My name is Hieu Gray and I am excited to be contributing to Adults Skate Too.
I’ve always loved skating. The moment my love affair with the sport was solidified was when I watched the 1994 Winter Olympics that took place in Lillehammer, Norway. This was the year of the infamous “whack” heard around the world when Tonya Harding’s ex-husband hit Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. Popularity in the sport was at an all-time high and I couldn’t think of anyone who wasn’t watching the women’s Olympic free skate with bated breathe. Out of nowhere, a beautiful waif in the form of Oksana Baiul stole the show and won the gold with her elegant swan-like moves and youthful innocence. My twelve-year-old self became obsessed with figure skating. I wanted to skate so badly, but there were no ice skating rinks in rural Georgia. That summer, I tried to convince my parents to let me stay with a family friend in Atlanta so that I could pursue skating. Not surprisingly, they said no. I was already too old. The sport was too expensive and out of reach. And so I put my ice skating dreams on hold.
As the years passed by, I watched as one young ingenue after another passed thru the ranks. After 1994, it was the reign of Michelle Kwan, then Yuna Kim, then the Russian ladies. With each passing year, my passion for the sport waned. The world had also lost interest in the sport. Without a standout star or tabloid controversy, ice skating became a niche sport and no longer prime time viewing. By college, I no longer thought about skating.
But it was always in the back of my mind. Every winter, I’d put on a pair of worn-out rental skates and wonder, “What If?” as I took the ice and toe-picked my way across the outdoor rink like all the amateurs. I’d look longingly at the figure skaters effortlessly performing their spins and wished I could do those moves.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that the skating bug bit me again three years ago in 2017. At the time, I was living in San Fransico and was within walking distance of the iconic Yerba Buena Ice Skating rink. It was a transitional time for me. I had just quit my job at CNN as a producer for over a decade to be with my husband in the Bay Area and had nothing to lose.
My first lesson was painful. I remember the uncomfortableness of the rental skates, the manic crowd whizzing past me, and my coach trying to teach me how to do swizzles for the first time in the middle of the rink. It was scary and intimidating. After six months, I had made it all the way to Alpha when I thought I would be a lot further along. I was discouraged and my mind just wasn’t focused. By the end of the year, I left San Francisco for LA. I put my ice skating dreams on hold yet again as I adjusted to a new city.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Adult Figure Skating Journey as I decide to give skating a second chance…