Scrubs on skates

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By Anthony Lopopolo

Ten minutes.

That’s how much time I had to try out for Ryerson’s figure skating team. In case I forget to mention, I also arrived late at Moss Park Arena.

Taking the bus from Richmond Hill, bolting underground to catch the subway and commuting the rest of the way via streetcar, I spent over an hour to reach the arena. That alone was exhausting.

Suffice to say, it boggles my mind to think of myself rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to take to the ice, although these skaters appeared to have no problem doing it – four times a week no less.

“You get used to waking up early, it isn’t too bad,” said one member, who had just wrapped up a two-hour practice, from 7 to 9 a.m., on a Monday morning.

Ill-prepared and uncertain of what exactly I had to do on the ice, I walked in with a gym bag in hand, hockey skates inside.

I stared intimidation in the face. The level of talent I saw was in another stratosphere to what I was about to display. With a blank stare at the arena’s entrance, as if a bolt of lightning struck the ground before me, I took a step back.

What did I get myself into? My only save from humiliation was my eight years of experience as a hockey player, I thought. Reporting to Robyn Doolittle, the coach of the figure skating team, I was ushered on the ice as quick as possible. Pronto.

What was I to do?

Slapping on my skates and darting across the rink for a quick warm-up, I lied at the mercy of the former Eyeopener editor-in-chief. I felt like a chucked octopus in Joe Louis Arena, all exposed and floundering.

Then she demanded the best of me – and I dug into my hockey reservoir for answers. Jumping? How do I jump on blades? If there was a ref I was trying to fool into calling a penalty, maybe it’d be easier to perform.

Leaping? Twirling? Spiralling? All foreign terms to me while on the ice, especially if they were to be intentionally executed.

I attempted it – some semblance, at least. A poor man’s version of a leg lift, a semi-accurate balancing technique: but all done, keep in mind, with the flexibility of a novice karate kid.

Then my partner, who was one of those skaters who wowed me upon entrance, showed me up. Some competition. Though she flung her leg in the air, well above her torso to my disbelief, and I was there, looking like that octopus. I followed her lead, failed, and pressed on.

Seven minutes into the tryout, however, I finally nailed it: I balanced on one leg and held it. A spread eagle, I believe it’s called.

And I kept repeating that action. It was the closest thing to a correct technique. Over and over, just to validate myself – and to no longer feel as embarrassed. To the grin of Doolittle, I knew I had done well, even for a moment.

Then she dealt me the blow I had expected: “I’m sorry to say it, but you’re the worst player we’ve seen come out to a figure skating tryout.”

“You’re cut.”

But on a personal note, I didn’t fall.

Not once. That’s right, by the end of it all, this man was still standing.

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