Here’s a cool article from the Gwinnett Daily Post in Gwinnett County, Georgia about Mindy Shoppe who hopes to compete in the Olympics in figure skating in 2010. Mindy, get in touch if you want to blog here about your training and preperation leading up to the Games.
Skater’s quest for gold involves whole family
By Shelley Mann
At 6 a.m. on a recent sweltering Thursday, 14-year-old Mindy Shoppe
climbed out of bed and pulled on thick tights and a heavy jacket.
By 7:30 a.m., she was shivering on the ice rink, stretching out her
muscles and readying for a morning and afternoon full of double axels,
triple lutzes and flips.
Mindy is a young girl with a big dream — to figure skate in the 2010
Olympics. It’s been the Grayson eighth-grader’s goal ever since, as an
impressionable 7-year-old, she watched Tara Lipinski win the gold.
She’s already given up a lot for her goal. Last year, she dropped out
of McConnell Middle School and opted for an online home schooling
program that allows more time to practice skating.
Her days — every day, even in the summer — consist of four hours of
skating, two hours of off-ice aerobics and strength training, then
school work and sleep. She can’t eat junk food or stay up late. Her
free time is spent catching up on homework or exercising.
Coach Aren Nielsen, a former silver-medal winner at the national level,
has been working with Mindy for five years. She’s got the talent to
make it to the Olympics, he says. And she’s certainly got the
She’s already performed in high-profile events such as Champions on Ice
at Philips Arena and has been asked to skate during intermission at a
Gwinnett Gladiators game.
But the challenge has been trying to find the money to fund the
expensive sport. Parents Jeff and Kathy Shoppe have already maxed out
credit cards and refinanced their home to pay for the nearly $40,000 in
annual costs. To make it to the next level, both parents and coach
Nielsen agree, Mindy needs to find a financial backer.
Follow the money
More money means more coaches, more competitions and more name
recognition. It means Mindy could meet with her sports psychologist,
who helps keep her head straight through the high-pressure world of
competition, every other month rather than twice a year.
Nielsen compares the costs involved to NASCAR racing — there’s no way
an average guy who wants to race at NASCAR could pay for his own car
and racing team. Similarly, most families can’t afford the annual costs
associated with figure skating.
Mindy pays $2,000 a year for custom-sewn dresses, individualized for
her long and short routines. Another $2,000 goes toward skates, blades
and other equipment. But the majority of the money pays for coaching
fees, ice time and travel costs.
The key to being chosen for the Olympic team is creating buzz, and
people can’t start talking about Mindy until she starts making a name
for herself at competitions.
“There is still some politicking in skating. We need to send her to
events to get her noticed,�? Nielsen said. “If she gets out and gets
noticed, the judges know to look for Mindy Shoppe.�?
Young skaters who grow up in “skating towns,�? in colder states such as
Michigan, Colorado and Delaware, usually have better luck finding
patrons than those in places like Atlanta, which is most definitely not
a skating town. Mindy practices at the Duluth Ice Forum, the only ice
rink in Gwinnett and one of just three in metro Atlanta.
The Shoppes are working hard to market their daughter to potential
donors. They cashed in on a favor from a friend who works in a public
relations firm to work up a color pamphlet and promotional video
touting Mindy. The publicity materials are meant to woo possible
Although some skaters find companies to back them, most rely on
individual donors. They’re usually former skaters or figure-skating
aficionados who understand the high costs involved.
“It’s frustrating for us as parents because we’ve invested all we can,�?
Jeff Shoppe said. “People have told us, ‘If you don’t have the money,
you should just stop,’ But we’re not going to, not as long as she wants
Path to the gold
Mindy tried gymnastics and soccer before settling on figure skating,
and she said she loved skating from the first time she set foot on the
ice. She’s loved winning ever since she came in first at her very first
competition. At 5 years old, she didn’t really understand what “first�?
meant, but she knew she wanted it.
“That’s where it started,�? Mindy said.
Since then, she’s never wavered in her passion for skating. Dad Jeff
has told Mindy that if he ever has to come in and drag her out of bed
for skating practice, then it’s over. It hasn’t been a problem yet.
Most of Mindy’s friends are fellow figure skaters she knows from her
rink or from competitions.
Jeff and Kathy Shoppe have also tailored their schedules to Mindy’s
skating. Jeff drops her off at the rink first thing in the morning, and
Kathy, bundled in a sweater and thick pants, arrives later to sit on
the cold metal bleachers and watch Mindy skate.
The Shoppes’ fourth-grade son is also involved in baseball, but not
nearly as heavily. Two older children, former cheerleaders, are in
Even with enough money, making it to the Olympics is even harder than
it sounds. First, skaters have to finish among the top four skaters
during one of nine regional championships. The top three finalists from
the next round, sectionals, go on to a national championship. And only
the top three national winners have a chance to be picked by the
But before Mindy can even compete at the regional level, she has to
master the jumps and techniques of the novice level she currently
competes at and move up to the senior or champion level.
“The road to the Olympics is usually a lot longer than people think,�?
Nielson said. “You have that stereotype story of the mom driving the
kid two hours each way every day, but that’s actually true. It’s an up
and downhill battle to get to that point.�?