San Francisco ice skater leaps to Olympic dreams – NBC Bay Area


The sun was still hours away from her early morning appearance as Kate Wang walked through the darkness of San Francisco to don ice skates and begin her daily regimen at the Yerba Buena Rink.

In the 12 years since the high school junior started skating, the early mornings have been part of the ritual – waking up before dawn to skate before heading to school.

“I tell myself that even if I wake up at 4 am, it’s worth it in the end,” said Wang, who grew up in San Francisco.

Wang’s discipline has paid off so far. She secured a spot on the United States Junior Skating Team and competed in international events like the Youth Winter Olympics and the Junior Grand Prix. She has been skating since the age of 4 and has already been on numerous podiums in many countries. She doesn’t take these adventures for granted.

“I just feel very lucky to have these experiences,” she said during the narrow window between morning practice and school. “I know not everyone can do it.”

Inside the Yerba Buena Rink, Wang (the family pronounces it as Wong) consulted his trainer Jeffrey Crandell on morning routines before hitting the ice. Despite the darkness outside before dawn, the rink was filled with a few dozen other skaters performing maneuvers and routines.

Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area

San Francisco ice skater Kate Wang stands outside the Yerba Buena rink between morning skating practice and a full day of high school class.

Dressed in an American skating sweatshirt, Wang began to glide effortlessly across the ice – just as you would imagine someone who had been doing the same thing most of their life. She dove in and launched into a perfect salchow followed by a lightning spin, her arms dancing gracefully upward as if tied to strings and maneuvered from above.

“She’s kind of like what we call a ‘skater skater’,” said Crandell. “Things come very naturally to her. She makes it really easy on the ice, which is very nice.”

From high school classes to early morning skate sessions, it’s easy to imagine the potential difficulty for a youngster to carry such a load. Many competitive skaters are home schooled, able to more carefully calibrate the balance of skating. But Wang, who attends Lowell High School in San Francisco, prefers brick-and-mortar education. Skating is his passion. She’s on the ice every morning just because that’s where she wants to be.

“I never want to skate where I’m not having fun,” she said.

Wang’s ultimate goal in skating is to get as far as she can, to see how far hard work can take her. She says the Olympics aren’t really in her sights – at least not yet. Crandell said Wang has a slim chance of competing in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and would likely advocate for the 2026 Olympics in Italy.

Her work ethic didn’t go unnoticed at her Yerba Buena rink, where she first learned to skate as part of the centre’s junior skating programs.

“Everyone believes in her, she’s just a beautiful young lady,” said Paige Scott, arena general manager and one of Wang’s first coaches. “Most importantly, she has the best attitude and I think that goes a long way.”

The daughter of a college professor and a hotel worker, Wang seems almost embarrassed by the attention and bustle of her skating, as if floating in the air strapped to a pair of ice skates was too. banal than riding a bicycle with training wheels. From somewhere inside, the humble demeanor reveals a truth: She truly enjoys skating.

“It’s just a place where I can distract myself from all that is stressful,” Wang said. “It’s a place where I can express myself freely on the ice.

Which would explain why she felt so out of balance when the pandemic initially closed the rinks and kept Wang off the ice for the first time since she was 4 years old. At first, she appreciated the luxury of not having to get up before the sun to train. But then she started to feel the pull of the ice cream as four months dragged on.

When she was finally able to skate again, she could feel the free time stretching out over her jumps and maneuvers that once felt like second nature. It took a while for things to come right back into place. Now she’s back at full speed. In the past two months, she has traveled to Austria, Russia and Italy, participating in international skating competitions.

“When I run my program and get it all right, it’s very rewarding,” Wang said.

Wang is fully aware of the compromises she makes for skating – lying down and getting up before her peers – as well as the sacrifices of her parents who also set their clocks to her own pace, leading her to train early in the morning. , at school and at events.

Who knows how far her dedication to skating will take her, but for now, one thing is clear: she is having fun.

“I guess that’s part of the dedication and the job that I have done,” she said.

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