Driscoll experiences emotional return to skatingSkater wins gold at Gay Games performing to song he wrote himself
"I was scared to death," admitted J. Scott Driscoll, who won gold in the artistic solo platinum male event last week at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. "The whole nerves of competition came back.
"But I wanted it so bad that I was there 100 percent. It was scary, but at the same time it was exciting because I was not going to miss this moment for nothing."
Driscoll, 53, grew up a competitive figure skater. He competed at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships three times, finishing seventh in senior men's in 1983. Shortly after the 1984 U.S. Championships, he decided to turn professional and soon landed a life-changing gig.
His friends, Nathan Birch and Timothy Murphy, alerted him that the John Curry Skating Company was having auditions. He recalled going to the old Sky Rink on West 33rd Street in Manhattan at 2 a.m. to try out. After the audition, Driscoll said Curry basically told him, "Don't call us, we'll call you."
"After that, I called every single day," Driscoll said. "I made them not forget me."
He was in the cast that performed on the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House.
"I wish I was me now knowing how to appreciate something like it," he said. "I did appreciate it, because I had a blast. I had my own dressing room at the Met and a backstage pass. To me, it was simple. It was my first professional job, and I was at the Met.
"Honestly, what I got from the John Curry Skating Company -- other than lifelong friends and incredible opportunities to skate in places I never would have been able to -- I got educated and trained by John Curry through that experience. Every morning, he taught class. Basically, he paid me to learn from him."
Following that job, Driscoll skated at a theme park show at Busch Gardens and then joined Disney on Ice for several years as a principal skater. He began coaching shortly after turning professional, and when his touring days were done, he started coaching full time.
It was at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he encountered a young Max Aaron and his sisters. They were one of the first families to sign up for the learn-to-skate program.
"The day Max got on the ice and his sisters, they skated like they knew how to skate, but they'd never skated before," Driscoll said. "What I learned from that family is they were in toddler gymnastics as little kids. Their balance from gymnastics aided them in having balance immediately on the ice."
Driscoll coached until 2003, when his business career started to take off. He moved to Palm Springs, California, in 2007, and now runs a personal concierge service, handling all aspects of home management: errands, personal shopping and other projects.
In 2011, skating re-entered his life in a big way, when a rink opened in nearby Cathedral City.
"There was public skating going on," Driscoll said. "All these little kids crashing, sliding, falling and knocking each other over -- just like when I was a kid. Like I was walking into a movie of childhood. I thought, 'I want to go skating.' I ran to my storage unit, grabbed my skates and ran back to the rink before the session was over. Got on the ice and within minutes little kids were following me around. It was like the Pied Piper. I remembered skating was where I should be. I realized again that I love skating."
With that realization, a long-held desire to compete at the Gay Games, a multi-sport, Olympic-style competition, returned. He'd wanted to do it years ago, but it never fit with his schedule. For the last three years, he's been preparing.
What made it all the more special was Driscoll was able to record a song he'd written thanks to the help of friends. He performed to that song, "Your Love Matters" -- which is about the emotions of a young man who was bullied, his resilience and how skating carried him through those times -- in Cleveland.
"It's the truth about how I felt as a kid, and I know about that now," he said. "I went there to present a song, and to present and express myself. That's what skating always was for me. I did it in a way I've never done and in a very authentic way, sharing my heart and my emotions with people, and they felt them.
"It was the most loving and supportive experience in sport that I've ever had."