Don't count Rachael Flatt (at right) out this season. The 2010 US National champion and Olympian is competing at Skate America which starts this Friday in Kent, Washington. Rachel is attending Stanford University full time and many expected her to "retire" when she started college. I read a few articles where she was encouraged to be proud of her Nationals win and Olympic appearance and move on with her life. Ouch, that hurts. I know I love it when strangers give me unsolicited advice.
So let's go straight to the source and ask Rachael about her preparations for Skate America and her motivation to continue with her skating.
After wining the 2010 Nationals, you placed second in 2011 and sixth in 2012. Going into Skate America, are you a different skater from prior seasons?
Rachael: Absolutely! I think we are all different skaters every year as we grow, progress, and mature in our skating. Last season, I obviously got a lot of heat and criticism about continuing my skating career because I am going to school and probably bordering on spreading myself too thinly. It really got to me especially because I was dealing with injuries and completely uprooting my life in Colorado Springs to life at college (which is wonderfully amazing I might add). Now, I am much more comfortable with my setup in Northern California and I have a better schedule for at least this quarter. Although it will still be tough to balance everything, I am ready to start this season fresh and show that I am having the time of my life!
You are a sophomore at Stanford now -- can you describe your daily school and skating schedule?
Rachael: My schedule differs day to day, but I normally skate in the morning, commute back to campus for classes, back to the rink for more on ice training, while squeezing in off ice workouts, etc in between classes or at the end of the day. Some days I have class until later afternoon or early evening because of labs or discussion sections, so those feel quite long. But overall, I like this schedule much better than some prior quarters. I stayed in Palo Alto this past summer, training with my coaches Justin Dillon and Lynn Smith, while completing my Physics class/lab requirement for my major. Weekends are my days to get work done! I sometimes go out with friends or my sorority (I'm an Alpha Phi) on Friday or Saturday night, but I also looove to catch up on sleep!
What are your short and long programs?
Rachael: My long program, "Firebird" is the same from last year with a few revisions, and my short is a tango to a piece of music by Astor Piazolla, "Contrabajissimo", which I had originally choreographed as a show/exhibition program this spring. Justin and Lynn took a look at it shortly after I had completed the choreography and said that it had to be my short for this year. Justin and I reworked a few parts to fit the requirements and voila! It is a great program with a lot of sass and energy, so I am incredibly excited to debut it at Skate America.
What are your biggest improvements coming into this season?
Rachael: I think being more comfortable in my skin and with my style of skating has led to a lot more artistry coming out in my performances. I hope this shows through in competition, as it has really been fun to create my own program and ultimately design a character I love portraying.
What is your motivation this season?
Rachael: My main motivation is to just enjoy what I'm doing again while still getting something positive out of my skating. Although it can be incredibly hectic to balance my academics at Stanford and my skating career, I am doing what I love most, so I hope that continues to push me through the daily grind (especially on those days when I am definitely sleep deprived)!
Is your goal to make a second Olympic appearance?
Rachael: At this point, I am taking my career day by day because I am so busy. This is the best way for me to approach my schedule because it gets a bit overwhelming always looking at the big picture. Baby steps and daily goals and accomplishments have been the key to working through my training this year. As much as I'd love to say absolutely yes to Sochi, I will cross that road when I get to it. That was my approach for Vancouver: one day at a time, setting daily goals.