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First Person Singular: Figure skater Mark Adams

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

If you've been around me for more than five minutes, I don't have to tell you that I don't mind being the center of attention. My other distinguishing trait: I'm not a team player. My tag line is, "Win or lose, it's all about me." So, if I go out there and I screw up and lose, it's all me, and if I go out there and win, it's still all about me. Other skaters will ask, "Mark, will you dance with me or be my partner?" And I say: "No. And here's the reason why. If we went out there and you screwed up, I'd hate you if we lost."

I've always been uber-competitive. My parents have always been super-competitive -- they were both club champions at golf, all that. My mother now doesn't even like to lose to her granddaughters in Uno. I'm probably the worst, though. When I was 16, I got kicked off a soccer team for having a potty mouth. And I probably wasn't just cussing at the other team, but also at some poor, slow kid who was keeping us from winning. This was a church league, and my dad was the coach.

Adult figure skating is sanctioned by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. The prizes are real. The competition is intense. I was immediately hooked.

I'd skated some as a kid, but no turns, no jumps, no costumes. So I took a learn-to-skate program, and it turns out I have mad skills. I practice like crazy, too, but really, going out there and being the center of attention for two minutes and 10 seconds is really the perfect sport for me.

In my career, I'm more collaborative. I'm in marketing, so like skating, it's creative. But it's not mine. On the ice, I pick my own music, my own costumes and, with my coach, my choreography. You don't get that kind of control as a marketing executive in a major communications company.

My co-workers are going to be surprised when they read this, because I've always told them I'm a coach, not a competitor. And I thought about it and thought about it, and finally said: "Look, I'm 50 years old, I'm a world champion figure skater, and I don't give a [expletive] what they think about me."

-- Interview by Amanda Long


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