Rosenthal gets early Olympic taste
Though her career is on the verge of a breakthrough, figure skater Stephanie Rosenthal of course cannot be sure that she ever will have a chance to compete on the ultimate stage at the Olympics.
But for one night, at least, she enjoyed a pretty reasonable alternative.
Surrounded by just about everyone who's anyone in the glittering world of international figure skating, Rosenthal performed for the first time as part of the Champions on Ice tour on Wednesday night, giving the 18-year-old Salt Lake City skater a taste of what it might be like to lace up her skates at the 2010 Vancouver Games in Canada. Sure, it was just an exhibition performance at the Delta Center. But Rosenthal
felt privileged, just the same, to take the ice with some of her sport's legendary figures - in the same arena that played host to the 2002 Salt Lake Games.
"That was a huge deal for me," Rosenthal said. "I'm very excited just to be skating with this field. It's kind of surreal, a little bit."
Although Rosenthal performed as a "Child of Light" in the Opening Ceremony at the 2002 Salt Lake Games and has competed at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships three times - she finished a career-best eighth six months ago, improving her chances of moving into international competition soon - she had never really been so close and involved with the athletes who make figure skating one of the most popular sports in the Olympics.
And they were all there, from Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen to Irina Slutskaya, Evgeny Plushenko, Shizuka Arakawa, Evan Lysacek and the ice dancing team of Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin. The cast included nine skaters who won medals at the 2006 Turin Games in Italy, and four others who had won previous Olympic medals, such as Kwan and 1992 men's gold medalist Viktor Petrenko.
"It's a very prestigious tour," Rosenthal said. "Usually, only Olympic champions, national champions, and those kind of people are here. So for me to be put in that field - for whatever reason - is really exciting for me."
Obviously, Rosenthal was included for the local connection. In fact, the show was the only one on the 56-stop tour in which she's scheduled to perform. But she has a lot of other promising things happening at the moment, such as her upcoming move to attend Yale University and a competition in two weeks that could vault her into some international assignments for the first time.
"I'm gearing up for that," she said.
Rosenthal will compete Aug. 16-19 at the Silicon Valley Open in San Jose, Calif., where she will be monitored by officials from the U.S. Figure Skating Association in much the same way Kwan was monitored before being awarded a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team for the Turin Games. If the officials like what they see, Rosenthal expects to be assigned to compete internationally next season. That would be a big step in trying to move up in the national ranks, especially with teenagers like Kimmie Meissner, Emily Hughes, Katy Taylor and Alissa Czisny expected to line up behind Cohen to push for spots at the Vancouver Games when they finally roll around.
But Rosenthal is trying not to think that far ahead.
Though she always has aspired to skate in the Olympics - "I would tell everyone, 'Well, I'm going to the Olympics some day,' like, all bratty," she recalled - she is wary now of expecting too much, especially considering she doesn't know how college might affect her body or her training regimen, though she did choose Yale over Stanford in part because there's an ice rink just outside her residence hall. She has choreographed new short and long programs for the upcoming season - she performed her popular short program to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit!" for perhaps the last time as a solo in Champions on Ice - and has been working on improving the jumps that typically have not been as strong as her dance elements.
"I'm taking it one year at a time right now," she said. "If that means four years down the road for the Olympics, then yeah, that means the Olympics.