The script didn’t play out as a fairy tale. Instead, it was more like a made-for-TV movie, one where the hero is propelled by extraordinary effort to come oh-so-close to his goal but falls short, only to have his dream come to life because of circumstances beyond his control.
|Grant Hochstein competes at the men's short program at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 22, 2016 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
That’s the case with figure skater Grant Hochstein, who will make his debut on the world championship stage at the ripe old age of 25. Placing fourth at the U.S. championships, the native of Warren, Michigan, found himself on the outside looking in at the three-member men’s world championship team. But all that changed when training colleague Nathan Chen injured his hip during the exhibition that followed nationals. Hochstein was named as Chen’s replacement on the world championship squad that will compete on March 28-April 3 in Boston.
“Obviously this is not the way I wanted to make my worlds debut,” Hochstein said on his official website. “We skate together and Nathan is a hard worker. He earned his place at the worlds, and it’s terrible that he was injured. In the same sense, I deserved fourth place at nationals, so I put myself in this position.”
Some may interpret that last statement as being prideful, but it actually is a statement of fact. Hochstein wowed the audience in St. Paul, Minnesota, with an emotional free skate set to selections from Les Miserables edited by his girlfriend, skater Caroline Zhang. Despite missing his opening quad toe, the audience rewarded him with a standing ovation. He received a final score of 252.84, his personal best.
His fourth-place finish was his highest placement at nationals since finishing seventh in 2010 in his senior debut.
As a more mature skater, Hochstein recognizes that he must be more intelligent with his training.
“We’ve been trying to limit the number (of quads) that I do, but do them efficiently,” he said. “That’s how I take all my skating, because I’m more mature in my years. I don’t need to be throwing around quads through an entire freestyle. I don’t need to be trying all this stuff that’s hard on my body. I do what I need to do, and do it correctly and smartly. You don’t need to do a hundred to know that you can do one.”
That approach has paid off, earning him his first trip to both worlds and the Four Continents Championship, where he finished eighth and had a personal best score of 75.79 for his short program.
“This is a bonus, because we didn’t expect it,” Hochstein said. “Four Continents was the reward for my hard work. Worlds for me is the icing on the cake. I didn’t plan on being here. I want to enjoy the experience and I want to feel like I’m contributing to the U.S. men hopefully getting three spots again next year. I know that I’m the rookie going in, but I want to feel like I’m doing my part and pulling my weight for our team.”
|Grant Hochstein skates in the men's short program at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on Jan. 10, 2014 in Boston.
Perhaps it comes from his vantage point of being what is termed in baseball as a journeyman player, but Hochstein understands how fleeting and rare these opportunities are, and he wants to be able to smell the roses during the journey.
“I want to take in every possible moment of it,” he said. “You never know how many chances you’re going to get. I want to enjoy it, and I plan on doing just that.”
Rising into the rarified air of his first worlds, Hochstein will have reason to take his game up another notch sitting in the audience.
“I have friends and family coming,” he said. “I have an old student from Michigan coming and a new student from California coming. It’s always another level when you have your students come watch you compete, because you have to everything right for them so they can’t look back and say, ‘Ya know, that one time I watched you compete, and you did this, so why do I have to do that?’ You hold yourself to a new level when you have your students watching.”
Riding the crest of his best year, Hochstein is hard-pressed to single out a most memorable moment.
“There’s been a lot of them,” he reflected. “Each thing has built on the previous, so I can’t say that one is my favorite over the other, because if I didn’t have the first one I wouldn’t have had the second one. A clean long at NHK was great, and I got a standing ovation. I got a standing ovation at nationals too. It feels good to have your hard work rewarded. I guess if I had to pick one it would be one of those two.”
With the icing already on the cake, Hochstein is looking to add sprinkles in Boston.