Meryl Davis is an iconic figure skater whose resume includes a 2014 Olympic gold medal in ice dance – the first ever for Team USA – a 2010 Olympic silver in ice dance and 2014 Olympic bronze in the team event. She and partner Charlie White also won two world titles, two world silver medals, five Grand Prix Final medals and six U.S. titles.
The snow is melting, some of the sliding sport tracks are closing for the season and, in many ways, the world is moving on. For several weeks every two years, the world’s attention is turned to the Olympic and Paralympic summer or winter Games. For many athletes, the moments at the Games are the result and culmination of decades of hard work. A dream, a goal, an instant that is gone surprisingly quickly.
While many athletes experience a post-Olympic slump – some for weeks and others for years – the world’s elite figure skaters are fortunate to have additional career options on the ice. Indeed, a career in coaching, consulting or a role with one’s NGB (national governing body) can keep an athlete involved with his or her sport after the days of competition are over, but few sportsmen and women are able to make a career of performing in a non-competitive scenario.
As the majority of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team and other established skaters including Ashley Wagner, Jason Brown, my partner Charlie White and I embark upon our second week of shows in this year’s U.S. Stars on Ice Tour, we must consider ourselves fortunate. In addition to having the opportunity to tour the country doing what we love, professional figure skating is a chance for athletes to make a living. When this particular, 22-city tour ends in late May of this year, the cast will scatter: some of us will return home to train for the next tour while others will begin preparations for the 2018-19 competitive season.
Whether we’re continuing to support ourselves, looking to pay coaching bills or preparing to invest in next year’s elaborate and often expensive skating costumes, figure skaters are fortunate to have the option of putting our sporting skills to use in such a way that provides a supplementary income. As a two-time Olympian myself, I know how rare that is.
When at the Games, one of the most enjoyable experiences for athletes is getting to know and socialize with athletes from other sports. Of course, while there are many similarities between us, our pursuits and daily endeavors, each sport sets the scene for the lives of its athletes a bit differently. In truth, there are many athletes having to put very ‘normal’ lives on hold to compete in the Games. On several occasions, I’ve met athletes who had to quit their jobs or take a leave of absence from careers in fields like accounting in order to compete; a difficult choice to make in the name of pursuing one’s dream.
(L-R) Maia Shibutani and Meryl Davis
As we move into spring, I can’t help but wonder how the incredible athletes of the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are faring as they embark upon their post-Games lives. Happily, we will see and get to know some of our favorite athletes and Olympians on this upcoming all-athletes season of “Dancing with the Stars” starting later this month. Beyond the dancing itself, I feel this show is an incredible chance for viewers to hear the stories of these athletes and to get to know them off of their respective fields of play. Afterwards, some may go on competing, some of the skaters may perform in shows, while still other athletes may struggle to find their next steps in life. Personally and professionally, life after the Games can often be tough for athletes.
When you’ve been preparing for something all of your life and suddenly that ‘thing’ is behind you…I think it’s normal to feel somewhat lost. To the athletes struggling with this adjustment, you’re not alone. Take your time. Your passion, work ethic and ability to persevere will serve you well in any area you choose. To the audiences enjoying Stars on Ice, “Dancing with the Stars” or even those who casually caught a glimpse of an event or two in the 2018 Games, I sincerely hope you continue to enjoy the journeys of your favorite athletes; their lives and stories go so far beyond what you see at the Games.
(L-R) Maia Shibutani, Meryl Davis and Ashley Wagner