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Empire State Games Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 9, 2012

Hard work of competitive skating has a silver lining for Angelina McKenna

Angelina McKenna fell in love with figure skating when she was only 4. It’s been 12 years, and her love for the sport has shown no signs of diminishing.

“I love the freedom of performing, and being in front of an audience is one of the best feelings,” said McKenna on Monday, two days after taking home a silver medal from the Empire State Games.

McKenna’s parents put her in a learn-to-skate program at a local rink when she was a little girl, and, when she took an interest in figure skating, she advanced to group lessons. When she showed not just interest, but genuine talent, she began working individually with a coach, and she’s been with that coach now for 10 years.

Training to be a figure skater is not for the faint of heart — or body. McKenna practices at least five or six days a week, year-round, including a practice at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays.

“It becomes a matter of prioritizing,” McKenna said. “There have been times where people have asked me to do something and I’ve had to turn them down because of skating.”

She said she often wishes there were more hours in a day so she could participate in more activities.

“It’s all part of the sacrifice you make if you want to do well,” said McKenna.

Though she competes all year long, and more in the summer than any other season, McKenna has labeled the annual Empire State Games as “the most fun she’s ever had at a competition.”

When she first entered the Empire State Games three years ago, figure skating competitors had to be at least 12 years old; the age limit has since been lowered.

“Everybody in my rink was going and saying how much fun it was, and. when I was finally old enough, I went,” she said. “I love it because of the opening ceremonies and the atmosphere of the whole event.”

This year, McKenna had her best Games performance yet, scoring second place in the Senior Ladies’ Free Skate.

“I think I skated really well; of course, there are always regrets, things you think you could do better, but overall I was really happy,” said McKenna.

She had been working on her program for four months, and the Games were the first time she officially performed it. McKenna, who lives in Schenectady, worked with a coach in Boston for the choreography, and her local coach, Patti Tashman, helped her polish her routine.

“I love all the jumps and tricks, as people call them,” she said.

McKenna said she plans to keep skating as long as her body allows it.

“There’s a lot of physical and emotional damage with this sport, and you just hope you can minimize it,” she said.

In order to reduce the risk of physical injury, she tries to warm up, stretch out, and keep her muscles loose, as well as using good technique on the ice to reduce joint-related injuries.

As far as the emotional toll, McKenna speculates that it’s just like any other sport; there are ups and downs, letdowns, and struggles.

“There will be times when it seems like you’re stuck and you want to keep pushing forward…but it only makes it that much better when you break down those walls and start to see improvement,” she said.

Though her parents are behind her 100 percent, McKenna said she believes they sometimes worry about whether or not competitive skating is in her best interest.

“They’ll always support me in whatever decisions I make, though,” she said.

For instance, they were supportive when she decided to join a synchronized skating team in addition to practicing individual skating.

McKenna wanted to join a synchronized skating team because she felt she was missing out on the team aspect of sports.

“I’ve always felt a bit jealous of people on tight-knit sports teams, and now I have the best of both worlds,” she said. Through joining the team she has made more friends who share a passion for skating.

McKenna hopes to continue skating through college, and, after her competitive career is over, she wants to coach.

“I hope I can keep attending the Games, too, and I really hope they can keep them running,” concluded McKenna. She said she was disappointed last year when she heard they might be canceled due to lack of funding, and then was thrilled to hear they were back on, especially for this year.

“I’ll keep going to the games as long as they keep having them,” she said.

By Anne Hayden

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