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Aiming for Gold from East to West Masha Platonova

Masha Platonova, 15, born in Moscow, Russia, started training as a figure skater at age 3. Her parents moved to Florida in 2021 to support her dream of becoming an Olympic figure skater. Masha trains in Florida with her team at the Panthers Figure Skating Club (PFSC), where they strive for similar aspirations as they work one-on-one with coaches. She says Russia differs from the United States’ ice-skating standards.

“Russia has one coach per team, comprised of around ten children. But training here [in the United States] is one-on-one for 30 minutes to one hour,” Masha says she was shocked when she came to train in the States since “the coaches [in Russia] never smiled. Here, everyone is super friendly and supportive.”

U.S. skating programs increased in presence and popularity. Since June 1, 2016, over 1,000 ice skating programs across 49 states emerged following Learn To Skate USA’s launch, an organization aimed at teaching children, young adults, and professionals proper ice-skating methods and advancing their skills.

“Each year, we teach more than 125,000 skaters how to fly across the ice,” according to Learn to Skate USA’s official blog.

Masha recently won two gold medals at Florida’s Tampa Bay Club during the Orange Blossom 32nd annual open from July 13 to 16, 2023, adding to her more than 20 competitive skating medal collection. Masha scored between four and six ratings, a good or excellent score in nearly every category.

“PFSC became my second home, and I am proud to represent this club during competitions.”

Skaters work independently with coaches and often receive exercises matching their sporting needs. The individualized schedules allow each athlete to focus and improve on weaknesses and amplify strengths.

Masha says that pairing skaters with each other has unexpected drawbacks. “When in teams, I can rely more on team members and not focus too much on what I need to do, making me a little lazy.” She finds working one-on-one is better because coaches expect more from her and tailor practices towards specific competitive shortcomings.

Schooling differs for many competitive skaters, who take online courses to focus on ice skating events and qualifying. She says it is not easy to balance education with sports but is accustomed to her school and sporting routines, excelling in both.

Mental fitness is vital to maintaining composure on the ice. Coaches ensure the skater is calm and assists with warm-up exercises, including spinning, jumps, and dance movements. The U.S. figure skating governing body, the Aspire Program, recommends that skaters manage time properly since warm-up sessions last only 3 to 5 minutes. Short programs last 2 minutes 40 second and includes mandatory jumps that change yearly for Juniors. The long program, also called the free skate program is 3 minutes 40 seconds and requires more complex performances.

Masha says she trains six days a week, year-round. “First, I do school, then to the ice rink and train continuously.” Her routine often consists of early mornings at late evenings. She says the sacrifice is worth it to make it to the Olympics and become like those she looks up to and admires. sport before getting involved. It’s not so easy. After one year, it’s easy to sy, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but it’s a gratifying and challenging experience.”

Standing on the pedestal is the most rewarding aspect for Masha. “It’s why I do this,” she says, “I would like to do [figure skating] for the rest of my life if I could.”

Masha trained her entire life and hopes to continue winning local competitions and compete in qualifying competitions. She dreams of one day representing the United States in the Olympics, with her biggest inspiration being Alina Zagitova, the 2018 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. “I look forward to the future and strive to continue as long as possible, hoping to complete my dream of achieving an Olympic gold medal,” Masha said.

By Alex Fernandez