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Darkness permeates the early hours of a weekday morning as sleep wraps a blanket around New York City. The beaming moonlight penetrates the nighttime sky but steadily loses its strength as the first flickers of light appear. The color of the sky morphs from a royal blue to a golden orange against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
At 4:59 AM, I am sleeping along with eight million other people. At 5:00, a shrill alarm clock sharply cuts through the atmosphere, coaxing me to open my languid eyelids. “Just 10 more minutes of sleep, then I will go skating,” I reassure myself. I figure skate both before school and after school. Although every inch of my body protests against abandoning my warm bed, I push the covers away, and winter’s brisk air slaps my chilly bones. After packing my school bag, I leave for the ice rink.
A shiver runs through my spine when I first step onto the glassy ice. Invigorating winds flow around the ends of my ponytail as I glide along the rink. After warming up, I discover that the invisible icicles clinging on to me have melted, and I start jumping. Bend your knees, look forward, align your body, increase your speed, and spring up. Defying the laws of gravity, I cross my arms tightly to my chest and try to remain as straight as a pencil. The jump is fleeting, lasting for less than a second—an average skater’s airtime is around 0.45 seconds. As I take off into the air, the world around me blurs and I feel limitless.
I first started skating eight years ago, around the age of nine, and have devoted many hours to the sport. Skating is not only a physical form of exercise but also a mental one. Early on in my skating career, my coach reduced me to tears when she sternly reprimanded me for not lifting my leg high enough in a spin. Owing to my frank coach, I now view criticism as a means for improvement rather than as an insult.
One particular struggle especially taught me the perseverance to push through frustration—landing the double axel fully rotated. A double axel entails jumping for two and a half rotations in the air. Only around 13% of skaters can land the double axel. I faced two years of anger, exasperation, and agony before finally landing it. According to my coach, I had to jump a height of approximately 10.5 inches and have at least 0.467 seconds of airtime in order to succeed. I was constantly training. I walked through the movements in my head, practiced the jump in my living room, expanded my strength and endurance training, and increased plyometric exercises in an effort to improve my height, airtime, and distance for the jump. I remember after Thursday night skating I would practice double axels in the deserted street of Pople Avenue, Queens. Your technique is off. Your head is turned too much. Your arms are too high in the take-off. You are not listening to me. Listen! As darkness enveloped the streets and pedestrians walked by with curiosity, my fatigued legs began aching and my arms began shaking. The process was infuriating—one day I would make progress and the next day I would fall two steps back. On the ice, I fell hundreds of times; I bruised my hands and knees, injured my back, and acquired blisters on my feet.
On December 11, 2013, I finally landed the jump fully rotated. I heard the cheers of my coaches drifting in the distance, but all that occupied my mind was the years of dedication that finally led to my triumph. I set smaller goals in order to achieve a greater goal and persisted through many disappointments. Gradually, I perfected the precise double axel technique and accumulated enough strength necessary to land the jump. Yes!
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