Continuing the story of the day Emily and Sergei met, here's Part II of the "prequel" to LIFE ON THE EDGE. If you haven't read Part I, you can find it here!
With a nod and a raise of my hand I signaled Emily to cool down, and I retreated to the bleachers while she circled the rink. I bent forward and rested my elbows on my thighs, continuing to watch Emily do easy stroking. My heart rate still hadn’t come down to normal level.
I had an incredibly tall task on my hands.
Not because I thought Emily couldn’t learn how to skate pairs. After seeing her body awareness, there was no doubt in my mind she could do anything I taught her. No, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was finding her a partner with just as much talent.
Emily exited the ice and snapped on her guards as she sat next to me. Pulling a bottle of water from her bag, she took a long drink and then recapped it.
“Are we going to start on the pair elements now?” she asked.
One side of my mouth twitched upward. I might have to actually rein in some of her eagerness. We couldn’t rush through the fundamentals, and I could see her wanting to get to the big tricks sooner rather than later.
“Let’s talk for a minute.”
I had to choose my words carefully. I wanted her to know how much I admired her ability, but I couldn’t give her too much praise. Not that she appeared to have a huge ego and wouldn’t handle it maturely. From the few minutes I’d spent with her, I didn’t get that vibe at all.
“You have an amazing connection to the music,” I said.
Her workout-induced flushed cheeks deepened to darker pink, and she looked down at her water. “Thank you.”
“And you must be a toe jumper.” I’d noticed she’d done only the jumps with a toepick takeoff and none of the edge takeoff ones.
“Yeah, Lutz and toe are my favorites. My Sal and loop are…” She made a so-so motion with her hand.
I studied her as she took a sip of water and slipped on her jacket. If I could find her a partner with the same jumping skills, they could push the sport to a new place. I was already envisioning the throw Lutz and side-by-side triple Lutzes, two elements no other pair was doing.
Slow down. You’re getting way ahead of yourself.
But it was hard not to with this potential superstar sitting next to me. There was the issue of her anxiety, however…
“Your coach told me a bit about your competition troubles,” I said. “Have you ever seen a sports psychologist?”
She toyed with her necklace again. “I didn’t want to ask my parents to take on another expense. They’ve put so much into my skating, and I kept thinking I could get over the nerves on my own…”
She was too good to have nerves be her downfall. I had to find some way to help her overcome them.
“I thought skating pairs might be good for me because I’d have another person to focus on,” she said. “I think just being alone out there and having my thoughts consume me is what causes me trouble. If I have a partner to focus on, maybe I won’t get so bogged down with the fear and anxiety. Maybe I’ll finally feel the freedom I do when I skate without the judges watching.”
She lifted her eyes to mine, full of hope, and my desire to help her kicked into overdrive. A million thoughts of how to coach her through her issues ran through my mind.
There was something about her, not just the talent she’d shown on the ice, but something else that stood out even more. A brightness that hadn’t dimmed even after all the disappointment she’d experienced with skating. Her energy was so positive, so engaging.
“If you decide to commit to pairs, I promise you will have all the confidence you need to compete.” I tapped the bleachers for emphasis. “After the work we do together, you will be the strongest, most focused competitor you can possibly be.”
The light in her eyes grew even brighter, and I couldn’t help but smile. I was making some big promises, but she made me believe they would all come true.
“I have a really good feeling about this,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision coming here and giving up school, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this is where I’m supposed to be. I know that might sound kinda silly…”
“No, not at all.” I paused as I realized just how certain I was, too. Thirty minutes ago I didn’t know what to expect from our meeting, and now my head was spinning with plans for the future.
“I have the exact same feeling.”
Look for the final installment next week. You'll get the rest of the story from Emily's point of view!