Boston is a sports town, that’s what everyone says. I’ve lived in the area all my life, so people from other states often ask me if I’m a fan of the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, and even the Patriots (beloved here, not liked too much elsewhere). But I only have room – and time – for one sport, and it’s figure skating. Boston is a figure skating town, too.
As a young adult, motivated to learn Mohawks and waltz jumps by watching the Olympics, I was delighted to hear that The Skating Club of Boston offered classes for adults. The Club was only a mile from my apartment, and it was inspiring and amazing to skate under banners for Olympic champion Club members Dick Button and Tenley Albright. Paul Wylie was around the Club in those days, flatteringly interested to see a bunch of adults working away on Salchows and camel spins while he prepared for the Olympics.
“Skating gets into your blood,” the legendary Tom McGinnis told me, and it did. The first competition I ever attended was the world championships; I saw an ad for a tour and off I went, to the envy of my adult skating friends. I came back bubbling with the excitement of the event, of seeing top skaters in person and meeting the entire U.S. team. Pretty soon, a whole bunch of us adult skaters were on our way to Nationals.
The one thing we all dreamed about was a world championships in Boston. We were lucky enough to have Nationals here in 2001, and I remember hearing rumors of a Boston worlds. It didn’t happen, back then, but I was able to get to another worlds in 2006 in Calgary. By then, I had been to a dozen national championships, and several sectionals, and volunteered at regionals and club competitions. But there is nothing like Worlds.
The scale and energy is completely different from other competitions, except, probably, the Olympics. It’s not just the level of the competition, which is jaw-dropping. But apart from the skaters on the ice, the arena is filled with hundreds of skating VIPs from around the world and across the years. Part of the fun of Worlds is international celebrity-spotting. And a big part of the experience is meeting fans from all over the globe. I’m still in touch with fans from Sweden, Russia and Japan I met at events.
Preparing for worlds in Boston seems like the culmination of a lifetime of loving figure skating. Since I got into skating journalism twelve years ago, I’ve watched a generation of skaters come and go, and skaters I cheered for back when I didn’t know anyone are now sitting in the kiss-and-cry coaching today’s stars. I can’t wait to reunite with old friends at the TD Garden, and to make some new ones.
Sarah S. Brannen is a children’s book author and illustrator. Her books Madame Martine and Madame Martine Breaks the Rules are now in bookstores. Sarah writes “The Inside Edge” column for icenetwork.com, and she is a regular contributor to icenetwork and Skating Magazine. Learn more at SarahBrannen.com.