Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Post-Season Skater’s Shuffle: Hacker, Rizo and Oi ALL Go Collegiate in 2009-10

We’re into that time of year when the figure skating world typically goes into 52-Pickup mode… the proverbial “deck” of singles skaters, pairs/dance teams, and skater/coach partnership splatters onto the floor and we scramble to re-stack them, taking note along the way of who’s coming, who’s going, who’s splitting up… and why.

In an attempt to simplify this process, I’m just going to refer to any such coming/going/splitting news as The Skater’s Shuffle. I suspect there will be a number of “shuffle” posts over the coming weeks/months, especially with an Olympic season on the horizon…

But I have to admit, this particular “shuffle” surprises me, even though I was just wondering in a post last week about Katrina Hacker’s appearance in the USFS Team Envelopes…

For we suddenly have three senior-level skaters with the same story: According to
this article at IceNetwork.com, both Hacker and Brittney Rizo are bypassing the 2009-10 competitive season in order to focus on their freshman years at Princeton (for Hacker) and Northeastern (for Rizo). And in reading the article, it’s pretty obvious that neither are likely to return to competition:

Rizo is quoted as saying “My love for the sport will always remain, so I will always be connected to the sport of figure skating. Thank you so much for everything!”

While Hacker leaves the door only slightly more ajar, saying “I'm not competing this season and I am going to focus on school, but of course, I'll keep skating, as I love to skate and you never know what will happen!"

Over on the male side of the rink, a very similar story is being told of Curran Oi. Another
Ice Network article this week tells that Oi is headed to M.I.T. in the Fall, leaving his competitive career behind, probably for good:

"It has been a great ride. Mark and Peter, my coaches since I was nine years old, have inspired me daily with their passion and commitment…I will miss the challenge of training alongside my friends and the close-knit and supportive community of the Skating Club of Boston."

Oi finished sixth at 2009 US Nationals. Hacker finished fifth at the same event. Rizo finished seventh. All three seemed to be off to a very good start in Seniors; all three are young enough to still have the Olympics in their sights—if not next year, then possibly 2014. Oi, in particular, seemed to generate a lot of interest after making the final flight at Nationals and performing his free skate on NBC—and I know this blog got a whole lotta hits as a result of people discovering this post about Oi from last October.

But both higher education and figure skating require unfathomable amounts of time, energy and money in order to yield the best results. Yes, some incredibly gifted student/athletes have pulled off the delicate balance through the years, but that is a very short list of people. Maybe Oi, Hacker and Rizo each took their own hard looks at the reality of what they intended to do, and concluded Being one of the top 10 skaters in the USA is an amazing achievement, and it’s going to be good enough for me.

If so, who can really blame them? I myself am somewhat surprised that none of these three are putting off college for a year so that they can push on through and take their shot at qualifying for Vancouver’s Olympics next February. As close as they are—particularly in Oi’s case—it seems worth a shot.

Of course, that’s the difference between being in the hot seat and being someone who simply writes about being in the hot seat. They’ve all surely had this conversation—with their friends, their families, their coaches—too many times to count.

I wish them all wonderful, life-enriching experiences… and no regrets.

Incidentally, all three skaters hail from The Skating Club of Boston. Maybe it’s something in the water… or the frozen water, in this case.

Since I’m pretty certain I’ve never featured her in the
Clip of the Day before, here’s Brittney Rizo in an exhibition performance from last year.

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