Figure Skaters Winkler, LeMieux Pursuing Olympic Dream

Ava Vande Corput, Staff Writer, Journalism

Notre Dame Academy has had a figure skating team for many years, but it recently gained notoriety with its recent recognition as an official sport.

“Most people recognize figure skating as a sport of elegance and grace, but it is a very competitive and physical sport. It is falling down and getting bruises regularly and a precise sport that takes a lot of strength to execute correctly,” said Natasha Geyer, NDA’s team coordinator/coach.

The NDA figure skating team includes freshman Payton Winkler and sophomore Sophie Le Mieux who practice 2-3 hours daily to achieve their goal of becoming Olympic skaters.

“It takes a dedicated athlete to compete at this level with the most highly successful competitors having invested more than seven years in the sport and over 15 hours per week of training,” said Leslie Graham, U.S. Figure Skating Director.

Recently Winkler and Le Mieux competed at the 2017 Upper Great Lakes Regional Figure Skating Championships against seven other states.

Winkler placed second against twelve other male competitors, and Le Mieux placed second in the first round and fifth in the second against forty other female competitors.

“Skating between men and women is a little different. Since there are fewer male competitors the passage to move on to the next competition is larger than it is for females. Females have to compete in two rounds while males only have to compete once,” stated Geyer.

Since Winkler placed in the top four, he will be moving on to compete at the 2017 Midwestern Sectional Figure Skating Championships, November 26-20, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

If Winkler places in the top four at the competition in Colorado, he will advance to compete at the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, January 14-22, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Competing at such a high level is intense. Everyone has the skills to perform, so the biggest test is the mental strength to see if you can handle the pressure,” said Geyer.

Le Mieux will also be heading to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to train with Olympic skaters since she competes at the senior or Olympic level.

“They’re both incredible skaters that never seem to complain or get discouraged. If they fall, they just get back up and keep skating,” said Geyer.

Figure skating is more than wearing a beautiful outfit and being elegant on the ice.

It takes grueling hours of practice, hard work, precision and the confidence to get back up and keep skating even if–and when–you fall.