Adult Silver Freeskate Test: Passed

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I’m now a Silver skater! Phew!

Every time I test or compete, in the lead-up to skating I ask myself why I do this and what it brings me when it makes me feel so nervous and stressed out. But then I do the thing, and even if I don’t pass or do well, I usually feel fine the second I finish, even exhilarated. I tell myself consolingly that I don’t have to test or compete at all, that skating for its own sake is plenty rewarding, but then the thought of not testing or competing bums me out. So I continue to do it!

Preparation for this test was a little rushed, because my new coach and I have only been working together two months and the program is very new. But because of the timing of the tests offered, we decided somewhat last-minute that it would be better to test early rather than wait till late January, and we put together a basic program with just the test requirements.

My elements were:

  • Solo loop jump
  • Solo Lutz
  • Solo flip
  • Sequence: Waltz-half loop-salchow-toe
  • Combo: Salchow-toe loop
  • Camel spin
  • Spin combo: camel-sit
  • Spiral sequence

I don’t have video, sadly. Every time I test I think about asking someone to video me, but at the last minute I get so nervous that it feels like knowing I’m on video would add too much anxiety and I opt not to do it. And then afterward I wish I’d gotten it. Ah, well!

I generally felt prepared going into the test — I actually cut short my last few practices, because I felt like I had everything where they needed to be, and I didn’t want to overthink things. My camel spin has been behaving lately, and I’ve been getting the feel for it, and my jumps felt comfortable. As long as I didn’t blank out or get too nervous, I felt I would be okay.

Of course, nerves are always the big variable. I felt low-level nerves while waiting and my warm-up went fine — a little shaky but calmer by the end of it. It wasn’t until I actually began the program that the extra bit of nerves hit, making me a little jittery. It didn’t derail me in a significant way, but my coach and I agreed that all the jump landings were more skittery than usual. Partly because I didn’t have as much speed as I’m used to, and partly because I think my knees don’t bend when I’m nervous!

The one outright mistake came on the solo camel spin, which didn’t get a good entry (my coach said my entry didn’t get the power it needed in wind-up) and I barely hung on. I think I got a little more than 2 revolutions and was prepared to reskate it. But then I hit my camel-sit spin combo later, so I think that’s why I didn’t get any reskate requests. Everything else was completed, if not as well as I usually do in practice. Gah, nerves! I didn’t use to understand why TV commentators would talk so much about nerves and call skating a mental sport, but now that I skate, IT’S ALL MENTAL.

Judges’ scores and comments (passing average 2.7, passing total 5.4):

  1. Technical Merit: 2.7
    Presentation: 2.7
    Total: 5.4
    Pass
    Nice program! Would like to see you hold your spin positions a bit longer. Would also like to see a bit more speed. Well skated. =)
  2. Technical Merit: 2.7
    Presentation: 2.7
    Total: 5.4
    Pass
    Camel – work for clear exit – stronger. Loop ok. Lutz – work on entry edge. Keep working on knee bend. Keep working on lower sit pos. Some nice elements in presentation.
  3. Technical Merit: 2.7
    Presentation: 2.8
    Total: 5.5
    Pass
    Good. Make sure to hold camel for required revs. Good flow.

So that’s two tests down this year! Which is one test more than I had dared to hope earlier in the year. Just for fun, some stats: It’s been four months since my last test (Gold moves), nearly two years exactly between passing Silver moves and Silver freeskate, and about 3 and a half years between Bronze free and Silver free. I don’t intend to test for a while yet, but I’m thinking Intermediate moves will be ready much sooner (within a year?) than Gold free, which I’m not even going to think about — I’m going to enjoy skating Silver for a while!

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Spin variations for Silver freeskate

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My coach explained the importance of spins once hitting Silver, since some competitions start judging with IJS rather than 6.0. And given that I’m unable to land double jumps but could, theoretically, hit a Level 1 or 2 spin, the spins end up being bigger point-getters than jumps, although there are only 2 spins allowed versus 5 jumping passes. But then on the downside, if you don’t quite get a leg high enough or low enough, or hold a position long enough, the dreaded dash of doom could zero out the whole attempt.

So all in all, I’m putting a lot of attention on my spins these days. It’s been a while since I’ve videoed my jumping, but I guess I’m not that excited about my jumps (other than dreaming of an axel someday) — I generally have all my singles now, and they’re dinky adult jumps so there’s definite room for improvement, but somehow it feels like there’s less to work on. Whereas, there’s an endless number of spin variations.

  • I have trouble with the traditional layback position, and it’s something in the right hip and leg that I haven’t figured out yet. I can see the problem in the video, but it’s still a struggle to get it corrected. I tend to lean to the right and I don’t think my hips are pushed far enough forward, and when I try to correct my hips my right leg sort of dangles.
  • We tried tweaking the layback position to lean intentionally to the right, and that seems to work better. Right now it’s just an upright/attitude spin because I’m not really leaning back, but it’s a goal.
  • For the back camel, we’re playing around with position changes. Possibilities: back sit, crossing my free leg on my spinning knee, or going into a cross-under backspin. The goal is to be able to get 4 revs on the back camel (to leave margin for error so I get credit for the position).
  • Sit spin to broken leg may be an option. I feel stuck in the broken leg position, and I can see there’s a lot of space between my chest and my knee, and it looks like the best broken leg spins are when the chest is all the way down and nearly touching the knee. I’ve tried it a couple times and it’s freaky! Also incredibly dizzying.
  • Back sit to back tuck. This is unlikely to be a candidate because it’s an awkward transition. As soon as I tuck the free leg, I hit my toe and grind to a halt. I’ll keep working on it, but I’m not getting the hang of this.
  • That cross-under spin (? is there a real name for that?) is so pretty when I see other skaters do it, but it’s a ways off — most often it dies after a revolution or two. I doubt I’ll end up using it in a program anytime soon.
  • And, last but not least, the good ol’ camel-sit-back sit. The struggle, as always, is hitting the camel. It’s a fickle beast!

Back in the saddle: lessons, programs, tests

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I’ve started working with a new coach, finally! After floating around on my own for a while, basically since my surgery last summer, I started looking earnestly into finding a coach with my eye on getting a new program and competing at Sectionals/Nationals next year. I’ve been working with my new coach about a month, and after discussing my goals and looking at where I am, we decided to shoot for Silver FS, which means putting together a new program and also testing. It suddenly feels like I went from relaxed to strapped for time, with all that’s required to get ready for the season!

The last time I competed was at Sectionals in 2016, about a year and a half ago, and my then-coach had suggested afterward that I stay at Bronze for the next season. I figured she knew better than I did and agreed with her opinion, but then I got injured and had to sit out the next season anyway. When I resumed skating, I focused a lot on edges and moves and feel like my overall skating improved a fair amount, but I wasn’t sure what my new coach would think. I put the question to her and after we went through my jump and spin repertoire, she thought I was ready to try for Silver, so we got right to working on a new program.

If I want to compete at Sectionals in March, I’ll have to pass my Silver FS test by January at the latest. It’s already nearly November, so this doesn’t give me a whole lot of time! It seems possible, but will require a lot of work, so I’m getting into my training mindset to learn things as quickly as possible.

Goals for Silver Freeskate are:

  • Increased flow overall and speed throughout. (I was happy with my Bronze FS at Sectionals, but did see how it lacked flow and speed.)
  • A diverse collection of transitions other than 3-turns and crossovers. Would like to throw in some harder turns like rockers/counters and twizzles.
  • Performance quality! I don’t think I’ve been able to *perform* my programs in the past because I was so fixated on hitting the elements, but I’d really love to actually interpret music and engage with the program this time around.
  • Jump layout will probably be: Lutz, flip, loop, likely a flip combo, and then another combo of some sort (Lutz?)
  • We’re still figuring out what spins will work best. Which is to say, nothing stands out right now as particularly strong, so we’ll try a bunch of spins and see what is working. Possibilities are camel-sit-back sit, back camel-back sit, or sit spin with a couple variations in position.

September spin practice

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I’ve had a sporadic summer of skating — I’ve been going, but not as often as I’d like, and my practices have been a little unfocused. I’m actually in between coaches at the moment, and when I don’t have weekly lessons and a game plan, I find my practices can get a little random. I don’t mind, necessarily, since it’s nice to be able to relax and practice at my own pace, but I do feel like I work best in the long run when I have more of a set goal and direction. That’s next on my agenda!

But for now, I’m working on the same ol’ spins and jumps as ever, trying to make them better and more consistent. Here’s what some of them look like at the moment:

Notes to self:

  • Sit spin is looking okay – can get lower, but almost there. Back sit is coming along, thankfully! I haven’t been able to get more than 1-2 revolutions on that until this summer, so that’s a new development.
  • Camel is always a struggle. All my forward entry spins have been giving me trouble lately, and the problem seems to be in the entry hook. My most common error on the camel spin is that I don’t rise up smoothly and hook the spin into a nice centered circle, but rather the entry looks like a big 3-turn (hence the falling out early).
  • Layback still looks crooked and ugly, but I think I can see what’s going wrong now. I’ve thought all this time that my problem was one thing, but looking at the video I see that it’s actually something else altogether! I’ve been trying to lift the free leg because it feels like I collapse on that side, but the free leg is actually high enough. In trying to lift it, I’m not tucking my hips under me properly, which results in that peeing-dog position I hate. I don’t think I’ve recorded my layback on video enough, and doing it sooner would have helped.
  • Back camel is clearly falling on a very large outside edge/circle. It’s a miracle that upright backspin pulled up instead of falling out!

Adult Gold moves in the field: Passed

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I took my Gold moves test this weekend, and I was the most uncertain I’ve ever felt going into a test. A few complicators popped up at the last minute, but the main one was my fault for thinking that the test date was the last weekend of the month, and then finding out on Thursday that it was actually in three days!

Apparently the club tests on the fourth Sunday of the month, not the last Sunday; the last time I tested happened to be both the fourth and the last Sunday of the month. The club tests every month so they don’t announce the test dates in advance; they just assume you know the rules, and send out the test date schedule a few days before the day. So all this time I thought I had more time, and then suddenly test day was upon me. On top of that, I’ve been moving places so I hadn’t been skating much lately; I figured I would focus on moving homes first, and then really buckle down and practice the last week leading into the test. HA. HA. Ha… Joke’s on me!

I’ve been working on Gold moves for a while so I wasn’t completely unready. But I hadn’t yet got to that place where I could skate the test clean in one full run-through with no mistakes, even though I was capable of doing each element without mistakes. So my confidence was not there, plus I had that extra bit of panic for not having as much practice time as I thought I would. I seriously thought about scratching the test, supposing that I had about a fifty-fifty chance of passing. But then I figured, well, if I skipped the test altogether, that’s throwing away a chance to pass.

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