Student figure skater reflects on longstanding skating experience

Long time figure skater, senior Abby Kassel reflects on her skating career, vital life lessons, and her hopes for her future in the rink.  

After eight years of figure skating, Kassel expresses how essential it has become in her life. Kassel has a great commitment to the sport, practicing Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, ranging from five to six hours a week or sometimes an extra six or seven hours on Saturdays during show season. “Skating has helped me become who I am today,” she says.

Although skating can get hectic with school and homework because of competitions and testing, Kassel expresses her love for the sport because of the physical activity and the relationships she has built throughout the years. “The friends I’ve made are the best people ever… I love them. Skating wouldn’t be the same,” Kassel says.

Kassel also highlights the close relationship she has with her coach, Jacques Gilson, who has influenced her skating career. “He [is] not only my skating coach but at times he’s like my therapist too,” Kassel says. “I talk to him about my problems and… he’ll tell me to forget about it when skating and skating is like my therapy.”

However, through skating, Kassel has also learned more than physical skills in the sport. “I’ve learned that I’m just more independent,” she says, from past experiences of working on teams versus on her own. Also, now being the Vice President of her home rink’s junior board, she has developed leadership and communication skills by working with other board members of the club.

Kassel is currently a bronze level ice dancer. Initially, she was inspired to skate when she watched the 2010 Winter Olympics. “I thought that everyone who was skating was really cool and that it looked really cool,” Kassel says.

Some of Kassel’s biggest inspirations include Olympic ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and figure skater Gracie Gold. “Gracie Gold suffered a lot of mental illness and physical issues,” Kassel says. “ I think she pushes forward a lot, and I like that about her.”

Currently, Kassel is not preparing for any competitions but is testing, which is performing a routine for three judges that determine whether the skater passes or fails.“I prepared by running my program… over and over and over again,” Kassel says, explaining that she also practiced building strength off the ice, and tuning everything out with music to make herself mentally prepared before performing.

Looking ahead to her future, however, Kassel is not sure whether she would ever compete at professional level skating.“I’m looking at colleges with skating but as a future,” she says. “I don’t think it’s really that realistic, but it would be amazing of course.”