Kids are busy these days with school, activities and family, but throw in elite athletics and you really have your hands full. Michael Parsons, 16, and Rachel Parsons, 14, are siblings from Rockville who compete as an ice dance team at the national and international levels, often training up to 35 hours a week! Michael is a sophomore at Magruder High School and Rachel is in eighth grade at Redland Middle School.
Ice dance is the part of figure skating that puts ballroom dancing on ice. Routines include spins, difficult lifts and complicated footwork. (Ice dancers don’t do big jumps and throws, which is what pairs skaters do.)
Michael and Rachel have competed together for two years, but they’ve been training seriously since each was age 6. They are the U.S. champions at the novice level, which is like Little League. Because of their success as novices, this season they moved up to the junior level, in which they can compete in international events, including the Youth Olympic Games this week in Austria. The top level in ice dance is senior, in which skaters can compete in the Olympics.
KidsPost’s Whitney Fetterhoff talked to the local teens as they got ready for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in California next week.
What are some of the highlights of your skating career so far?
Michael: “It was really cool to win the national title on the novice level last season. It was such a big accomplishment, and it was great to see our hard work paying off. Traveling to Poland in September was also very exciting, because it was our first international competition now that we are skating at the junior level.”
What are some of your goals this season and long term?
Michael: “The competition is much more intense at the junior level. Our competitors are bigger, faster and stronger. Our coaches always push us to do our best, and we really want to win a medal at nationals next week! Our ultimate goal for the future is competing in the Winter Olympic Games. We both want to graduate college also; that is a priority.”
Rachel: “I’d really love to attend art school someday. I love drawing and painting in my free time.”
What is a typical day like for you, and how do you balance school and skating?
Rachel: “We go to school a full day every day and train on the ice before and after school. Saturday is our longest training day, and Sunday is our only day off. We also study ballet and ballroom dance and do stretching and conditioning. It’s tough, because we have to give up things like sleepovers and work ahead on our school assignments for when we’re away at competitions.”
What is your advice to other kids who want to succeed in sports or elsewhere?
Rachel: “Set a goal, and work as hard as you can to get there. Think about your goals, and remind yourself that you won’t get there if you don’t push through the ups and downs.”
Michael: “If you really want to achieve something, you can’t get there without hard work and commitment.”