Time dragged at an agonizing rate as we waited for our turn to skate. I paced back and forth in a straight line between Sergei and Chris, blocking out their idle chatter. Our choreography ran through my mind, and I tried to channel the emotion of each move. Sergei and I had created the program together one night at the rink when we’d had the ice all to ourselves. We’d played the entire thirty-seven minutes of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and just skated around, feeling where the music took us, finding the right stanzas to explore. Every second of the program had meaning to me, and I wanted to perform it perfectly every time Chris and I skated.
Our team leader motioned to Sergei, so he ushered Chris and me rinkside. I faced away from the ice so I wouldn’t see how Maddy and Damien were skating, but I couldn’t shut out the loud cheers. The more I heard, the more jittery my legs became.
Chris stepped in front of me and grasped both of my hands. “We’re gonna nail this.”
I bobbed my head up and down, focusing on Chris’s warm hands instead of the deafening applause surrounding us. We can do this. We WILL do this.
A minute later, we shed our skate guards and took the ice. Adrenaline dulled my back pain, and I zoomed around the rink, ears on alert for the Canadians’ marks. I’d studied all the numbers, and I knew our top score for the season. Would Maddy and Damien top it?
The announcer read the free skate score and then gave their combined total with the short program. My neck tensed. Two points higher than our season’s best. We were going to have to land the quad to win.
I slowed my pace as Chris skated to my side. We stopped before Sergei, and he gave us a confident smile.
“You’ve improved this program at every competition, and you’re ready to take it another step right here, right now.”
Chris and I both took deep breaths, and Sergei locked eyes with each of us. “Show them your determination. Show them your hearts.”