AST Skater Spotlight Series – Meet Makenzie

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 Makenzie! She is a mechanical engineer from Australia who started learn to skate classes while in college. Read more about how she is handling the stay at home order, how she overcame an ankle injury right before a major competition, how skating has impacted her life and more!

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

My name is Makenzie aka @maks_stacks. I’m from Brisbane, Australia and I’m a mechanical engineer in the clean and renewable energy industry. 

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

I’d wanted to skate for as long as I could remember, but it wasn’t possible when I was in school. So, when I graduated High School, I decided to start taking lessons. After a few weeks of learn-to-skate, I joined a mixed synchronised skating team but I wasn’t able to keep up with the other skaters. I was told I’d need private lessons in order to stay on the team. I ended up stumbling across my coaches (AKA @The Next Edge on Instagram) – after a few weeks of lessons, I realised I loved figure skating more, so I left synchro and have trained as a figure skater ever since.

What does your skating schedule look like?

Through uni I trained 3-4 days a week + off-ice. Since starting a full-time grad job it’s been a bit harder to keep that up (especially this year!).

How have you been keeping yourself busy with the stay at home order?

I’m really lucky that I have two fantastic coaches who have sent us at-home work out lists and keep us motivated. I’m also flat out working from home – I work at an energy company, an essential service, so our work has not stopped during the COVID situation. If anything, we’ve gotten busier. I’m honestly grateful to have the business – it’s a distraction from everything going on and I’m so fortunate to still have a job.

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

There have been so many rewarding moments in my skating career, from landing first double jump to getting spins called at competitions. However, the most rewarding moment by far was the first time I got on top of my nerves at a competition. Performing in front of large crowds wasn’t something I was originally comfortable with, and I went through a couple of years of competitions where my nerves let me down. This is especially frustrating when you know what you are capable of, but can’t show it. Last year at a competition it was like a switch flicked, and I suddenly had control over that feeling – it felt like years of hard work paid off. Since then I’ve felt so much more comfortable with competing. That for me has been the most rewarding moment so far. 

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

I sustained a bad ankle injury two days before a State Championships event a few years ago. I’d trained so hard for the comp and was feeling really prepared, so I was devastated. I overcame it by trying to put what happened out of my mind, and just focus on getting back to the ice as soon as possible. Fortunately, I got a Bye to the Nationals that year. I made it back to the ice with just 2 weeks to prepare and competed with a strapped (and very sore) ankle. I came 2nd last, but I was happy with my skate and just thrilled that I still got to compete!!

What’s your favorite element to practice?

I love jumping way more than spinning (which doesn’t work in my favour at adult competitions!!). My favourite element is the Axel jump – I have one of my coaches to blame for that. It took me 2 years to land clean, but I think the mechanics of the jump is just so cool. ‘Scuse the engineering nerd out here, but the way you flick from translational motion to both translational and rotational motion in a fraction of a second, then manage to snap out and stop the rotation without falling, all while looking fabulous, is way too cool not to practice all the time. 

What is your favorite off-ice exercise to practice?

I’ve been working a lot on double toe-loops at the moment, I’m finding them really fun! From a work-out perspective, I love anything that involves jumping (go figure…!). As you may see on Instagram, my coaches (The Next Edge) are pretty creative with their off ice, so there’s always fun things to work on.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated to see how far I can go in skating. I’ve never competed for the desire to win or place on the podium – it’s always been about setting a new PB, or landing a new jump. I feel it’s such a privilege to be able to skate and do the one thing I’d always wanted to do since a child, so I never take it for granted. I also love the feeling of skating. It’s such a nice release from work and life – you can’t focus on any of that when you’re training. 

How has skating impacted your life?

Confidence and resilience. Skating has unlocked confidence I didn’t think I had. The process of repeatedly falling, making mistakes, getting back up and trying, again and again, has actually helped me a great deal in my professional career.

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

Where do I start?! My coaches have given me so much good advice over the years – both in skating and in life. If I had to pick one skating-related thing, it would be “have the memory of a goldfish when training and competing. If you fall or mess up, get up, forget it happened, move on and try again”. That advice really helped me stop overthinking when I mess up a consistent element or have a bad fall because dwelling on it often leads to more mistakes. It’s also been super helpful when competing. One fall may not cost you, but freaking out about it, then falling again because of it, might.

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

Don’t limit yourself to how far you take your skating just because you’re older than other skaters at the same level. I never imagined I’d ever be able to jump, let alone try doubles. Trust me, if the inflexible, uncoordinated, unfit and non-artistic 18-year-old can skate how I do now, there is hope for everyone out there. You just have to be committed to putting in the time, have patience and the rest will work itself out. The key to this, especially as adults, is to do it safely. Find a coach who pushes you out of your comfort zone to try harder things, but only if you trust they are doing so with your safety as their first priority. I’m really lucky that I have two amazing coaches who I trust know when is the right time to try a harder jump. Finally, find a coach who sees potential in you – be it to one day compete, to pass a test, to have super clean edges, to land a single jump or to just skate beautifully. When you have a coach who genuinely sees potential in you, you’ll start to see it within yourself. That’s more powerful than anything, and I can guarantee will secure your love of the sport forever. 

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