By Darci Miller
In mid-September, Amber Glenn was preparing for the imminent start of her season when the unthinkable happened.
As she turned from skating backwards to forwards, she collided with another skater’s elbow, suffering a concussion and a left orbital bone fracture where her face hit the ice.
Glenn went from feeling prepared and confident to having it all yanked away from her. By the time she was fully recovered, she’d withdrawn from two competitions and had a week to prepare for Skate America.
That’s Glenn’s ISU Grand Prix season in a nutshell – highs, lows, and having to get back up after devastation.
“‘A lot’ is a good way to put it,” Glenn quipped.
Her first stop, Skate America, was just a few miles from her hometown of Plano, Texas. She says that everyone she’s ever known was there, from extended family and friends to teachers she had when she was 6.
And for much of the competition, Glenn sparkled under the pressure, finishing second in the short program. In her free skate, she landed her first clean triple Axel in competition, becoming just the sixth U.S. woman to do so.
“Something kind of clicked after last season that it has been more consistent than ever,” said Glenn, who’s been attempting the triple Axel in competition since 2021. “I’d been training it really well. But I wasn’t putting too much stake on it because, of course, I’d been trying it for so long.”
Landing it at home is a moment Glenn will never forget.
“I felt like I was floating,” she said. “I almost couldn’t feel my body. It’s the exact feeling you get when you get off of a rollercoaster, and you kind of feel funny.
“And it was so loud in the arena. I was also thinking, ‘I can’t hear my music!’” she said with a laugh. “The best part was afterwards, getting to see my family’s reaction. That was amazing. But it’s a moment I will never forget.”
Glenn joined Tonya Harding, Kimmie Meissner, Mirai Nagasu, Alysa Liu and Phoebe Stubblefield in the elite triple Axel club.
“When I was younger, I think it had been two (U.S. women),” Glenn said. “Not many people are capable of doing this, much less in competition. So to finally be part of that and cementing that for myself – it was a goal I made back in 2020, so it meant the world to me.”
But after using so much adrenaline on the first jump of her free skate, Glenn was unable to put together the clean program she needed and fell to a disappointing fifth place overall.
From there, her next stop was Espoo, Finland, where things really couldn’t have started worse. Her short program was disastrous after she missed her first jump, placing her 11th out of 12 skaters.
“I lost my focus,” Glenn said. “It was just an ‘oh god’ moment. And as soon as I did that, because I did a double, it was, ‘I just had an invalid element. Oh my god.’ So after that, I tried to get as many points as I could, but my heart was just thumping out of my chest because I knew that no matter what I did, that’s 10 points right there alone. It was very shocking, because it was something that I never did in practice.”
After her short program, Glenn says she had a bit of a panic attack and just wanted to go home. She let herself have a pity party for 10 minutes before moving past it.
“Then I was like, ‘Okay. You’re part of Team USA. Suck it up. You’re better than that,’” she said with a laugh. “I had to set it aside and be like, ‘Well, you’ve been training that free skate, so you need to go get your butt out there and go and do it.’ The next day, I still have a job to do.”
The second skater to take the ice for the free skate, Glenn had a solid performance – even without the triple Axel – and watched herself slowly climb the leaderboard as other skaters failed to surpass her.
At the end of the day, she finished third, winning her second career Grand Prix medal after the largest jump in the standings in Grand Prix history.
“It was very surprising,” Glenn said. “It was kind of a rough competition for a lot of people. It was towards the end of the Grand Prix series. People are a little tired. So I can’t say that it’s because I did the extraordinary – I did well. I did pretty good in the free skate. So I’m very proud of myself for making that quick switch up and not just digging my grave further. It was great to go out there and get a medal, be able to have that experience again.”
The experience was an eye-opening one for Glenn, who won a medal simply by doing what she does in practice. At Skate America, she set a new personal best short program score. In Espoo, she set a new personal best free skate score. Had she done the triple Axel in Espoo, her score would’ve been north of 142 points.
“I never thought I’d be at that score range, especially internationally. Never,” Glenn said. “So to think, ‘Okay, you’re actually capable of that,’ it was very exciting and very daunting, just kind of accepting that you can do that. Everyone else sees it. And the amount of times I hear people say, ‘You could be that. You could be national champion. You could get a medal at Worlds.’
“I always say, ‘Yeah, but I need to perform better,’ or, ‘I need to do deeper edges like these other skaters. I need to be more like this in order to deserve that,’ instead of just going and doing my programs. So I’m kind of just trying to reprogram my brain to just go and do your programs.”
Glenn heads into the 2024 Prevagen U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 22-28 as the reigning U.S. bronze medalist. Now that she’s gotten the kinks out, has a successful triple Axel under her belt and has had some time to both relax and grind through her programs, she’s a very real threat for the top of the podium.
“I want to be my best, and I want to win U.S. Championships this year,” Glenn said. “I’m trying to do what I can to be able to go out there and just do what people see in practice, what they see in me, what they believe I can do. Just going and doing that, and nothing more.”
Amber Glenn will compete for the title of U.S. champion in Columbus. To see her perform in person, purchase tickets here.