Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Nina Zhan: Skating to success

Photo courtesty of Nina Zhan
Through different coaches, sickness and health Nina Zhan has continued her skating career to the upper echelons of skating prestige within the Illinois Skating Council.

At age 15, sophomore Nina Zhan has already been figure skating for over a decade. It’s fair to say that figure skating has become her life. Throughout the years, she’s continued to grow in her career and shows no signs of stopping.

At first, figure skating was a sport her mom picked for her, one that she was unsure about.

“I used to get sick a lot when I was young and my mom wanted me to get into sports so I [could be healthier],” Zhan said.

Zhan wanted to quit at first, brought down by the difficulty of learning to skate as well as comparing herself to the others around her.

“When I just started I couldn’t even walk in the skates,” Zhan said. “[Figure] skates are only a few millimeters thick and I kept falling every time. I would watch those other skaters the same age as me just fly by as if they had wings.”

Eventually, Zhan found motivation to keep skating.

“What mostly [motivated me] were the people I made friends with on the ice,” Zhan said. “I often thought of the ice rink as a home because I would go there every single day to practice for two hours. I felt very welcomed there and it felt like a way to express myself through music and dancing.”

When she was six, Zhan switched to her current coach, who she described as like another parent. She trained under this coach along with Hannah Leong, a Central sophomore, who she met in fourth grade.

“Nina is a great skater,” Leong said. “She’s just so graceful and she skates to the music so well. It was really fun skating with her.”

At 13, Zhan reached the level required to compete in the Illinois Grand Prix, hosted by the Skating Council of Illinois. Each level in figure skating requires completing a level task, where you perform a program in front of a group of judges to prove you know enough skills to advance to the next level.

“[The competition] was a really daunting experience at first because [there were] so many people in the audience and so many judges lined up in a row,” Zhan said. “[It was] a very strange experience for someone who had only been in small competitions up to that point.”

In preparation for the Grand Prix, Zhan had to practice her three-minute program over and over again, building up her stamina and improving her skating. Leading up to the competition, the pressure began to set in.

“It really puts a lot of pressure on you to do well because there’s only one [competition],” Zhan said. “I felt that if I didn’t do well, I would let down my coach and everyone who helped me so that was an impetus for me to continue pushing forward.”

At the Grand Prix Zhan experienced great success.

“In the end that competition went really well,” Zhan said. “I was able to get first place, [which] was a really big accomplishment for someone my age since I was the youngest person competing.”

After the Grand Prix, Zhan has continued to grow and look towards the future.

“I recently passed the highest level, which is senior,” Zhan said, “I’m planning to become a coach for figure skating. Right now, I’m 15, so I’m just applying for assistant coaching. After I’m 16 or 17, I’m allowed to become an actual coach. [As a coach], I really hope to inspire people and also teach people the things that I wish I knew when I first started skating.”

Zhan hopes to inspire others to pursue the art of figure skating.

“It’s not all about how well you do in each competition,” Zhan said. “The whole beauty of it is that you are able to find a way to express your soul to the audience and find a way to build up your confidence and have a great time.”

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About the Contributor
Mack Gowan, Opinions Editor
Mack Gowan is the opinions editor for Central Times. Mack is a senior and this is his third year on staff. He loves putting information all over his stories. In his free time, he enjoys solving puzzles, cooking and listening to Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins as well as Bladee. Mack wants to be a filmmaker when he grows up.
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