Tiffany Wu, a fourth-year physiological science student, ties her skates before her practice session. Wu has been skating for 17 years and joined UCLA’s club figure skating team at the start of her first year of college.
Wu smiles as she performs a dance sequence in her competition routine. ‘’I think we’re actually really successful as a team, but no one really knows that. Making it to (the national intercollegiate competition) is pretty hard, and in the last three years we’ve made it to nationals,’’ Wu said.
Wu leans into a layback spin position. Wu was five when she first began skating. Now she is a competitor in the senior ladies freestyle category and in international and senior ice dance competitions.
Wu jumps with her arms in the air while completing an axel. It took Wu four years of training before she landed her first axel at age nine. ‘’Figure skating is such an amazing sport to be a part of,’’ Wu said. ‘’Continuing in it really adds to your college experience. Going through the stress of competing, and then the team being there for you is a really good bonding experience.’’
Wu performs a doughnut spin by grasping her skate blade near her head while spinning sideways. As one of the team presidents of UCLA club figure skating, Wu said she finds fulfillment in seeing the growth and improvement of the skaters in their competitions. ‘’We ended up placing second at this last competition. I was so happy and proud of the team. Last year we placed seventh at our first competition, so I was so excited (this year),’’ Wu said.
First-year neuroscience student Ariel Davydov, second-year neuroscience student Joonsoo Kim and second-year student Karina Nance exchange laughs while stretching in their split positions. The three neuroscience students are members of the UCLA figure skating team. Early morning off-ice training sessions occur weekly, and provide a time for team members to bond and socialize.
The skaters practice their rotating jumps on land to improve strength, form and technique on ice.
Kim stretches Emery Moberg, a third-year biophysics student, at the end of the training session. Maintaining flexibility is important in order for a skater to have full extension abilities while performing artistic elements.
Kim leans across the ice in a hydroblade position. Kim started skating at his local rink in Iowa City at age nine. In January, he placed third in the junior men’s category at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship. ‘’The U.S. Figure Skating president handed me a medal. That was the most crazy thing ever. I didn’t really have the most auspicious beginning to my skating career, so to think that I made it that far was just mind blowing to me. It showed myself that sustained commitment pays off in the long run.’’
Kim lifts his leg above his head during a spin. In July, Kim placed first in the senior men’s category at the U.S. Collegiate Championships. ‘’It was awesome to be able to compete and meet people who are full-time college students and balancing skating,’’ Kim said.
Kim soars across the ice, performing a flying camel spin. Kim operates as the competition chair, organizing competition registration, traveling and team logistics. Although the members of the UCLA figure skating team practice individually, they come together to compete as a team. “In intercollegiate skating, you’re all rooting for each other. It combines the team aspect of figure skating, which is so often not found in individual skating. It also puts emphasis on the fun of skating,” Kim explained.
To perform a Biellmann spiral, Davydov uses the blade of her skate to stretch her leg above her head while gliding across the ice. Although this is her first year on the UCLA figure skating team, Davydov has been skating for 13 years.
Davydov ducks into a hydroblade position while rehearsing one of her competition programs. Davydov competes in the category of ice dancing. Compared to freestyle skating, ice dancing does not require jumps, but instead focuses on artistic step sequences that mimic ballroom dancing.
Nance reaches her arms and stretches her leg to perform a layback spin. Nance has skated for 13 years and competes at the senior ladies level. She joined the intercollegiate figure skating team at the start of her first year at UCLA and operates as the team’s social and publicity chair.
Nance reaches to grasp her hands above her head while performing a double loop combination jump. ‘’I haven’t landed loop-loops in forever,’’ Nance said after successfully landing multiple jumps.