When I talk about goals with the skaters I work with, a few are aiming at qualifying to coach and some skaters want to go on and do shows. But many of them talk about competing as far as they can and secretly dream, or quite candidly talk, about wanting to skate at the Olympics.
It’s almost every young skater’s dream to reach the Olympics but do you really know what you have to do to get there or how it feels to be there? Somewhere along the way, many skaters come to change direction, and don’t actually make it to that level. Some will continue and decide to be show skaters for a while and some will go into coaching. Others will give up competitive skating but continue to skate for the love of being on the ice and the freedom they feel. A very few will realise their dreams.
It takes hard work, dedication, sacrifice and something more. And yes, many young skaters do all this, but still never get there. I talked to Ivana Reitmayerova, three times Slovak national champion to find out what it really means to skate in the Olympics and how she manage to reach that ultimate goal.
Ivana started skating when she was five years old in Kosice, Slovakia. Fortunate in that her mum was a highly respected coach, skating had always been a part of her life. At the age of 14 Ivana started training seriously for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in 2010, aged 17 achieved her dream of skating for her country at the Olympics. It was very much a family affair – her mother was her coach, and her brother, Peter, also competed in the Europeans and the Worlds the same year. Her mum currently coaches in Iceland and at their home in Slovakia. Ivana now coaches at a club in Norway and her brother is a show skater with P&O Royal Caribbean Cruises.
“I first knew that I wanted to skate when I was four years old. I was ten when I decided that I wanted to be an Olympian. When I was 18 I realised that my next goal was to be a coach…. Hopefully just as good as my mum is.
Training before the Olympics was one of the hardest things I ever went through. I had five hours on ice, six days a week. I ran every morning for at least an hour and I had ballet and strength work outs three to four times a week each.
To qualify for the Olympics, I first had to secure a place for our country at the World Championships in 2009 in Los Angeles. The top 20 countries could earn a spot at the Winter Olympics and luckily I came 14th. The next step was winning the National Championships at the end of the year in 2009 and keeping my skating level high.
Training with my mum as a coach was very difficult. Not because she was stricter, it was more a mentality issue… We both wanted me to be as good as I could and I guess we both had a different approach to it … ha ha!
Having my brother as a training partner – Mum treated us mostly the same. It was amazing to train with someone so talented and amazing on the ice as my brother was. We did argue, but it was mostly arguments about who gets to do their program first on practice!
In terms of balancing skating with schoolwork and studies, I took time off from school two years before the Olympics. It wasn’t possible for me to train and do my school work as I didn’t live at home.
When I got to Vancouver, it was a dream come true. I was an Olympian – that was what I had been training for. I had reached my goal and everything just seemed amazing to me.
I was very nervous. Weeks before I even got there I didn’t want to train and just wanted to sleep. It took a lot of energy from me to just get myself on the ice. I didn’t want to give up… I was just really scared. I think the worst moment, the most stressful, was when I had free time. As long as I was busy, I didn’t feel anything. I was in work mode. To stop feeling nervous and to keep calm, I was reading a lot. It kept my mind occupied. I always felt that when I was reading, I was in a different world.
When they called my name and I stepped out onto the ice for the Short Programme I was terrified… in a good way. I have never felt such a rush before and honestly I just didn’t want my programme to end!
I don’t compete right now. My last competition was in spring of 2015. I quit because the stress and the weight of the responsibility got to be too much. Right now I coach and I absolutely love it! I still train every now and then, and I try to keep myself in good shape. I never stop thinking about coming back and competing…. Maybe in a year or so when I am done with school and I will be settled down. I move around a lot these days. I am not aiming at the next Olympics for sure!
Coaching is amazing. But I draw on my experience from the skating in general and from the way my mum has coached. I don’t take the Olympics into consideration. It was only three weeks out of a long time in training. My current favourite skaters are Ashley Wagner, who I love for her personality, and Yuzuru Hanyu for his style.
The one piece of advice I would give young skaters wanting to skate at the Olympics is this: Set a goal and don’t let anyone or anything come in your way. Dreams really do come true if you work hard enough to achieve them. It’s important to be fully dedicated to the sport. It gives you discipline and makes you a stronger person. It is a life lesson like no other. Most importantly stay true to yourself. If you do, there is no stopping what you can achieve.”