When I was 9 years old my mom took me to our local ice cube. We call it a cube because that is really all it was – a quarter of the size of an Olympic rink, scraped by hand, resurfaced with a fire hose – it was far from grand… but it was ice and that was all it took to get me hooked!
I took to skating fairly easily and my next trip to the rink was for a group lesson, commonly known as ‘academy’. My very first competition was the ‘Spin Spiral and Jump’ competition and before long I was enrolled in private lessons, learning how to spin, jump and dance on ice. I loved every minute!
Two lessons per week after school quickly became three plus a Saturday morning. I then started training in the early hours of the morning before school and then to raise my performance bar some more we started travelling through to the Carlton Sky Rink to get some ‘big ice experience’. In 1996 I qualified to skate in my first South African National Championships in Cape Town – I came 8th out of 18 little girls which I thought was dreadful. I also experienced my first coach to skater screaming session…the first of many!
I participated in every National Championships up until 2006 – bar 2000 when I had to withdraw half way through due to a back injury. I enjoyed every single one of them – some were good, some were bad but ALL were enjoyed!
1997 brought my first set of international competitions. We travelled to Belgium & Holland and finished our trip with two weeks of training in Germany. 1999 came with a trip to Croatia followed by Germany and in 2000 I received Junior Protea colours for representing South Africa at the Salchow Trophy in Malmo Sweden – this is where I really broke into the international skating sector…. everything I had dreamed of was happening. 2002 was my ‘Green Blazer’ year – I earned Full Protea Colours for representing South Africa in my first Senior ISU Competition – Four Continents in Jeonju Korea.
Skating in between all this was a fight. I moved coaches multiple times – sometimes by choice others by force, Carlton Skyrink (my then home rink) closed down which meant we now had to travel to Pretoria, Krugersdorp, Vereeneging and Kempton Park. Training now happened from 5am-8am everyday followed by a few hours in the gym. Home schooling is what I did and Friday nights were spent stretching in front of a tv show rather than out and about with friends. Do I regret it? … Not one little bit! I may have missed partying as a teen, but I got to see the world, I learned that my body was capable of so much more than I ever dreamed. I learned that my mind was my greatest obstacle. And I got to see countless beautiful sunrises.
For the next four years I pushed myself beyond what I ever thought was possible, I shared the ice with some of the best skaters in the world, I saw many beautiful parts of our earth and I developed an eating disorder that broke my family and almost killed me.
2005 was my year to shine…. Olympic Qualifying took place at the Karl Schaffer Competition in Vienna. Short program came… and I choked. Free skate happened the following day and I had the BEST skate of my life! I will remember what it felt like to be out there on this day forever – this is what I woke up every morning at the crack of dawn to do. It had all paid off…. but it wasn’t enough. Because of my very poor skate in the short program, my score was not enough to pull me up into the top 8 and qualify me for everything I had worked for… The Olympic Games 2006 Torino Italy.
This is really where my skating career ended… I tried to go back, to commit to another 4 years, but I just couldn’t do it – I had to focus on recovering from my still VERY present bulimia. I competed in one more National Championships in 2006 which I won, but my body and mind were broken and very sick. It was finally the end. Time for me to find my life outside of the ice rink.
I always said that the day I set foot on the ice and did not enjoy what I was doing, I would stop. For me, that day never came – I loved skating, my heart spoke words through skating that my mouth could never do. The ice was my canvas… a very colourful one indeed!