Tuesday / 1 / November

A Journey to the Worlds

A voice over. Cheering. Heart pounding. Breath heavy. Bright lights. A sea of faces. Feeling oddly alone, but part of a secret group, with our own language and bond. Finding the green and gold in the audience and relaxing. Stillness. Deafening silence. Music. Breathe.

This time last year my Artistic Roller Skating coach decided to put together a small show team with the goal of qualifying for the World Championships in September/October this year. Show team is an event where a group of skaters skate as one in a routine designed to convey a specific message. Judges score teams on their unison, the difficulty of choreography, and their storytelling.

Along with nine other Brisbane girls, I competed at Nationals in July, and we placed second behind the Perth team. Although both teams were vying for Worlds selection, skaters from both groups were chosen to create one team to represent Australia. This meant that we five Brisbane girls had to learn in two months a routine that the Perth team had been skating for two years. We only had three long weekends – one in Brisbane, two in Perth – to train together as a whole team, and after the final weekend on the west coast, we would fly to Italy.

The excitement hit me as the reality of the situation finally began sinking in when my coach presented me with the Australian uniform. I swelled with pride as I slipped on the jacket and zipped up the tracksuit pants. I lived in that uniform for the next few days.

Fast-forward to official training in Italy and I felt fine – just like I was back at home skating. Although I was in another country, in a different time zone, skating on a floor I had never seen or felt before, I felt at ease – I guess because I was doing something so familiar it made me feel at home. I discovered just how strong a connection I have to my sport, and realised I would be on skates until I physically couldn’t be anymore, and then at a skating rink long after that.

Training at the competition venue was the exact opposite. We stood, huddled at the side of the rink in our Australian leotards. For a group of 11 girls who usually never stopped talking, laughing, or bickering, we were unusually quiet. The gravity of the moment was finally sinking in. We only had 10 minutes to train on the competition floor before competing that night, so we were anxious to make everything work. And to make everything work on a floor we had never skated on that was a completely different size and shape to what we’re used to. We were under a lot of stress to perform to the best of our ability in unfamiliar conditions, not just for ourselves, but for the 10 other girls who were relying on us to do our job.

Nothing worked. Everything we had worked hard to correct fell apart on that floor during training and left us feeling beaten. We had no more on-skates time before we competed. All we had was off-skates lifts, walking through placements, and trying to memorise the landmarks in the building that we had agreed to use to position ourselves.

Several hours later, waiting in the backstage area, our coaches gave us one last pep talk, and then pulled us in close for a chant.

“Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!”

“Oi, Oi, Oi!”

That did it. We were pumped. We took over, yelling our own chants and inside jokes. I had never felt so close to those girls as I did in that moment. We were one. We were ready. We could do this.

A voice over. Cheering. Heart pounding. Breath heavy. Bright lights. A sea of faces. Still. Deafening silence. Music. Breathe.

As we stood on the floor to receive our marks after our performance, we were elated. Everything worked. Everything came together when we needed it to. We could stand on that floor proud, knowing that we had done everything we physically could to make that routine work.

Coming off the floor, our coaches were in shock; never had we skated that amount of the routine (all of it) that well. They relayed to us their growing excitement as they had watched everything magically coming together throughout our performance. Proud of the team: check. Coaches proud of the team: check. Proud of myself: check. Although we found out later we didn’t win, I had no regrets; I could go home satisfied that I hadn’t wasted this amazing opportunity.

My dream since I was little was to skate at the World Championships and I finally did it. Although I still want to go as a solo skater, having my first Worlds experience as part of a team is something I’m grateful for. Knowing I wasn’t alone was reassuring, especially given the unfamiliar situation.

After reaching what is so far the pinnacle of my sporting career, I feel both empty and fulfilled. So much preparation for such a short moment in the spotlight makes me wonder if all the effort was really worth it. Then I think about the individual moments throughout the entire experience, and I realise that yes, all the effort was definitely worth it.

Worlds was more than I expected it to be. I thought I might have built it up to an unrealistic standard in my head, and that the real experience couldn’t compete with my vision, but I was wrong. My first Worlds will always be a highlight of my skating career, no matter how many more I compete in, because I will definitely be going again.

Header image via Amanda Webster.