Ice Network

My first time: Skaters share on-ice success stories

Duhamel talks about throw quads; Lipinski remembers trademark combo
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Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were ahead of schedule when they landed the throw quad salchow for the first time. -Getty Images

We asked skaters to tell us about the first time they successfully executed a particularly challenging element after working on it for a long (or short) time.

Meagan Duhamel: Throw quad salchow/throw quad lutz

"They were both so different. The throw quad sal we (she and partner Eric Radford) worked on for about five weeks. Every day we spent a certain amount of time on it; we tried about three or four a day. We didn't want to overdo it or risk getting injured on something that wasn't necessary. The very first ones we tried were very exciting, because we were trying something new for the first time. We would take a couple of laps around the rink to psych ourselves up, because I was so nervous about it.

"I read an article that said it takes eight weeks to form a habit. I figured I could do better than the average person, so it would take me six weeks to have it ready for competition. So I wrote in my journal: August 10. And I remember we did it before the deadline, in late July. Every time Eric threw me, he'd just stand there to see whether I would land or fall. And I landed it, and he was just standing there, and I was screaming. It was the biggest thrill ever.

"The quad lutz was different because we didn't work on it; we landed it the second time we tried it. We were not planning on trying it until July. We were advised by Bruno [Marcotte] (the team's coach and Duhamel's soon-to-be husband) not to try it on tour (Stars on Ice) because the ice was smaller, and he thought it would play around with our timing. But it was feeling really good, so I called him, and he said OK.

"And it was just the same as the quad sal: Eric was just standing there and I was screaming. It was May 19. The second day we landed it, we were like, 'Oh, OK.' It was not exciting anymore! And I was like, 'How could the excitement wear off in one day?'"

-- As told to Sarah Brannen

Tara Lipinski: Triple loop-triple loop

"I had always done the triple salchow-triple loop, and I remember Richard Callaghan and Craig Maurizi (Lipinski's old coaches) would have fun on one session, and we would try different triples and combinations. I would do loop-loop, lutz-loop, salchow-loop. One day, Richard said we were going to do the loop-loop and put into competition so we could up the ante. It was an odd combination because it was two edge jumps together and not many people did a triple after the loop. I think it was unusual, even to me, because of how you lay it out on the ice. But I always loved doing the loop. And for me, it was all about repetition, set-up and timing.

"The first time landing it, the triple loop-triple loop or any difficult jump or combination, is probably one of the best experiences you can have as a skater; it is so rewarding. There's something about that first time you land it in a competition that is just a crazy high...a remarkable feeling.

"I loved working on it. The more I did the triple loop-triple loop combination, the more my solitary triple loop became even better. All of a sudden it became like a waltz jump for me.

"The triple loop-triple loop became my big element, and there was a big dread going into it, but it was mixed with adrenaline, and really that moment of landing it was just pure happiness. It feels like you're floating."

-- As told to Amy Rosewater

Ryan Jahnke: Triple axel

"The one I had the most history with was the triple axel. From when I first started working on it to when I had it clean and good was about six years. In that time period, I sprained my ankle really badly working on it. The recovery, and getting over the fear of it, and then it happened a second time -- it was years and years of falling on this jump. It got to the point where, I thought, whether this feels good or not, I'm going to get this jump. I was just angry about it.

"I was at the World Arena Ice Hall, in the big World Arena, maybe in 2001 or early 2002. It was toward the end of the practice session; it might even have been the last jump of the practice. All of a sudden I was just like, whoa, was that a triple axel? It was so EASY that one time, and then I wasn't able to continue with it. It just sort of popped its head out of the water, said hello and then dove back in for a while.

"But finally, after a very long time, it became a jump I just loved. It was a real trophy when I was finally able to do it."

-- As told to Sarah Brannen

Tai Babilonia: Throw triple salchow

"We actually learned it from Ron Ludington. Mr. [John] Nicks sent us to Wilmington (Delaware) to train with Luddy, and Kitty and Peter Carruthers, so we could learn it. Luddy was one of the best at the time with the throws. It did not take us long to do it. Randy and I were both solo skaters, and I could do a triple salchow on my own; the throw just gave it a little more 'oomph.' Ours didn't sail across the ice like the ones now, but it was pretty good. ... When I landed it, I wanted to yell out, "Yes!" and Mr. Nicks was smart about putting it in the first part of the program, when we weren't so tired. ... Doing the triple salchow was a huge accomplishment, though, because Kitty and Peter were doing it, but not many other Americans were."

-- As told to Amy Rosewater

Michal Březina: Quad

"The first time I landed a quad was at my first junior worlds, in Oberstdorf in 2007. We were working on it for about a month, and my coaches wanted me to try it just so I could show the judges and the other skaters that I was working on it. I went and surprisingly landed the first one (in practice). I was really happy, but, at the same time, I didn't really know what had just happened."

-- As told to Sarah Brannen

Ross Miner: Triple axel

"My parents had told me, before I started working on triple axel, that I could get a new computer when I landed it. The day before I'd been doing well, and I thought, maybe this is it. So when I woke up that day, I said to my mom, 'Remember that thing you said about the computer...is that still good?' And I went in and landed it on the second session. I was at that Apple store the next day. I got a MacBook."

-- As told to Sarah Brannen

Simon Shnapir: Overhead lift

"I was skating with my first partner, Tanya Aziz, in the spring or summer of 2003. I remember training for overhead lifts for probably a year and a half, at least, before we put it on the ice. After a season of juvenile, we started doing press lifts. The first time I did a press lift on the ice, I was standing still; it was kind of scary, kind of nerve-wracking.

"I remember starting to move down the ice, and it felt really good! It was actually easier than a shoulder lift, because with those you have to support the weight in front of you. When the weight is directly overhead, you're kind of using your whole body to support the lift. In many ways, it's easier: It comes down to more balance and control of your feet and your midsection and your arms; it's not just brute strength.

"Before, there were little voices in my head saying, 'I don't know if I'll be able to do it.' And doing it, I thought, 'Yeah, I can do it. It's pretty fun, actually.' You show up at competition with this new lift, and it's like a secret weapon. To be able to run with the big boys, as an intermediate, was a great feeling."

-- As told to Sarah Brannen