Freshman ice dancer places fourth at national competition

October 30, 2019 — by Joann Zhang

As the first notes of freshman Mary Campbell’s program rang out across the cavernous San Jose Solar4America ice rink  she relaxed from her pose in the center of the ice and twirled into a series of intricate footwork and patterns.

Ice dancing, a type of ice skating, is similar to figure skating, but involves more dancing elements and footwork. In ice dancing, jumps are completely omitted. However, dancers still execute spins and twizzles in their routines, the latter referring to upright spins that move the dancer forward. 

Despite ice dancing’s relative obscurity compared to figure skating, which was the 2018 most popular Winter Olympic sport in North America, Campbell says that it’s just as difficult as figure skating. She began skating three years ago, when her mother took her skating for fun at a local ice rink, and she “fell in love with it” — a passion clear to her friends. 

“She is so passionate about her ice dancing,” Campbell’s close friend freshman Dino Pezzi said. “She always talks about how tired she is from it, but also how much she loves it.”

Campbell trains almost every day from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. 

“I’m really competitive,” Campbell said. “I always try my best so that I can get a result.” 

The training and dedication has paid off for Campbell. Each year, the top six ice dancers from each of eight levels in every U.S. region qualify for the national competition held by the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA). Campbell, at the novice level, has made it to nationals every year since she began skating, and most recently placed second in the 2019 regional qualifiers. 

“She is so dedicated, and it’s amazing,” Pezzi said. “I’ve seen tapes of her dancing, and she is absolutely phenomenal.”

In addition, at the 2019 nationals in Utah, Campbell placed fourth in her level in solo ice dancing, an accomplishment she was “super proud” of.

Success in solo ice dancing, however, is not Campbell’s main goal. Campbell intends to participate in partners ice dancing in the future, since solo dancing is not an Olympic event. 

“The goal is to find a partner and make it that far,” she said, noting Canadian pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as her idols. 

However, finding a partner proves difficult; according to Campbell, male skaters are so few in number compared to the number of female skaters that she has travelled across the country in hopes of finding one. She has yet to form a partnership.

“I’ve gone to Colorado to try to find a partner there, but that didn’t work out well. I also tried with a guy in Florida, but the flying over would be too complicated,” Campbell said. “Hopefully, I can find someone who’s willing to fly out here to skate or someone who’s in the area.”

Other challenges include maintaining confidence and effort throughout the season and battling nerves, as well as accepting and learning from her mistakes. 

“Before I compete, I always get super nervous and want to withdraw, but I know I have worked so hard, so once I step on the ice, I get into the music and character and enjoy the moment,” she said. “Losing confidence happens to me a lot, like not doing well at a competition or falling while competing really lowers my confidence and I get even more nervous and hold back instead of giving my fullest when I skate.” 

Additionally, like many other skaters, Campbell grapples with the occasional injury. She tries to stay as safe as possible off the ice to avoid injuries that affect her skating.

“I’ve had some back injuries. Those are really not fun, since they can affect your entire life,” Campbell said. “I have some knee injuries as well; last season I had major knee issues.” 

Despite these challenges, Campbell loves ice dancing wholeheartedly.

“Ice skating has had a huge impact on my life. It makes me happy. It’s what I love. It’s made me a better person and really represents me,” Campbell said. “Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

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