An Unseen Skaters special. August 20, 2003.
Erika Choi Smith, 13, placed 5th in Novice Ladies at 2003 Eastern Sectionals last season, which earned her an invitation to compete in a North American Challenge Skate competition in the summer of 2003. Unseen Skaters asked Erika to keep a daily journal of her NACS experience, and she graciously obliged.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Today I arrived at the OTC (Olympic Training Center) in Lake Placid, New York, with my coach [Priscilla Hill] and was registered for the NAC competition. The dorm was pretty cool -- we had bunks and the whole experience was just really intriguing. I also met my roommates and went to the opening meeting where I met the U.S. Team Leaders, Brittney [McConn] Bottoms & Denise Thomas. During that time with them we got an awesome fleece and CD case. They told us the rules we were expected to follow and we had an introduction to all the competitors. My roommates and I went back to our dorm and hung out until the Draw party.
After we completed the Draw, all the U.S. Novice Ladies ate a really quick dinner and went to practice. I took the shuttle to the rink and when we got there it was absolutely amazing. It was huge and it began to feel like an international, instead of a plain local competition. (The little signs saying “ONLY ATHLETES AND COACHES BEYOND THIS POINT” and little things like this made it just extraordinary.) Then, when we finished practice and came back to the dorm, we went back to the cafeteria and ate some more. It was really neat that we could eat anything we wanted, whenever we wanted. I took full advantage of that!
Friday, July 11
I had to skate at 10:25 a.m. for practice, so I woke up, ate breakfast, got dressed, went on the shuttle to the rink, and skated. We walked around and read all the plaques and pictures that were on the 1980 arena walls and the 1932 rink walls. It was so amazing to see people that are famous as kids my age (Dick Button, Dorothy Hamill). We also saw the [Gustave] Lussi Rink where skaters used to do figures. My coach explained that the lines on the sides of the boards were used as markers to draw the figures they had to trace. It is now used for warm up for competitions and public sessions. After the short program (I was 3rd), we went to Saranac Lake and my coach showed us around Lake Placid. She trained there most of her career so she knew all the neat places. We saw the Ski Jump areas, White Face Mountain, and the local toboggan run made to go out onto Mirror Lake in the winter when it froze. I love this place! The mountains are so beautiful!
Saturday, July 12
Long program was today (I came in 2nd), also the closing ceremony and pizza party at Mike's. It was really moving to hear the national anthems of all the participating countries. It was especially moving for me since I became a U.S. citizen on May 2, 2000. We all got our medals, and had group pictures, and then got to have fun with each other on the ice for a while before the closing party. It was neat to have all the competitors skate together and joke around.
The OTC [Olympic Training Center] was unbelievable. It was so neat to meet athletes from around the world (not just skaters). There were volleyball players, luge, and ski jumpers. I think that everyone should have the chance to experience the OTC. It was neat to meet the people my coach trained with and to spend some time in this beautiful mountain place. Taking complete care of myself was something I have never done either. I was responsible for everything (waking up, dressing, eating, being on time for the bus, etc.). It took lots of organization and I learned how to be more responsible for myself and I found it very enjoyable. I told my parents I would like to live here. It is clean, beautiful, and the mountains are ever changing. The lakes are incredible. I am so happy that the USFSA picked me to represent them at Lake Placid.
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