Ice Network

Thrasher's career boosted by experiences on the ice

Olympic champion shooter credits skating for improving focus, endurance
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Olympic gold medalist shooter Ginny Thrasher holds a special place in her heart for the sport of figure skating. -Courtesy of WVU Athletic Communications

Ginny Thrasher's story has many similarities to that of three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner. Their fathers were both career military officers, with Wagner's serving in the U.S. Army and Thrasher's in the Air Force. Because of their dads' line of work, both moved around quite a bit during their childhood, with Thrasher's family making stops in New York, Alabama, Virginia, Massachusetts, Texas and Illinois. And both began their love affairs with skating upon settling in Northern Virginia.

Where their paths diverge is that Wagner devoted herself to skating while Thrasher found another passion: sports shooting. At last summer's Olympic Games, Thrasher kept her cool to pull off an upset victory in the 10-meter air rifle and win the first gold medal awarded in Rio.

Thrasher's love of skating began in the sixth grade, when she received skating lessons as a Christmas present. She stayed in the sport throughout high school, taking lessons two or three times a week at the Fairfax Ice Arena -- the same rink where Michael Weiss honed his skills.

While the 20-year-old ultimately decided to put all her competitive energies into shooting, she did not totally leave skating behind.

"Skating for me was kind of an escape, and I always enjoyed it," Thrasher said. "A lot of times you start a sport because you love it; I never lost that love of sport with skating. If I had a bad day at school or something at the rifle range was bothering me, I could always go back to ice skating because I never lost that passion."

Thrasher also credits the superior balance she learned on the ice and the cardiovascular benefits of the sport for helping her shoot more effectively.

"Mentally, I was always relaxed when I was ice skating and I could always count on going to the rink and enjoying it."

Thrasher, who was coached by Dana Chinn Martin, said she loved performing various spins and would often focus on that area during her lessons. She mastered all the jumps except for axel, and Chinn Martin even choreographed routines for Thrasher, but that's as far as she took it.

"I competed in rifle and I traveled a lot, and I knew that with my personality, if I'm going to compete, I'm going to compete to win," Thrasher said. "I was putting 100 percent effort into rifle, and that's where I wanted to compete and I felt I could succeed.

"With ice skating, I understood that I loved the sport, I wanted to do it, but I didn't want to compete," she continued. "I enjoyed going to the ice rink and being in that atmosphere; you don't get up at 5 a.m. to go practice for no reason. ... The benefits I was getting out of ice skating, I didn't need to be competitive to receive."

Thrasher, a finalist for the 2017 AAU Sullivan Award, given annually to the nation's top amateur athlete, not only excels on the range but in the classroom as well. She recently completed her sophomore year at West Virginia University, where she is a dean's list student majoring in biomedical engineering. This season, she was named an All-American after helping the Mountaineers claim their fifth national championship.

On a trip home after the semester -- and before heading off for a summer of rifle competitions -- Thrasher decided to take to the ice.

"Every time I go home, I love to go to the rink," she said. "It's nice to see the coaches and skate around. Every time, I enjoy it."