A Delicate Balance: Olympic Pairs Skater Finds Joy in Family Life, Coaching

Amanda Evora Will reflects on her competitive skating career and discusses how she now loves being a wife, mother and coach. 

Above: After coaching in Florida for many years, Evora Will and Jim Peterson moved their pairs camp to Canton, Michigan. They guided Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez to the 2024 World Championships in Montreal. Photo courtesy of Amanda Evora Will. 

The following story appeared in the May 2024 issue of SKATING magazine. Click here to purchase a subscription. 

By Lois Elfman

Olympic pairs skater Amanda Evora Will is grateful that in Michigan, where she now coaches, skaters typically skate before or after school. This leaves much of her day open to be with her two children, daughter, Leia, 2, and son, Paul, 8 months.

“I identify myself as a working mom,” Evora Will said.

Amanda skates with her partner. Amanda is wearing a turquoise skating costume. She leans back into her partner. Her partner is on one knee supporting Amanda. He is wearing a matching turquoise top and black pants
Amanda Evora Will and Mark Ladwig compete at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, where they finished 10th. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Leia goes to daycare three times a week and is with her mother-in-law once a week. One day a week, she’s at the rink, where she and Paul, who is at the rink more frequently, are watched by the mother of a skater.

“You’re always trying to find the happy balance of working and having enough time to make sure that you’re a mom and you’re not missing all the greatest moments for them,” she said.

After two decades living in Florida as a competitor and then as a coach, Evora Will, 39, is reveling in the blend of work life at the Arctic Edge of Canton and home life in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Married to Dustin Will since 2019, she thrives on being a wife, mother and skating coach. To quote a caption she wrote on Instagram shortly after Paul’s birth: “I am reminded that love is never divided but shared exponentially.”

She and Jim Peterson run a pairs program at Arctic Edge. They have been referred to as yin and yang (Chinese thought for two opposite but complementary forces).

“We created a school here; we think of it as a boutique style pair program,” Evora Will said. “The whole idea of it is we would like to have a handful of pair teams where we’re keeping a close quality control on them and making sure that we have a good sense of hitting their potential in skating.”

The 2024 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were a great experience for Evora Will as not only did she and Peterson see their team, Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez, earn a spot on the podium and trip to the World Figure Skating Championships, but there was the rush of enthusiastic audiences.

“It was a full house almost every day in Columbus, and it was nice for the athletes and coaches to have people in the stands,” Evora Will said. “I was lucky to go to nationals this year.”

She also serves as a supplementary coach, helping other coaches with their skaters, describing it as her current calling card. This involves quite a bit of off-ice jump work.

“You can definitely say I have an enthusiasm for our sport, and wherever my help is needed, I’ve kind of fallen into those opportunities,” she said.

Evora Will is the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee athlete representative for figure skating. She is also vice president of U.S. Figure Skating, the first athlete representative to hold an officer position.

“I’m still learning all that my role entails,” she said.

In addition to serving on several committees, she had a voice in adding novice pairs and ice dance to the 2024 U.S. Championships, understanding the valuable experience national competition provides.

Amanda poses with her family laying on the ground. Her husband lays on his stomach smiling at the camera. Their daughter lays on his shoulders. Amanda sits up supporting her young son as he stands up. The family's white dog lays down to the left of the photo
Evora Will with husband, Dustin; daughter, Leia; and son, Paul; share a bustling and fulfilling life in and away from the rink. Photo by Pam Schofield

Evora Will began skating at age 6. The youngest child of three, her sister and brother had both skated. Wearing her sister’s old skates, she took to the ice and loved it. Family lore is that early on she said she wanted to go to the Olympics.

Her father was a chemical engineer, and the family moved several times for his work. At one point, the family lived in Texas and her father worked for Tara Lipinski’s father.

“My dad’s first nationals wasn’t with me,” she said with a laugh.

In her mid-teens, Evora Will started pairs skating at the suggestion of Mitch Moyer. After a two-year partnership with Michael Adler, she teamed with Mark Ladwig with whom she competed for 10 seasons — earning two silver, one bronze and two pewter medals at the U.S. Championships. They competed twice at the World Championships and finished 10th at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games with some of the best programs of their career. She called them a celebration. Evora Will was the first Filipina American figure skater on a U.S. Olympic team, which earned her an invitation to the White House for a luncheon honoring the then-president of the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino III.

In a discipline where teams break up after one or two seasons, Evora Will and Ladwig were known for their longevity. They stayed focused on their unified goals and were clear on what they both wanted for the partnership.

“Even though we had a vision of wanting to stay together and understanding that we had the same values for longevity, it was important for us to have honest conversations and address things on a yearly basis,” she said. “It made it a lot easier to then commit for another year. We saw success as a byproduct of our hard work.”

While she described herself as ambitious, Evora Will said some of her favorite memories of competition are of practices, particularly those at the U.S. Championships, which had a wonderful sense of anticipation. When fans came to watch, it heightened the atmosphere. Traveling to international competitions was also exhilarating.

After ending her competitive career in 2012, Evora Will eased away from skating a bit. She finished her college education, earning a degree in business administration from University of South Florida, and taking a job as an office administrator for several years. At the same time, Peterson slowly eased her into coaching working with the pairs teams in what she described as a mentorship program for several years.

“I think it’s important when it comes to coaching education that you see it like a college,” she said. “I didn’t really call myself a high-level coach until I felt like I finished my education. … Doing choreography, teaching off-ice classes, having the opportunity to teach singles and pairs, teaching Learn to Skate. I made sure that I have tried all of it, which helps understand the needs of the skating program that you’re in.”

Amanda and hocket player Colton Orr perform on Battle of the Blades. Amanda is wearing a blue top with orange suspenders and a denim skirt. Colton holds Amands up in the air as she holds her arms extended. He is wearing a green shirt with a denim vest and black pants.
Evora Will and hockey player Colton Orr perform on Battle of the Blades, a Canadian TV show. Photo courtesy of the CBC

There hasn’t been a lot of show skating, but Sandra Bezic did ask her to compete in Battle of the Blades, a Canadian television show that paired figure skaters with hockey players. Evora won in 2013 with Scott Thornton, doing the show’s first-ever triple twist.

“I had a blast,” she said, who returned in 2019 when the show was revived, finishing fourth with Colton Orr.

In December 2019 she married Will, who she met at former skater Lindsey Weber’s wedding in Michigan.

“I hadn’t gone to a lot of weddings, so I didn’t really understand that you could bring a plus-one,” Evora Will said. “He didn’t bring a plus-one either, so we met very organically and started dating from there.”

She was excited to coach at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships and was grateful that Montreal is not far from Michigan, as she keeps traveling to a minimum. It will be her second time coaching at Worlds, the first was in Boston in 2016. Evora Will loves teaching pairs, especially young teams, and passing on her knowledge.

“I have a passion for the sport that I want to pass along,” she said. “It is maximizing the potential and skill set of the skater that you have in front of you and making sure you are matching their expectations in order to have an enjoyable but fulfilling journey in the sport.”