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At 14 And 17, Figure Skaters Cate Fleming And Jedidah Isbell Offer Mature Insight Beyond Their Years

By Olivia Truby | Jan. 12, 2020, 11:55 a.m. (ET)

Cate Fleming and Jedidah Isbell perform their free skate at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 on Jan. 12, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland.


LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- In front of an arena packed with fans from all over the globe, figure skaters Cate Fleming and Jedidiah Isbell were feeding off the energy from the stands as they performed their free skate.

The excitement from the crowd carried Fleming and Isbell through the first few elements of their program, helping them land jumps and lifts. But in the last lift of their program, a simple mistake led Fleming to fall.

“Quite a bit of our routine was really strong,” Fleming recounted. “Then in our last lift, it was just a little forward and we were both really tired, so it just came down and I fell...”

But before Fleming could catch her breath to finish the sentence, the 14-year-old - who is the youngest U.S. athlete competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games - offered up a mature perspective of the incident.

“But there were no injuries. If there was to be any accident or mistake, it’s good it was like this and nothing worse.”

Fleming, who at age 14 is still unable to drive a car, reminds us all that mistakes happen, and that the program - and life - still goes on.

“I’ve just seen worse happen and the fact that we were risking a lot of stuff and it only went to that level of problem, I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse,” Fleming said. “I’m putting it all into perspective.”

Seventeen-year-old Isbell also added thoughtful insight to the mistake.

“There were some issues, but we also hit some really big elements that are pretty new and there were a lot of really good points,” Isbell said. “After we compete, we appreciate the good things - and we put out a lot of really strong things in this program. We also analyze mistakes and try to learn from them. You learn a lot more from failing than you do from succeeding.”

With perspective like theirs, it is safe to say the two athletes are mature beyond their years.

The big elements, as Isbell mentions, are what the pair brought to life here at the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland.

“I’m really happy with the week we’ve put out,” Isbell said. “A few mistakes but you can’t always be perfect. We had a lot of new things here and I think this will really serve us well for the future.”

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Their 88.10 points in the free skate, combined with their 49.87 points from their short program, earned them a sixth-place finish overall in Lausanne.

Fleming and Isbell, who train in Boston, are in their sixth season together as partners. But more than just partners who train on the ice 3-4 hours a day and also do an off-ice workout, the two say their friendship off the ice only helps their connection and teamwork.

“We are friends and we hang out off the ice, which is a really cool thing,” Isbell said of their partnership. “For some teams, it’s more of a business relationship - which isn’t necessarily bad - but it’s fun to be able to share these experiences with someone that you just like interacting with as a friend.”

The Youth Olympic Games have provided a huge opportunity for the two - one that they’re grateful for, and one that leaves them hungry for more. For now, the two will use their maturity and perspective as they learn from their performances in Lausanne and continue to move forward.

“It’s just cool to get a taste of this [Youth Olympic Games],” Isbell said. “This is a really awesome experience and I’m really thankful for this, but it makes me more hungry for future Olympics. This is so amazing and it feels so good, and I want more of it.”