I remember Lisa Ervin's blond ponytail. Let me explain -- watching skaters on television, I was somehow mesmerized by how Lisa's ponytail moved when she skated. Now that I think about it, that doesn't explain anything. Let me try this -- it was different watching Lisa skate because she was the embodiment of the joy of skating. Whether it was her youth or smile, or her ponytail, she had that "I LOVE SKATING" quality. Aren't there some skaters who exude that kind of energy? Below is Lisa, at age 14, skating her long program at the 1992 U.S. Nationals where she placed fourth.
Lisa was a three-time (1991 - 1993) silver medalist at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and also won the silver medal at the 1993 U.S. Nationals. Her primary coach during her heyday was Carol Heiss Jenkins, the 1960 Olympic gold medalist, and also a recent inductee into the Olympic Hall of Fame. Lisa also struggled with weight gains and losses, and her eating disorder ultimately affected her skating. She "retired" in 1995 to focus on her education, health and other important parts of her life. She also spoke openly about her eating disorder to various media and I was surprised that she would open up about a very private ordeal in her life. But after chatting with her recently for the Catching up with... segment, I realized I shouldn't be surprised at all. Lisa is a very open, honest, down-to-earth mother of two(!), living a busy life in Buffalo, New York, and as she puts it, "My life has been an open book!"
I spoke with Lisa while she was at home, after she put her two children, Joey, age 4, and Sophia, age 2, to bed. Lisa Ervin-Baudo, now 30-years-old, has been married to her college sweetheart, Joseph Baudo, since 2002. (Joseph played professional hockey for a while and is now Assistant Director of Athletics at Fredonia State.)
Lisa explained that she stopped skating in 1995 after she injured her toe while preparing for a competition in Germany. At the time, she had moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to train with Evy and Mary Scotvold (who also coached Olympians Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie). She said, "It was the right decision for me. I basically hung up my skates and didn't do anything with it."
After leaving competitive skating, Lisa attended Hamilton College, a small private college near Utica, New York, and obtained her bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1999. After college, she contemplated law school and decided to take a year off to think about what exactly she wanted to do. During her time off, Lisa became involved with Skating Athletes Bold At Heart (SABAH), a Buffalo-based not-for-profit corporation that provides skating instruction to children, youth and adults with all types of disabilities. Lisa began volunteering at SABAH three hours per week and was at the rink teaching balance, coordination, endurance and strength to these participants. As Lisa told me, "I had absolutely no interest in becoming a skating coach."
But when you're spending your time at a rink, and you also happen to be Lisa Ervin, people will approach you to give lessons and become their coach. And that is what happened -- Lisa started teaching private lessons to a few students and fast forward to the present, she is teaching full time at Amherst Skating Club, in Amherst, New York, where she coaches 20 students, ranging in levels from beginner to senior ladies. Lisa is also the Director of Skating for SABAH, where she runs the School-Day program, consisting of approximately 350 students.
Lisa is also keeping busy being a technical specialist for USFSA and ISU events. She is one of the few technical specialists that judge international competitions, and the only American woman eligible to judge ISU events for the United States in singles.
Being a judge entails travel, but Lisa says:
This past year has been nice because I've done international events only. In the past two years, I did a lot of domestic events: regionals, sectionals, Nationals in St. Louis (in 2006) and then Spokane (in 2007). My all time goal would be the Olympics. With two children, I can't be gone all the time. The 2009 Nationals would be great because it's in Cleveland which holds a special place in my heart. I trained at Winterhust FSC for nine years and I remember going to Cleveland Indians games. Nowadays, Lisa-Marie Allen and Randy Gardner and Timmy Goebel are also technical specialists. What's great for us is that it gets us involved and let's us give back to skating. And in some way we're helping the skaters because we know exactly what it's like to be there.
Lisa also wanted to mention that at U.S. Nationals in St. Louis, she re-connected with 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi and met her two young daughters. She has fond memories of Kristi and especially of Kristi's mother, Carol, who she describes as "the nicest woman you could ever meet."
Being involved with the current crop of skaters, I asked Lisa who she liked to watch at competitions. Lisa mentioned that at Skate Detroit, she saw Angela Maxwell, who was "perky, with a cute little ponytail" and reminded Lisa of herself at that age. Lisa also likes Mirai Nagasu, whom she described as "just a phenomenal talent." One of her all-time favorite skaters is Emily Hughes, who is "very tough and perseveres. Don't write her off. If there's anything I appreciate, it's those skaters who can balance skating and school. It can be done, you can go to a high school, then go to a good college, and manage both skating and school." Emily, by the way, is attending Harvard University. Lisa also loves to watch Italy's Carolina Kostner whom Lisa judged at the European Championships, where she came in first. She was "very very happy" for Carolina at the 2008 Worlds where she placed second because "Carolina's had this trouble putting two great programs back to back."
What does Lisa think about the current state of skating today?
For me, I would rather teach a little child a bunny hop, than a triple axel. I started to skate because I loved it, no prize money, no million dollars, no team of choreographers, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. I was one of those people who skated because they loved it. And now, skating has become big business. It's good for skating -- any time you can see skating on ESPN is a good thing. It's progressed where we have more fans, but on the other hand, there is something lost in the "do you love to skate?" aspect. Now, Emily Hughes, when I look at her, she's so passionate, she loves to skate. And Alissa Czisny, the way she can spin! What's really great is that, being on the other side of it, it's more difficult to be a judge. It's amazing to just sit and appreciate skating and I love to watch the girls who love it.
I asked Lisa if she was ever philosophical about her skating success at such a young age and she laughed.
You know, I started skating because of Elaine Zayak in an ice show. I saw her skirt ruffle! I was three and I loved to see the skirt ruffle. I thank God every day for my skating, or that God brought skating to me. I've had my ups and downs, but wouldn't trade it for a minute...I found skating at three, it was what I was meant to do...Everything happened to me very quickly. I'm fortunate that I had a lot of success. Sometimes I didn't have a chance to breathe. I won novice, then won junior, then senior. My Dad was in Buffalo and my mother and I were in Cleveland so it was not easy at the time.
Lisa is thankful that she and her family now live in Buffalo, which is 20 minutes from her parents' home, and 20 minutes from husband Joe's parents' home. From chatting with her, I got the distinct impression that she is a real family-oriented person who is going to emphasize to her children the importance of having a balanced existence. And it was really nice to know that the 14-year-old girl I saw on television with her bouncy ponytail grew up to be a well-grounded, happy and poised woman. I love happy endings...