AST Skater Spotlight Series – Meet Evangeline

Our Adults Skate Too Skater Spotlight Series is a bi-weekly blog where you get to know your fellow adult skaters from all over the world! For our next edition, you will get to meet Evangeline! She’s one of our resident AST bloggers and an aspiring author who loves to challenge herself on the ice. Read more about her triumphs, tribulations, and favorite advice!

What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do for a living?

I’m Evangeline (@evangelinehenry on WordPress, @evangelineskates on IG) and I’m from London (England, not Ontario). I’ve just finished being a student so for the time being I am working as an evening receptionist for a psychiatry practice and I will also work as an ice marshal during the winter period. I’m trying to decide if I want to do any further studying and I’d also like to be an author, but for now you can find me skating and writing until I make up my mind what to do next.

What’s your story? How did you get into figure skating?

I got into skating basically because I studied French at university; this included a year abroad in France and I ended up in Paris. When I was there, they put up a little ice rink on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower and the concept of skating actually on the Eiffel Tower was too good for me to resist. So off I went with a couple of friends, fell over and fell in love. I always say that I don’t know if I would have become obsessed with skating had I not first gone on the Eiffel Tower (I hope I would have done) because it felt so magical when the sky became darker and then the Tower started to sparkle and we were skating amongst the twinkly lights. However, it wasn’t until the following year that I actually decided I would like to skate properly and I started with some adult drop in classes. Several months later, I started having private lessons and I’m very glad that I did because I want to learn as much as I can.

What does your skating schedule look like?

My skating schedule has been very erratic and I’m only just starting to have more of a routine. When I first started, I skated a couple of times a month, then weekly when I had private lessons which I did for about a year, sometimes skating twice a week when I could. Then I decided to move to Ireland for a year which was one of the best decisions I have ever made (along with starting to skate), but there is not an ice rink in the entire country. The closest ice rink is in Northern Ireland, a six to seven hour round trip away from Dublin where I was living, what with getting the various buses to and from and depending on the traffic. So for another year I skated once a week and I’m very glad I
decided to do that because I absolutely loved the rink there. Now, I usually skate three to four times a week.

What has been the most rewarding or exciting moment in your skating career?

This is very hard to choose because I find everything about skating so rewarding.
When I started drop in lessons, I was amazed that I learnt to go backwards (even
so very slowly) and glide on one foot. I was amazed when I started jumping and
felt a bubble of accomplishment when I finally got the hang of spinning. I was
amazed when I found myself at the British Adult Championships because I am
not a natural performer AT ALL. Choreography is a no from me; I try, but I’m
really not very good at it. I did however enjoy the experience and it was exciting
to come sixth, but I would have to say that the most rewarding moments of my
skating career occur unexpectedly on my normal practices when something
finally clicks. Like when I started to actually spin in a sort of camel position as
opposed to falling sideways or I changed feet during a spin and managed to
stay in a backspin or when I don’t wobble on a twizzle. I think these unexpected
surprises are what I find so captivating about skating and it’s exceedingly
rewarding to work for months on a skill that may one day become second
nature.

What has been the most difficult moment of your skating career and how did you overcome it?

I recently injured my knee whist doing a drag (I’m still rolling my eyes at this
because hoooww and whyyyy?) and it has been taking longer than I hoped for it
to feel normal again; it’s getting there, but it still isn’t quite right. Prior to this
injury, I had always sort of felt that my body was invincible, unstoppable, but this
injury was like a bear suddenly jumping out from behind a tree and saying,
‘haha you are wrong – so very wrong’. Although I was able to skate (gently, at
least) relatively soon after injuring it, I think I’ve been more mentally hindered
because of it rather than physically hindered. As my knee became less stiff and
sore, I became more stressed and anxious about skating and the potential for
further injury. What if there was some secret damage that I was making worse
even though it didn’t hurt? What if I did the same thing again? I’m a very active
person generally and the idea of hurting myself again and having to take more
time off the ice preoccupied my mind because skating makes me happy and I
become very miserable and grumpy when I can’t skate. I didn’t want to push
myself out of my comfort zone in case I did any more damage. I lost a lot of
confidence in my skating which I have struggled with as I had always felt very
safe and confident on the ice and I had high anxiety physically being at the ice
rink. I wouldn’t say I am completely out of this ‘difficult moment’, but I – fingers
crossed – can feel the end on its way. Time has been the biggest healer (what a
cliché, but it’s true) and my friends have helped me enormously by being hugely
encouraging, saying very kind things to re-boost my confidence and holding my
hand while I try drags again. It has also helped that one of my friends did Sports
Science at university and I can text her with random leg and knee related
questions anytime about what’s normal and what isn’t without seeming like a
paranoid mad woman to a doctor. I don’t think injuries, and particularly the
stress and misery that comes with them, are talked about enough; they can be
very destabilising – and not just physically – so I think it is important to have
more of a conversation around this given how integral sports can be to a
person’s lifestyle and identity. Also frozen peas have helped – frozen peas are
great.

What’s your favorite element to practice?

I love this question, but my answer changes all the time! I’ve always loved jumps
and I love seeing how many loops I can stick onto the end of a flip, but I think at
the moment I would have to say I am really loving practicing spins. I adore
cannonball spins because it’s like curling up into a comfortable ball and hugging
your body, but I am particularly enjoying change foot spins, although they are
very hit and miss for me as I only started working on them a couple of days ago.
I also have to admit that I’m really liking working on camel spins even though I
can’t quite do them – a phrase my skating friends would have put money on
that I would never say. So that was a very long-winded answer to essentially say
that spins are my favourite things to work on currently.

What’s your favorite off-ice exercise to practice?

Does a sports massage count as off-ice? I am a terrible off-ice person because I
neglect it so much. I love a good stretching session and I enjoy off-ice jumps
when I do them, but I certainly don’t practice them as often as I should do.

How has skating impacted your life?

Skating has taught me that I can do things I never thought I could and that I can
do things of which I am scared; when I think I can’t do something, I remind
myself, ‘well, you never thought you could spin on ice, but look at you now!’ and
then I think, yes, I can do whatever I set my mind to if I put the work in and try
my best. However, I think the friendships I’ve formed through skating are one –
amongst the many – of the great things the sport has given me. Skating has
enabled me to meet some truly wonderful people who I have more in common
with than just skating. I said to my friend the other day that skating friends are
very good friends because they see some of the worst sides of you (frustration,
stress, tears, rage, self-absorbedness, pain), often at very early times of the day,
and, despite this negativity, they’re still your friends. Even better, you are there
for each other to share the joys of a centred scratch spin or getting up from a sit-
spin or landing a new jump for the first time. You smile, clap, hug and do a little
celebratory victory dance. They help you with elements or turns you’re
struggling with and do not care that you look a mess because you’ve just got
out of bed and are still half asleep. Skating can be a very lonely sport and
sometimes I like the loneliness of the ice, but it’s also lovely to have people to do
silly dances with when the ice dance music comes on.

What’s the best advice your coach has given you?

Lift up your toes when you’re spinning! I tell everyone this and that it’s the best
thing she’s ever told me and everyone looks at me like I’m mad, but it works.
Once you get used to it, it will really help with centring spins. Another thing
she’s said that was more of a passing comment than actual advice when she
saw me getting frustrated was that if an element that you can usually do
without much difficulty isn’t working after several tries and you’re getting
annoyed with yourself, just stop working on it for that day. I always like to leave
my skating sessions on a positive note with all my elements, but sometimes I
will be falling on a lutz four times in a row ten minutes before the end of the
session or consistently falling out of my camel spin attempts for half an hour or
my backspins are just not working when they worked yesterday. I think this has
taught me that it’s OK to give up today and try again next time. While skating of
course teaches you to fall, get up and try again, sometimes you need a little
pause to reset your body so that next time everything will probably simply fall
back into place and you’ll think, ‘yay, my vanishing flip-loop has returned!’ So if
something isn’t working that you normally don’t have any trouble with, don’t
waste too much time on it if it simply isn’t working today and practice
something else.

What’s your advice for other adult skaters out there?

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It’s easy in everything to compare
yourself to others – especially in skating – and I am very guilty of this. Everyone
progresses and learns at their own pace; some people struggle with things that
come easily to others. It’s very easy to get caught up in a narrative where you’re
hard on yourself for not being able to do an axel or a combination spin yet
because you’ve been working on back inside three turns for months and they’re
still not working and someone who has been skating for less time than you is a
better skater. That does not matter; the only thing that matters is that you enjoy
skating and take pleasure in it so skate for yourself and no one else. It doesn’t
matter if you look like a kitten sliding on a banana skin when you skate instead
of a twirling elegant prancing pony; if you are happy that is the only thing that is important. If you can only skate for an hour a week, that’s OK too – don’t think
you have to skate six plus hours a week to call yourself a figure skater. Also don’t
get stressed about skating; that’s literally all it is, just skating. If it makes you
happy one day, that’s fantastic, if it doesn’t another day, that’s OK too.

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