Living Rugged: Going for Gold as a Competitive Figure Skater
Meet Sally-Anne Schmick: The Zebra Who Has Earned Her Stripes on the Ice
When we launched our “Rugged Life” series earlier this summer, we were on a mission to showcase Zebras who have taken on extreme challenges in life. So far, you’ve heard about Jay Alfonso’s battles with the daunting Tough Mudder challenge and Todd Beck’s time on the sea catching the biggest fish around – both of whom have conquered their feats in the great outdoors.
But, as you’ll see below when reading Sally-Anne Schmick’s story, crossing rugged terrain is not a requirement to demonstrate one’s ruggedness.
Per Merriam-Webster, the term “rugged” can be used to refer to anything “presenting a severe test of ability, stamina, or resolution.” And that’s exactly what Sally-Anne’s figure skating career has been: a test of ability, stamina and resolution.
Sally-Anne has been a part of Zebra Nation for five years and currently leads Zebra’s global social media strategy. She spends her days showcasing the many ways that Zebra helps customers capture their performance edge. But, before she steps foot in the office each morning, you’ll find Sally-Anne literally using the edges of her skates to capture her own personal edge in the highly competitive world of figure skating.
Read her story…
Sharpening the Edges
Most competitive figure skaters get involved in the sport as young as three or four years old. However, Sally-Anne’s calling came years later. And it may not even be fair to say it was a “calling” so much as something that she unwittingly (and literally) stumbled into.
Growing up just outside of Milwaukee, Sally-Anne was surrounded by ice skating. But it wasn’t something she had a great interest in until one day, at the age of 10 while hanging out with a friend from her block, she decided to give it a try. They went to a skating lesson, and after stepping onto the ice for the first time, there was instantly a spark. She knew that skating was what she wanted to do, even if it was going to take some time to master the sport.
“Skating has never come naturally to me,” Sally-Anne explained to us in a recent interview. “But I just always made sure I was the first in the rink and the last one to leave during practice sessions. Putting in the hard work paid off for me.”
By the time Sally-Anne was 12-years-old, just two years after taking her first lesson, she qualified to compete in her first national championship.
Ramping Up the Competition
Over the next six years Sally-Anne enjoyed a steady rise through the figure skating ranks, and her resilience and commitment to excellence did not go unnoticed. During her senior year of high school, Sally-Anne was rewarded with the opportunity to continue her career at Miami University in Ohio, the top Division I program in the country.
“It is actually just one of two colleges that currently offer figure skating as a fully-funded varsity sport, and at the time I graduated from high school, it was the only collegiate-level program,” Sally-Anne said. “So, I was really really lucky that I was able to be a part of that prestigious figure skating team for my four years in college.”
She had some great experiences throughout the duration of her college career, but according to Sally-Anne, one stood out a bit more than the others:
“My senior year, I was team captain. We went undefeated the whole season and eventually went on to win the national championship that year. I got to stand on the podium for the award ceremony and accept the championship plate and my gold medal. Having the opportunity to represent Miami University and my entire team was one of the best moments of my skating career.”
Sticking the Landing
All good things must come to an end at some point.
At least that’s what Sally-Anne believed as she was walking across the stage to receive her diploma from Miami University. She had accepted her first job and didn’t see any serious opportunities to continue pursuing her passion in a professional capacity.
“When I graduated, I thought I was done with skating for good. I went from 48 hours of training a week to nothing. There was nowhere else left for me to compete and I figured I would just kind of retire and head off into the sunset,” Sally-Anne explained.
But that sentiment didn’t last very long.
She is currently wrapping up her third season competing at the gold level of what U.S. Figure Skating refers to as its “adult competition track.”
“I’m kind of like Brett Favre. I’ve come out of retirement a few times now,” Sally-Anne said as she laughed. “In all seriousness, though, I’m a lifer. I’ve tried to walk away and hang up the skates, but I just can’t. And luckily, doing it now as an adult is definitely different. It’s not as cut-throat as the younger levels.”
And though it might not be quite the same as her collegiate competition days or require as much training time, Sally-Anne is still putting in plenty of work to stay at the top of her figure skating game.
She spends about an hour on the ice and runs around 10 miles each week! That’s in addition to the hours she spends on choreography. Oh, and she does it all before 7:00 a.m. every day! (No wonder she placed fourth in her division in just her second year back on the ice! If that’s not indicative of a hard-core, “rugged” spirit, we don’t know what is.)
But, for Sally-Anne, that price is worth paying in order to continue doing what she loves.
“Ultimately, still being able to compete gives me that kind of stress relief from work and everyday life,” Sally-Anne said. “I love going to competitions. But now when I compete, it’s much more laid back. I’ve made many new friends through the adult circuit, and just being out on the ice is such a great feeling. I’ve resigned myself that skating will always be a part of my life in some way shape or form.”
In addition to sharpening her skills on the ice, Sally-Anne also spent multiple seasons teaching young skaters how to capture their edge so they, too, could reach the next level in their skating careers.
Capturing Your Edge (On the Ice)
Though Sally-Anne technically retired from coaching in April, we couldn’t resist asking her for some pro tips on how to impress our friends and family – or at least not embarrass ourselves in front of total strangers – the next time we head to the skating rink. Because, let’s be real, spending the day on the ice sounds amazing after the boiling hot summer most of us have been experiencing!
Disclaimer: Sally-Anne’s advice probably isn’t going to make you a Division I figure skater overnight. But she believes it can certainly help you take a step in the right direction – or at least stay on your feet…
“You just have to bend your knees, and don’t bend too far forwards or backwards, because you WILL hit an edge and you will fall, which I’ve done many times. But overall, it’s not as hard as it looks. A lot of people go into it scared, but it’s really not too hard. You just have to balance, and you’ll be alright out there.”
Great advice! We’re off to give it a whirl! Hopefully you are too!?
Editor's Note: If you are a figure skating fan, you'll want to check out our latest Stories from the Edge interview with U.S. World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist Bradie Tennell. She shares her secret to capturing her edge on the ice.
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