Spotlight on Caroline Miller
An Unseen Skaters special. January 5, 2005.
Caroline Miller, 17, qualified for her first U.S. Nationals by placing 4th at Southwest Regionals and 3rd at Midwestern Sectionals in Junior Ladies. She represents the Rocky Mountain FSC and trains in Westminster and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her primary coach is Cindy Sullivan and she also works with Diana Ronayne. Her programs this season were choreographed by Tom Dickson and Catarina Lindgren. Miller designs all of her own skating dresses.
How do you feel about qualifying for "big" Nationals for the first time?
I'm totally excited about making it that I can't even put it into words! Nationals is the big time and finally all my hard work has paid off. I've trained this year harder than ever and now having the chance to show off my performances at Nationals is truly incredible. I can't say that I'm nervous for my first nationals just anxious and can't wait to have that experience under my belt. These are the top 12 girls in the nation in the junior level and I'm just so proud to be one of them.
When and how did you begin skating?
I began skating when I was six years old after being inspired by Kristi Yamaguchi in the '92 Olympics. I fell in love with the sport and begged my mom for a couple months to take me. Finally, she took me and, after a couple falls, I took off skating laps, refusing to hold my mother's hand. There was a skater there doing laybacks and tricks and I would try to mimic her. By the end I could do a shoot-the-duck down the ice and a one-foot spin and that's when my mom decided that I could take group lessons at CU (Colorado University).
What has been the most memorable moment in your skating career so far?
So far I would have to say that the most memorable moment in my skating career that really stands out clearly in my mind was my recent short program skate at Midwestern Sectionals this year. I went into it totally carefree, not really expecting anything, and just wanting to have fun because it was my first Sectionals and I didn't really know what to expect. I put all of my emotions and energy into that program and skated a clean program with double axel, triple toe-double toe, and triple loop. I don't know if I've ever skated that well in competition and that was definitely the time to put it out there! When I hit my ending pose I guess (I don't remember it) I threw my fist in the air in ecstasy and that's the moment my coach said she would always remember. Then I remember getting off the ice and running into my coaches arms as tears streamed down her cheeks. It's just that I had always worked hard and the quality of my skating was always there but I never made it happen to get out of Regionals, and then to go to Mids and have that skate and now to be going to Nationals, it's truly wonderful.
Please describe your performances at Southwestern Regionals (4th) and Midwestern Sectionals (3rd) this season.
I had some great skates and it definitely was a tough group to make it through [at Southwestern Regionals]. In qualifying round I skated awesome and took the gold. Then I was really proud of my short because I landed the double axel and triple loop and even though I fell on the combo, I was still happy with the performance. The last day I ended up getting the stomach flu during the night before final round free skate and couldn't get out of bed until a half hour before I had to skate, but I pulled all the strength I had left to just get through the program and I did it!
My short at Mids was the best I ever skated and I already wrote about that [see above]. Long wasn't my best but did the job. I landed double axel and double flip-double toe but then did a double sal instead of a triple. Then I fell on triple toe but landed a good triple loop. The second triple sal I doubled also but finished with a nice double lutz. The speed and in betweens were still strong and I think that that's what helped me.
What has been the biggest challenge or disappointment that you have overcome in your skating career?
I would have to say that the hardest thing to get over was Southwesterns last year. There was a lot of expectation and pressure for me to make it and I don't think I was ready to handle all of that. I skated very well in initial round placing second to go to final round. My short program had always been weaker than my long and it truly showed at that regional. I did not skate well at all, and when I placed way out of the ranking, pressure and nerves increased. People kept saying "oh you can pull up and make it, just skate really well" and, although they meant well, the pressure kept building. Finally long program came and I pretty much doubled all my triples and didn't trust myself at all, really not keeping myself mentally together. I think I ended up 8th or something and I believe that that was the lowest I have ever felt in my entire skating career. I felt that that was my one chance to make it and that if I didn't, I never would (stupid, I know). It was agony to try and get back to skating the next week but after many tears and talks with my coach I was ready to turn it around and use it to grow in my skating. I took that "bad" experience and used it to change my training program and become more consistent, improve my short a lot, and develop mental toughness. That experience is the reason that I have improved and strived to be better this year. That experience is the reason I'm going to Nationals this year.
Do you have an embarrassing or humorous moment on the ice that you're willing to share?
Ummm.... I have many hidden in my brain somewhere I just canít remember and I know many that have happened to my friends.
How long have you been working with your current coaches and how would you describe their respective coaching styles?
I've been working with my main coach, Cindy Sullivan, for about eight years and I love her to death! She's a huge part of my life and success. We're very close and she knows pretty much everything about me. She knows my feelings and thoughts like the back of her hand and that's why our relationship is so strong and we're able to work together so well. She knows just how much to push me and how hard to crack down on me even though I'm hard enough on myself. We're both headstrong and determined to get the job done and I trust her completely because she has a reason for everything. She doesn't stand for any attitudes, whining or complaining, only dedication and hard work. My favorite is when she says "ok, lets move on" if I'm having trouble with a jump and then me being my stubborn self will say no and then go do it perfectly. Then I'll come back laughing and she'll roll her eyes, smile, and say something like, "Unbelievable! Why do you do this to me!?!" We have a special connection between us and I feel so lucky to have her in my life.
My other coach that I've been working with for a few years now is Diana Ronayne and I've loved getting to know her. When Cindy couldn't come with me to the out of state competitions Diana would come and it was great sharing my experiences with her. She has taught me a lot especially since she has so much experience coaching at national and international competitions. She has a more technical style but it helps me to break down the jumps and help build them back together stronger. I actually spent three weeks staying at her house this past summer to train full time at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and that's when we had a lot of time to get closer, even with our busy schedules. She's a wonderful person and she means a lot to me too!
What are your goals for Nationals? Will you be making any significant changes in your programs for Nationals?
My goals for nationals are pretty basic. I just want to go out and take advantage of this great opportunity that I have worked so hard for. I want to have a blast and just perform my skates. I figure hesitation and nerves would be a waste of time because I have nothing to lose, only an experience to gain. I'm very proud of myself for this past year and I only wish it to end with a bang. I'll take it as it comes and then learn from it to grow and develop more next year. As far as changes go, I hope to add triple flip in my long for Nationals. It's going really well right now and itís a beautiful jump so why not try it!
What music are you using this season? Did you and/or your choreographers choose your skating music for this year?
I chose my music this year except for my short Tom [Dickson] and I put together some pieces. For my short I'm using a variety of tango melodies by Astor Piazzolla and for my long it's a compilation from the foreign film Talk To Her [Pedro Almodovar's film from 2002]. I love both!
How would you describe the choreographic process involved in working with Tom Dickson?
Working with Tom has been awesome! We got along right away because I knew what I wanted and he knew how to make it come alive. I'm talking about my short program this year, which is the first program I've done with him. We put the pieces of music together and got right to work. I believe that we began working in late January/early February and it's been an ongoing process. Once we started I had to be totally dedicated to what we were doing and willing to experiment. A lot of his moves are very complex and difficult and he's very adamant on perfecting them to the finest detail, which is exactly what I like. Since it was a tango theme we did a lot of moves that used your whole body especially the head. I had to work a ton on moves that involved a whipping action because I've always been just ballet like in the past. We started experimenting with themes and moves and then built on that until we turned it into a masterpiece! But masterpieces still need to be worked on constantly so I continue to go to Colorado Springs to work with him. I go on average at least once a month. Some months I have more time to go down and other months I can't at all because of school or mixed schedules. As far as a total of hours we've worked on the short, I would say about thirty to forty hours more or less.
I was also lucky enough to have Catarina Lindgren, Tom's wife, choreograph my long program this year. She is a fabulous choreographer, and she moves like nobody I have ever seen before. e worked really well together because we both love to express music in our moves. I worked with Catarina last year for the first time on my long so this year we could push the envelope even farther. So last year was kind of like the ice breaker and we had a great time working on my "Turandot" (by Puccini) long program so this year we were even more comfortable and knew each other's style and skating better. We would listen to the music and just get an idea of the feeling the music would bring out and then began moving to it. We did start at the beginning while with Tom some times we would work on a part that inspired us right away. She moves with so much passion and that's the way I've always skated so she really helped me to bring that side out more. We worked a lot on body lines and also full body movements. Just like with Tom we worked to the very smallest details. She's an incredible person and skater and I love working with her.
What do you feel are the strongest and weakest aspects of your skating?
My strongest aspects are probably style/performing and jumps. I've worked a lot on my style like body lines, edge quality, and overall performance and from what I've been told, my work has paid off! I guess my jumps are a strength too because they're not cheated or any thing and they have a nice fly. I love jumping! My weakness would probably be my spins but this year I've improved them a ton.
What improvements have you made in your skating this season?
I really think everything has improved this season but some more than others. The speed and new creative positions of my spins have really improved and developed and I've worked a lot on my flexibility and strength to achieve better spirals. The consistence of my jumps has really improved and I've added more triples to my programs. But overall my training schedule has intensified really improving my endurance.
Is it true that you design and sew your own costumes and for other skaters? Can you explain your creative process and some of the practicalities involved?
Yes, I design all my dresses and some for others but I don't sew them. I love designing skating dresses all the time. I have books full of designs and now I've sort of started a business out of it. Many people now know of my designing because of either my dresses or some that I have done for some skaters at my rink. Of course designing for myself is the hardest but I'm proud of the ones I've done. Sometimes I'll just sit down with some music and design or think of a particular theme or music to design around. If someone asks me to do a design for them I will take into account their age, body type, level, and of course, music. Then I'll think of three or so designs and let them choose one or all and then they pay me for however many they want. I really enjoy it and I'm sure it will be a big part of my life in the future.
What is your current favorite jump, spin and connecting move?
I would have to say that I love doing footwork especially this year. My footwork in both programs is so fun to do and I get applause every time I do it! My best jump would be triple salchow but I really love triple loop because it's such a great feeling when I ride the edge all the way through and stick it perfectly. I don't know about a favorite spin.
What are your long-term goals in skating and off the ice?
I would have to say that it'd be amazing if I could make it to the Olympics and Worlds and such, that would be the ultimate. Later goals would probably include coaching and choreographing skating and of course designing!
Who are your favorite skaters and why?
There are lots of incredible skaters out there but my favorite skater that inspired me to be a part of the sport was Kristi Yamaguchi. Watching her in the Olympics I became enthralled with the beauty of the sport and knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Who has influenced your skating the most and how?
I would probably say my coach Cindy. She has impacted my skating so much that I'm positive I wouldn't be the same without her. She keeps my passion for the sport alive by pushing me to reach forward for my goals and to keep striving to be better. She has so much power and energy within her that just being around her I feel fired up and determined.
What are some of your off ice hobbies? What do you like to do for fun away from the ice?
Well, in the winter I absolutely love to ski and snowboard. I've been skiing since I was three and snowboarding now for about four years. It's great going up with my family or friends and just having a blast in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. In the summer I love to play around on the lakes, like water skiing, swimming and such. For hobbies I guess designing is the big one, I love photography now, and of course shopping. I have a great group of friends and we love to just hang out, go to movies, mall, the usual teenage stuff. Finally, I love to travel, especially to Hawaii! That's why it would be great for me to get on an international circuit -- that way I can skate and travel!
What is your current schooling arrangement?
Right now I am a junior at Monarch High School in Louisville, CO. I get 7th period off so I can skate and I get credits for a certain amount of hours of skating each semester. I wish I could get another period off but I have to be in school for at least six periods as a junior, so I'm at school from 7:30-2:00.
Do you have any similarly athletic siblings?
I don't have any siblings but my mom runs and my dad loves fishing and hunting.
What is it about skating that motivates you to keep going day in and day out?
My friends ask me that all the time and I always answer, "I love it just that much." I consider myself lucky to find something I love so much at such a young age and, sure, I've had to make some sacrifices for such a tough discipline, but it's so worth it. Every day is new and different so it's not like the exact same every day. I grow and develop
each day and continue to love it.
Name: Caroline Miller
Date of Birth: October 1, 1987
Place of Birth: Boulder, Colorado
Height: 5' 4Ē
Hometown: Louisville, Colorado
Training Towns: Westminster and Colorado Springs, CO
Home Club: Rocky Mountain FSC
Coaches: Cindy Sullivan and Diana Ronayne
Choreographers: Tom Dickson (SP) and Catarina Lindgren (FS)
Photographs courtesy of Caroline Miller. Headshot copyright © Tim Benko. Skating photograph copyright © Joe Miller. Skate photograph copyright © Dave Amorde. Unless otherwise noted, all content is copyright © 2000-2005 Unseen Skaters. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce elsewhere without permission.