Photos by Robin Ritoss, unless otherwise noted
Last spring, like every one else, Audrey Shin was unable to skate for two months due to the shutdown of all non-essential businesses, caused by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, the 17-year-old from Northport, New York has found herself off the ice again– but this time, just for a few days while she recuperated after having her wisdom teeth removed.
“They had to take out five [teeth],” Shin shared. “I thought when we got my X-ray done that they were only taking out my bottom two teeth.”
While she recovered at home in Colorado Springs, Shin talked to Figure Skaters Online’s website administratorabout the unusual 2020-2021 season and her preparations for the upcoming 2021-2022 Olympic season.
Figure Skaters Online (FSO): Let’s go back to last spring. How long were you off the ice during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and what did you do to stay active and in shape during that time?
Audrey Shin: I think we got off the ice around March 16 . I had no idea that we would be off for that long. I thought it would be maybe two weeks, but then it lasted for two months or so. During those times, it was definitely hard. It was hard for everyone I know. For me, I was kind of glad to have some time off because I was very exhausted from all the training that I was doing. I was obviously a little upset because I felt like I had my jumps going, and everything felt really good. I was about to make my new programs, so I was really excited about that, but then the rink shutdown. Starting that day [the day the rink shut down], we did a lot of off-ice and workouts at the park throughout the whole shutdown. Tammy [Gambill] did a lot of off-ice jumps with us. We worked with her for about an hour [each day]. It was at the park, which was really nice. There were days when it was super hot and there were days where it was super cold, but we found a way to go to someone’s house when the weather wasn’t good, so we really worked hard on keeping in shape so that when we got back on the ice, it wouldn’t be too rough.
FSO: When you did back on the ice, how did training go? Did you start working on your programs? How was it training for this unknown season?
Shin: Once we got back on the ice, I started making my short program with Drew [Meekins] and my free skate was already pretty much finished before the rink shut down. So I was really excited to get working on that. Obviously, no one knew what would be the next event since everything was getting canceled. Then after a few weeks of training, Tammy told me about Peggy Fleming Trophy, a virtual competition, and she told me to sign up for it. That was a goal of mine — to get my programs out there. Even though we didn’t know what was going to happen, it was still a virtual competition, which is really cool. So I’m really glad I could take part in it. We finished a short program and we just made that program a little longer so it could fit the time required for that competition. It worked out really well.
FSO: You had planned to compete on the Junior Grand Prix Series in the fall, which the ISU canceled in July. So how did you feel when you learned that the series was canceled? Why do you think you were chosen to compete at Skate America?
Shin: I was actually really excited to compete at the Junior Grand Prix series again because I knew I wasn’t going to be competing at senior internationals just yet. Then once it got canceled, I kind of felt lost because I was really looking forward to competing internationally on the junior level again. When it got canceled, I also lost a lot of motivation. I was wondering, ‘what was going to be my next competition?’ Will I ever be able to compete internationally this year?’ After it got canceled, I assumed that the senior [Grand Prix] was going to get cancelled too. But it didn’t and they ended up making it a domestic competition. And that’s when Tammy told me, ‘Okay, you might have a shot at going to Skate America, but we are not really sure yet. Keep training, keep working hard, and get ready, because you never know.’ That gave me hope. I found a new sense of motivation to work toward that goal of making it to Skate America. We had a lot of virtual competitions, so officials watched my programs and really liked them. I had a lot of good feedback. So I think that is why I got picked to compete at Skate America, which I’m really grateful for.
FSO: Skate America was your first senior Grand Prix event, but obviously, it was different than I bet you imagined your first senior Grand Prix event to be. So what was the experience like at Skate America?
Shin: It really felt like a senior Grand Prix event, even though most of the athletes there were representing the U.S. It felt different. It did not feel like just a typical U.S. event. It still felt like an international competition. Seeing the ISU signs everywhere, it felt like an international. So it didn’t feel too different or weird. I still took it as a senior Grand Prix, and that experience was really good for me.
FSO: You probably didn’t imagine skating your first senior Grand Prix in front of cardboard cutouts. So what was that like?
Shin: When I had my first official practice, they didn’t have those cardboard cutouts out yet. Then the second day, they started to slowly put each one up. I did a lap around the rink in my practice, and I went to Tammy and told her, ‘I don’t like this. This is kind of weird.’ [Laughing]. She was laughing at me. She was like, ‘Just focus on your skating.’ I was like, ‘Okay, you’re right.’ I would skate and do my program, and I’m looking at the audience, and there’s dogs staring right back at me. It was funny. At first, it was kind of weird not having a real life audience, but I think it was a cool touch to the event. It [the arena] didn’t feel as empty as there being nothing.
FSO: You came home with the bronze medal. Where you surprised with how well you skated?
Shin: So when I came back home with the bronze medal, I was obviously very happy with how the event turned out. I was really proud of the hard work that I put in, even though I took a long time off the ice. I was happy with the progress that I made, and I felt like I became a better skater because of the time off. Before I got to Skate America, I was really training hard with my coaches and I wanted to make a good impression as a senior lady. Before I left [for Las Vegas], I was doing clean run-throughs constantly. I never worked that hard in my life. So I was really proud of how I performed, and I think the results showed how hard I worked with Tammy; [on] my programs and my jumps.
FSO: After Skate America, fans and media started adding your name into the mix as a medal contender for the 2021 U.S. Championships. Because of how well you did at Skate America, did you feel any pressure coming into Nationals this year?
Shin: Actually, a few weeks before I left for Nationals, I had a hard time training. It wasn’t anything physically or mentally [wrong], I think it was just the time period. I kind of felt low and down. I tried my best to work through what was going on. When I got to Nationals, it wasn’t much different from Skate America. It was a little different, but it was the same rink, same hotel. So it felt good to be back. I had so many good memories from Skate America, and I was really glad to be there again, but it just felt different. I wanted to show everyone that I could repeat what I did at Skate America, but I think I just put pressure on myself. No one really added pressure to me. It was just me telling myself, ‘Okay, I want to win. I want to be on the podium.’ I didn’t realize that if I just did what I had to and didn’t put pressure on myself, I would have been just fine. So I did learn a lot of lessons from Nationals this year.
Shin: I was a little disappointed after my short and free skate, especially after my short program, missing the [triple] loop and my [triple] Lutz-[triple] toe [combination] wasn’t the best. I was struggling a little bit in practice on my Lutzes, so I tried my best to perform and attack, but it didn’t, obviously, turn out the way I wanted it to be. I am still proud of how I performed in my free skate. I went out there and tried to attack my jumps, even though I wasn’t feeling my best. It wasn’t a bad competition, but I know I could have done so much better. I’m still disappointed in how I skated there. But at the same time, I learned so much, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for that.
FSO: One thing that came out of Nationals is that you were named third alternate for the World Championships. In a normal year, we wouldn’t really even think too much about the third alternate. However, with COVID-19 in this unusual season, there was a greater chance that the third alternate might be called in to skate at the World Championships. So what did you think about being named the third alternate? Did you keep training in the event you were called to go to Sweden?
Shin: I got a message that I was third alternate, which was super cool. Tammy was like, ‘That’s great news!’. Once I came back home, I started training right away because you never know, especially with COVID-19, what could have happened. So I trained my programs, and I had another virtual competition. After Nationals, U.S. Figure Skating had a virtual competition for all the Worlds competitors and World alternates, and we had to film it like the ISP Points Challenge and send it to U.S. Figure Skating. We were judged, and we got our points and protocols. So I had to obviously keep doing run-throughs [after Nationals] because I still had one more competition left. Then, after it, I kind of stopped doing programs because I knew that I was third alternate and Mariah [Bell] and Amber [Glenn] were before me. So I didn’t worry too much about going to Worlds, but as an alternate, I did my job and still worked on my programs a little bit.
FSO: While the World Championships took place, Junior Worlds was canceled. How disappointed were you about Junior Worlds being canceled, especially since there was a possibility you could have been named to the Junior World Championships team?
Shin: I was very disappointed that the competition was canceled because I knew I had a shot of making the team. I’ve been named to the general camp twice. So I was really sad that they canceled it this year, because I knew I probably would have gone if they still had it. I completely understand why they canceled it, but I was very disappointed.
Shin: Yes! After the season ended, I talked to my coaches about my new programs and what I wanted to do with music. We had a lot of critique and feedback sessions with judges, and they told me some suggestions and stuff like that. So I really talked it through with my choreographer [Meekins] and Tammy. I am thinking of keeping my short program [“The Giving” by Michael W. Smith] because I feel like with my short, there were so many positive comments about it, and a lot of people wanted me to keep it. I feel like I connect to that program really well, and I love skating to that program. So I thought it was a good idea to keep it for the season, especially because I don’t want to really spend a lot of time making new programs. I just want to kind of get a head start to the season.
For my free skate, I’m changing it. I have the music, and we are working on the program, which is coming along really well. So I’m really excited for everyone to see it hopefully soon.
FSO: Who choreographed your new free skate and can you tell us what it is?
Shin: Drew [Meekins] is choreographing my free skate. My program isn’t really quite done yet. It is going to be Moonlight Sonata, but it’s not the typical Moonlight Sonata. In the beginning, it is like the basic one [original composition] and then we added many cool details to it. So there will be voices and lyrics, and there’s a poem in it. I don’t want to spill too much yet. It’s really cool, and I’m super excited about it. So far, the choreography has been so much fun to make with Drew.
FSO: How is it working with Drew? What kind of choreographer is he?
Shin: I talk with Drew a lot every day about my programs, but I really trust him with the music and choreography. I don’t like to do too much myself. I trust him with everything. I do tell him my ideas and what kind of movement I want, but he always asks me first, ‘What do you think of this?’ So he gives me a chance to tell my opinions too, which is really good.
FSO: What are your goals for training this off-season? Are you working on a triple Axel and a quad toe?
Shin: I have been working a lot on my triple Axel and quad toe. It is pretty close. I would say the closest I have got in my triple Axel is a quarter [under], so like a Q. The quad toe I have been landing a lot more, except obviously I need to work on not getting under-rotations. I’m really excited about these two jumps. I have worked on them for a while, but I finally had the time to really work on them these past few weeks. So I’m really excited to see how the jumps turn out, and I hope I can start adding them to my programs.
FSO: Although we aren’t exactly sure what events are taking place this fall, did you know when your first event will be?
Shin: I think one of the first events that I will be doing is the Peggy Fleming Trophy. I think it is going to be a virtual competition again. I may or may not have another competition before that. I really don’t know how many local competitions there will be.
FSO: It is the Olympic season. The U.S. has two confirmed spots for the Olympics, with possibly a third after Nebelhorn Trophy in September. What do you think you have to do this season to get one of those spots and what are your goals this season?
Shin: I really believe that, as long as I stay consistent in my training of my jumps, in my programs and in my competitions, I have a shot of making it [the Olympic team]. Obviously, there are so many girls in the U.S. that want to make that team too. So it is not going to be easy, but I’m going to push myself even more to get that spot, because that has been my dream since I first started skating, and I really, really want to make that team. So maybe getting the triple Axel and quad toe in competition [is what I need to make the Olympic team], but I don’t know yet. That is one of my goals. I know if I want to have that spot secured, I probably need those jumps. Even if I don’t have those two jumps, I still think I have a shot at making it, as long as I keep my jumps and programs clean. So I’m really focusing on that and my artistry in my programs, my spins, my steps — everything. Just making them as clean as possible is one of my biggest goals.
FSO: You went to the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January 2020. Did that experience make you more hungry to make the 2022 Olympic team?
Shin: Ever since that trip, I have been so much more motivated and excited to train to make that real Olympic games in Beijing. The atmosphere of being around all these athletes that were around my age, the opening ceremonies, the Olympic village – everything felt so real. It was almost like a dream. So I really want to go back to that place, that feeling. And I think that is what makes me even hungrier to get to the Olympic Games, because I already know what it feels like, though I know that the real Olympic Games is probably even more exciting and bigger.
FSO: You moved out to Colorado Springs in the summer of 2018. What is it like to train in Colorado Springs at the World Arena?
Shin: I train with Karen [Chen], Vincent [Zhou], Bradie [Tennell], all these top skaters in the U.S. A lot of them are already Olympians. For me, being able to train next to these Olympians and U.S. medalists is really motivating every single day. I really think that we push each other. We are always jumping next to each other and doing run-throughs. There is this competitive atmosphere at the rink every day. For me, it is really fun to train with all of these skaters because I can learn from them also.
FSO: What is like to work with Tammy [Gambill]?
Shin: At first, before I moved out to Colorado Springs to work with Tammy, I always thought she was a really nice coach. That she always really cared so much for her students. That she was really supportive and super nice. Like she never yells at her students. Once I came to Colorado to have a tryout with her, I really liked working with her. After a few months training with her, I realized that she really pushes her students, but in a good way. For me, it works really well because I need that, and she knows exactly what to say to me and what I need. Over the past year, I feel we have really built a good coach-student relationship, so I can really trust her with how she trains with me.
FSO: Are you currently in school?
Shin: I do Connections Academy Virtual School and will be a senior this coming year [Fall 2021].
FSO: Any thoughts about college?
Shin: I have been thinking a lot lately about colleges. I have a lot of exams coming up and the SATs, so I’m really focusing on that now. I’m really hoping to get into a college next year [Fall 2022]. The past year, I have been really wanting to study and major in sports medicine or something related to that. At the same time, I have been discovering more things that I like, so I’m not really 100% sure [what I’ll study], but it will be something related to that [sports medicine].
To learn more about Audrey Shin, visit her official website at audreyshin.figureskatersonline.com.