything that went into the events leading up to it. Look for more news on us coming up in the future, we will make sure to keep you all updated on the 2020-21 season and beyond!
- Joshica 🙂