As we prepare for this week’s 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships, we would be remiss to not look back on how we got here in this unpredictable and turbulent 2020-21 season.
We often speak of the Get Up spirit, but the resiliency shown during the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic will long be remembered for reinforcing our core values of excellence, integrity, respect, resilience and community. Here are a few examples:
We are creative problem-solvers
As in-person events were canceled throughout 2020, we chose to create new paths instead of tossing in the skating towel. Virtual formats were used for Governing Council, Club Education, SafeSport education, officials training, committee work, skating programs, High Performance camps, press conferences, “lawn” skating events – the list goes on and on. In many cases, these virtual formats allowed a record number of attendees to participate and will certainly be used moving forward.
We are flexible participants
With each disappointing postponement or cancelation, U.S. Figure Skating leadership, committee members, local organizers and staff worked together to envision and create virtual formats to keep our members engaged while staying safe in their homes. The Excel National Festival, DREAM Camp, Coaches College and Virtual Celebration of Competitive Skating (juvenile through novice) provided lively virtual programming that has drawn the appreciation of athletes and parents alike.
We are relentlessly passionate about the sport
Despite the numerous rink closures, athletes found ways to train in preparation for their returns to the ice. In moments that were both supportive and inspiring, athletes posted videos of their workouts from their living rooms, garages and backyards using makeshift weights (lots of milk jugs!) and training devices. Ingenious synchronized teams even trained without connecting. And who could forget the always captivating Dick Button, whose arm-flailing home workout video became an instant classic.
We are nimble competitors
With a high demand from athletes to compete, hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. Figure Skating representatives worked tirelessly across the entire organization to create – and sometimes re-create – safe competitions.
- As a way for senior and junior athletes to debut their 2020-21 programs, 100-plus athletes competed in the virtual International Selection Pool Points Challenge, which offered $200,000 in prize money.
- To decrease travel during COVID, the U.S. Qualifying Season was reimagined as eight regional competitions, called the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championship Series presented by Toyota.
- After the Series was canceled due to ongoing spread of COVID-19, the Series shifted to a virtual competition to allow athletes to qualify for the 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
- In February, juvenile through novice athletes will compete virtually for their spots on the National High Performance Development Team.
- With international travel restrictions in place, 2020 Guaranteed Rate Skate America was limited to those who trained inside the continental U.S. Stringent COVID-19 protocols were implemented, creating a “skating bubble” inside the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
- To create additional competition and funding opportunities, the Las Vegas Invitational presented by HomeLight took place after Skate America with more than $100,000 being distributed to participates.
- After the success in keeping Skate America athletes healthy, the U.S. Championships were relocated from San Jose to the Orleans Arena to provide a smaller and safer “skating bubble.”
We are dedicated to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts.
With a national demand for social justice, we looked inward and recognized we must do better in welcoming and supporting members who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Our DEI Task Force is working with leadership to make organizational changes in the areas of representation, outreach, education and visibility. We welcome this focus on our BIPOC skaters, whose depth and passion have been overlooked for too long.
We are better together
This past year has proven just how important we are to one another. We saw many member clubs donate meals to frontline workers, high-profile alumni skaters participate in fundraisers and families that sewed face coverings for others. But most importantly, we checked in on each other through phone calls, texts, video conferences and social media to make sure that during this time apart we remain a tight-knit skating family.
As we enter this new year, I thank you for your patience and dedicated support of U.S. Figure Skating. In this, our 100th anniversary year, I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together.
U.S. Figure Skating President