AST Skater Spotlight - Meet Abby

AST-Skater-Spotlight-Meet-Abby Adults Skate Too

Erika Venza |

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 Abby! She's a second chance skater who passed her senior moves and free skate tests at the age of 29! Read more about her exciting moments from competitions, advice she's gotten from her coaches, and more!

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

Abby Graefe (@abbyskates). I am 33 years old, and I compete at the Masters Jr/Sr level in the US (Masters Internationally).

I am from Oak Park, IL, the first suburb west of Chicago. I moved to Durham, NC three years ago when my husband took a new job at Duke University.

I always have a hard time explaining what I do! I work in the conservation field for a nationwide young adult conservation service organization. I work with land management agencies (such as the National Park Service) to develop internships and team-based programs. I work remotely (which has been a huge asset to my skating), but I travel to the Midwest often to visit my partner agencies.

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

I started skating when I was three. I tried a lot of different activities as a kid, but only skating and tennis stuck! I competed until I was 14. My goal was to pass Senior Moves in the Field and Senior Free Skate by the time I left for college; unfortunately after a few failed Senior MIF tests, I never reached that goal. I was so burned out with skating, that after four freestyle practices in college and the lack of a skating community at the University of Miami (FL), I wanted to move on and focus on other things in my life.

I didn't put skates on again for 10 years and I didn't miss it. When I was in my late 20's I ended up back in Chicago between jobs. I skated again for the first time with some friends at an outdoor rink, and realized that my body remembered a lot. To take my mind off of job searching, I went to the outdoor rink once or twice a week. Eventually I started teaching Learn to Skate on Saturdays. One Saturday, one of the younger skaters asked me, "Why don't you do doubles? I bet you could easily do them." I laughed and replied, "I'm 28 and haven't done a double in 10 years, there's no way." But, I decided that was a sign; I eventually got all of my doubles back through double lutz. I finally passed Senior MIF (took two attempts!) and Senior FS at 29! It was definitely much sweeter than passing at 17.

When my husband and I moved to North Carolina in December 2016, I had no idea what I wanted to do with skating. I passed my tests and was not working toward any goal. I had a lot of "adult" things to deal with, and I was only skating on average once a week. I was encouraged to compete by coaches at my rink, but I wasn't interested until I heard about the ISU Adult competition in Oberstdorf, Germany. You mean, I could travel to Europe AND skate?! Sign me up! I decided that I would also train for US Adult Sectionals and Nationals as a warm-up. I have since competed in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and I am hooked! Skating is now my life again, but it holds a healthy and happy place.

What does your skating schedule look like?

When I am not traveling, I try to skate five days a week for one hour each day; but in reality that frequently turns into four days. I travel a lot personally and for work, so I will often go for a week or two without skating.

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

Landing a double lutz for the first time in competition and placing 5th in Championship Masters Jr/Sr at the 2019 US Adult Nationals! It was the one jump I hadn't yet landed in competition, and it was my #1 goal - I truly didn't care about anything else! I popped the first one, but I had one more chance as the last jump in my program. You could see the excitement on my face when I landed it! I broke 50 points for the first time ever at US competition. Placing 5th was huge for me as I was an alternate after placing 5th at Sectionals. Because I was the alternate, I honestly thought I would place last even with a clean skate. It showed me that I am capable of more than I think and that I "belong." A month later, I competed at the ISU Oberstdorf competition and placed 1st in Masters Ladies I (and landed that double lutz!) - after just missing the podium at Sectionals and Nationals, it felt good to stand on top :)

What’s your favorite element to practice?

Spread eagles and sit spins of any kind (cannonball is probably my favorite).

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

I mainly lift weights and run. I do sprints leading up to and during competition season in order to work on program stamina.

How has skating impacted your life?

Skating has impacted me in more ways than I could ever think. Ultimately, it gets me out of bed in the mornings. It gives me personal goals that no other physical or career pursuit ever has. It has introduced me to the best people all over the world that have become, or are becoming, like family. It keeps me young, it gives me purpose.

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

No one knows your program except you, me, and your choreographer. Don't get hung up on the details, just breathe and focus on each element at a time.

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

You are never too old. And, it doesn't matter what others are doing, it matters what YOU are doing (advice from my choreographer!). In a sport that is judged and breeds perfectionism, it's way too easy to compare yourself to others, or to your younger self. We all have our own stories and journeys. As adults especially, life can throw curveballs. Be kind to yourself mentally and physically. 

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