Hello again everybody! Thanks for coming to our website and staying updated with us. I know it’s been several months since you’ve heard from us, so you probably are curious how we’ve been doing.
Like everyone else, we were affected by quarantine, but not before a major decision had already impacted our careers. After a successful US Championships where we skated the two best programs of our last two seasons, we realized that we had reached our potential within US Figure Skating. If our best is going to get us seventh or eighth place, what is the point of continuously coming back to compete at the same competition? If our clean short program is scored lower than another team with two major errors, why even bother representing a country that has clearly moved on from us? Jessica and I decided after the US Championships in Greensboro that we were either going to find another way or that we were going to start doing shows instead.
Jessica’s father was born a Swiss citizen and upon her birth he also registered her as a citizen of Switzerland as well. Although our dream has always been to compete in the Olympics, ultimately, we have to be one of the two best teams in the country to qualify and we saw that our best does not get us close enough to be in consideration with less than two years until the Olympics. Using Jessica’s citizenship to compete for Switzerland seemed like the best opportunity for us to compete in more events than we ever had and for Jessica to represent a country and heritage that she has always felt proud to be a part of.
On March 19th, one day before quarantine officially began here in Florida, we set out on a road trip to Atlanta so that Jessica could have an interview at the Swiss Consulate in order for her to get her Swiss passport and proof of citizenship. When we arrived in Atlanta, we had a preview of what was soon to come; restaurants were closed and the infamous downtown traffic was non-existent. We stopped by the Olympic park and soaked it all in, even as we had just kissed our Olympic dreams goodbye, we saw the CNN building, which would soon be at the forefront of national news, but most importantly we did what we set out to do: Jessica’s interview was successful and her passport came in the mail a few weeks later.
On our way back from Atlanta was when the chaos begun. We got word that the rink had shut down; at 3 pm I got a call from my co-workers – work was closed too. We were being urged to make it back to Florida that day, or else the state borders might get closed up and we may not be able to get back in. In the wake of the pandemic, nobody knew what to believe or trust; nobody knew how long things would last and to what extent the severity of it would be. I started to stress out; I had just moved out on my own and suddenly I was left with a ton of new bills and no job to pay for them with. I applied everywhere I could think of and offered my abilities to friends who would be willing to pay for work. Ultimately everything worked out, I got paid from my work through the PPP while also doing work on the side like cleaning, meal prepping, customized workouts, tutoring, music editing, and anything else I could think of to make an extra dime to pay my new bills.
Quarantine in Florida was much shorter than in some other states, but I did not waste my time off the ice and neither did Jessica. I did not want to laze around during quarantine because my normally busy schedule would be hell if I went into it from being a couch potato for so long. I had myself on a very strict schedule six days a week with 6-7 hours of activities including HIIT workouts, cardio, weightlifting, yoga, dance, pilates, off-ice jumps, plyometrics, and even studying videos of other pair teams and reading books by our sports psychologist. I wasn’t going to let quarantine negatively affect my abilities and neither was Jessica. After about a month and a half of lockdown, the governor slowly started opening things back up and we were back in the rink at the beginning of May.
Even with working so hard off the ice, nothing can properly prepare you for putting blades to the ice after a month and a half off. With that in mind, we eased back into things and started with choreography. After having success last season creating our short program with our coach, Lyndon Johnston, we decided to try that process again with both programs. We selected our short program and free skate music as a team and we also choreographed it all together as a team. For the first time in our careers, we were going to have completely created our own programs.
The short program music that we selected is Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy and the free skate music that we selected is Where’s My Love by SYML. Both of these pieces of music we felt really fit our style of skating. On top of that, being able to create our own programs based on music that we picked meant that the choreography really came from within; each movement was based on what we heard and felt from the music. This genuineness created programs that we felt really good about and that struck people in ways that they had never felt struck from our competitive programs. In years past we have always choreographed our own show programs and have had amazing feedback, so we took that same creativity to our competitive programs and it truly worked wonders. We would do our programs in practice and get all these people telling us how much they love our short program, and then we would have different people say the same thing about our free skate. It really is awesome to have people come up to you and look at your piece of art and say how much they appreciate it; that is a level of good feeling that is hardly reproduced in other facets of life.
Although we were taking things easy and easing back into things, long term problems still lingered. Jessica’s wrist was seemingly getting worse (cysts), my neck was an issue again (herniated discs), and so was her foot problem (arthritis). An MRI on her wrist revealed that she had actually broken it at some point and that it had not healed all the way. We took a month off (starting in early July) of everything that involved her wrist (nearly everything) and started physical therapy on it as well. When we came back to start doing everything again, it seemed like the physical therapy and time off had actually made somewhat of a difference, even if her genetics made it difficult if not impossible for her to heal all the way.
The tumultuous season continued and we were trying to figure out what exactly was going on with our status in competing for Switzerland. We were contacted by US Figure Skating and they told us that they had voted that they would not release us to compete for Switzerland this year and that we would have to wait until next season. This is despite the fact that we have not competed in international competition since 2018 and have no notable international medals to date! Although the ISU allows us to be released by our country to compete for another, hidden within our contracts to compete for team USA was a clause that they could hold onto us for two full seasons after our last international competition. US Figure Skating informed us, however, that we have the opportunity to be released anyways if we pay back all the money they have ever spent on each of us. This includes flights and hotels to international competitions dating back to 2010 for me and back to 2012 for Jessica! It’s a joke of an offer to unpaid athletes and really just a spit in the face. They could not give us a good reason other than “precedent” for holding onto us and putting our careers in limbo even as we are in the last years of our competitive life. Although we feel that the decision was made unfairly, there is nothing that we can do about it, and sitting around feeling bad for ourselves doesn’t help anything, so we continued on training.
While we could not skate this season for Switzerland, we had already decided that we were competing this year and so we started ramping up training. However, we did not really know what we were training for. We had registered for the competitive season for the US Championships and had decided on a competition in Boston as our national qualifier. Due to our decision to try to skate for Switzerland, we had to turn down all funding from US Figure Skating this year, which made things even more difficult than normal. Training for a competition that we don’t really care about too much and for an organization that has exerted their power over us just for the sake of showing that they can has been an absolute drag. We have tried all season long to come in and work hard, but the motivation is not there considering that we have no meaningful events to look forward too.
The point of switching to represent Switzerland may have been moot this season anyways, considering the global pandemic, but the feeling of being held back remains the same. With all that in mind and all the uncertainty surrounding this season, we have decided to take the rest of the season off competitively. We feel that we have nothing to gain by competing in Boston or San Jose and that mental and physical rest is what we need more than anything. It’s a bit sad for us because we really love our new programs and we wish everyone could see what we have created, but it is just so hard to train when our spirits have been crushed not just by the pandemic, but also by the organization we have dedicated so many years to. Right now, we are working on some new tricks to try and get into a show for the holiday season, then we have our own holiday show at the rink. After that we will take a little break before returning to the ice for the next season. While we really want to show off our new programs that we created, we also want to make sure that we are physically and mentally healthy, while also motivated to train for a full season of competition. Competing at a high level is no easy task, and if the motivation is not there, it is just so hard to get it done.
We appreciate all the love and support we have gotten from everybody this year, especially Lyndon Johnston, our coach who has worked so hard for us in these trying times. We look forward to performing again for an audience some time soon and we hope that you all can see us flying on the ice once more.