By: Megan Sauer
When it comes to the ice, Nikki Czuhajewski can do it all.
The Kalamazoo native started skating at the age of four and 16 years later, she still can't get enough. Out of her home rink in Kalamazoo, Nikki trains as many figure skating disciplines as she can. She ice dances, she jumps, she spins, and most recently, she skates with fifteen other people on Adrian College's Varsity Senior Synchronized Skating Team.
Nikki's skating achievements range from winning multiple Meijer State Games of Michigan figure skating events in 2012, 2014, and 2015, to being one of the top finalists at Solo Dance Nationals in Lansing, Michigan last fall. Her most notable, however, was her inaugural season as an Adrian College Bulldog. Nikki traveled to Newark, Delaware and took away a gold and two silver medals at her first Intercollegiate Championships. She also represented the United States with the rest of her team at the Spring Cup in Milan, Italy in February.
"Being apart of Team USA this year was the experience of a lifetime," said Czuhajewski. "The local fans in Milan are huge supporters of synchronized skating. As we walked out of the locker room and took the ice, the entire arena was full of fans chanting, "USA, USA, USA!""
She and her sister, Amy Czuhajewski, first got involved in the Meijer State Games when it began back in 2010. In that time, Nikki estimates she has earned 17 State Games Medals, and she plans on increasing that number this June in Grand Rapids.
"I have been training every day for the State Games and this is a good place to showcase my new programs," said Nikki. "It is always a fun competition for us since it is close by and we can have our friends and families come to support us."
Through her extensive knowledge of all things skating, here is a list of five things Nikki Czuhajewski believes everyone should know about figure skating.
1. Falling HURTS
While a skater's job is to make his or her jumps look effortless, behind every perfect landing are a hundred not so perfect falls. Skaters often have to take precaution such as wearing joint braces, protective headgear, and sometimes butt pads to limit the risk of injury. The uncertainty however doesn't keep skaters like Nikki from doing what they love.
"Falling does hurt sometimes," admits Czuhajewski. "But it doesn't stop us from trying new jumps."
2. Skating Takes A Lot of Athleticism, Balance, and Grace
No matter the discipline, skaters are required to spend hours perfecting their skill on the ice. After mastering how to balance over a 2 mm blade, skaters push their strength, agility, and endurance to the next level all while making it look graceful.
"Skaters need lots of power and speed," said Czuhajewski. "The tricky part is making it look effortless."
3. Yes, Skaters DO Get Dizzy When They Spin
There is a common misconception that because of their accumulation of skill through years of practice, skaters are immune to feeling disoriented after completing an element. Nikki confirms this is not the case.
"I think mastering new spins makes me feel the most off balance," said Czuhajewski.
4. Skating Takes A Ton of Endurance
At the Meijer State Games of Michigan in Grand Rapids this summer, Nikki will be competing in the junior ladies division. A typical junior ladies program consists seven jumps, three spins, and a footwork sequence to be completed in approximately three and a half minutes.
"After running track in high school, to me skating a long program is the equivalent of sprinting a mile," said Czuhajewski.
5. Skating Offers Something For Everyone
While some skaters get a thrill out of the jumps and spins figure skating has to offer, others prefer to dedicate themselves to mastering the intricate steps of various ice dances. Nikki thinks that this versatility is the best thing about figure skating.
"I absolutely love the feeling of jumping and figure skating, but I've also really enjoyed learning ice dance as a newer discipline," said Czuhajewski. "As for synchro, I love the feeling of having all my teammates on the ice along side of me. It is a totally different feeling compared to individual skating. That kind of support is incomparable."
Interested in figure skating?
Check out our Summer Games Figure Skating page for more information.