Ice Network

Parchem treasures memories of 2006 Winter Games

Recalling time spent in Torino continues to fuel former U.S. pairs skater
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Though no longer a full-time coach, Aaron Parchem (center) still gives input to young pairs teams, including Midwestern medalists Isabelle Goldstein and Keyton Bearinger. -Courtesy of Aaron Parchem

These days, Aaron Parchem is focused on assisting others in realizing the fruits of their labors. A graduate of University of Detroit Mercy with a bachelor's degree in economics, Parchem is now a senior financial consultant at Comerica Securities Inc.

While life away from figure skating has certainly been fulfilling, earning a spot on the U.S. team for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games is something that still fills Parchem with immense pride to this day. Although he had a significant skating resume -- U.S. junior pairs champion and four-time senior pairs medalist -- Parchem is honored that he and partner Marcy Hinzmann (now Simpson) made it onto the team for Torino.

"I started skating pairs when I was 20 years old," Parchem said. "A lot of the people we competed against at the Olympics had been partners longer than I'd even been doing pairs. To be basically a sectional-level freestyle skater and then three years later in 2002 being an Olympic alternate (with Stephanie Kalesavich) was a huge jump."

Pairs skating helped Parchem become an adult, as he said he needed to learn how to rise to the occasion. He teamed with Hinzmann in 2003, who he described as both talented and dedicated, especially after she recovered from a torn ACL in 2005 to make the Olympic team with Parchem in 2006.

"The Olympics was a huge deal for me because it was the culmination of a dream that I wasn't really sure was ever actually in reach," he said.

Seeing former NHL star Chris Chelios at the Olympic village made it clear for Parchem that he'd really arrived at the Olympics, but the opening ceremony was where the excitement began.

"My folks had seats, but when people found out they had an athlete there, they moved them down to the floor seating," he said. "I heard my mom through all the screaming. I picked them out of the audience."

The pairs were done early, so he, Hinzmann and their families spent the rest of the Games attending other events. Parchem loved the long track speed skating where the Dutch fans tailgated before the event and a band played during ice makes.

At the conclusion of the 2006 season, Hinzmann became a professional skater and Parchem started coaching, which he did for three years.

"I was blessed to go right back to the national level and a little bit of international competition," said Parchem. "Although I very much liked it, it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Then, I found my way into financial services.

"I see my job as involving education and coaching," he added. "I'm a fiduciary, so I get to educate people on their options and brainstorm with them on what's best."

In addition to his duties in the financial world, Parchem also keeps a toe in coaching. His wife of 13 years, Polish Olympian Zuzanna Szwed, is a coach and choreographer at the Detroit Skating Club. He goes to the rink fairly often, and shares his knowledge with the young teams of Isabelle Goldstein and Keyton Bearinger, and Lauren Ball and Scott Dudley. Parchem and Szwed's 6-year-old daughter, Sofie, skates a bit, but they'd like her to choose another sport so they can explore it with her.

Life nowadays mostly revolves around work and family, but Parchem still finds time for martial arts, which he also holds a passion for.

"It's gotten me back into shape," he said. "For me, martial arts are just as much of a mental outlet and reset button as it is a physical endeavor."

Earlier this year, he and Szwed both turned 40, which they celebrated with friends in Las Vegas. His years as a pairs skater has had a life-lasting impact on their marriage and on his career.

"The biggest thing that pairs taught me is that everybody has different criteria about what being a good partner is," Parchem said. "To pull your share of the weight in a relationship, whether it's business, marriage or pairs skating, you have to feel like you're doing more than half because your definition of half isn't necessarily your partner's definition of half. So if everybody pulls two thirds of the weight, it works."

As another Olympics approach, Parchem thanks his support system for enabling him to achieve his dream.

"I was not the most talented skater, but I was a stable skater and I tended not to make mistakes when it counted," he said. "We took advantage of an opportunity."