The 2013 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Omaha, Nebraska was one of the most exciting U.S. National Championships in recent memory. The skaters were either very on or very off and a lot of them were ON and skating at their best. One of the most magical and memorable moments in the men's competition was the free skate of Wesley Campbell, who in his 11th trip to the U.S. Nationals gave the skate of his life and finished 14th. Yeah, you read that right. The skate of his life and finished 14th. I don't even pretend to understand that, but that's a whole other story! At any rate, Wesley was fantastic in Omaha and has been fantastic throughout his career. He has competed and medalled on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, won a bronze medal on the junior level at the 2004 U.S. National Championships and competed in the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and has recently made the fabulous decision of turning professional and taking his skating to the next level. It was my pleasure to speak with the dashing Wesley, who is currently on tour in Asia about his amateur career, decision to turn professional, long term goals and what he would change about the sport as we know it:
Q: Looking at your career as an eligible skater, what do you consider your brightest or most shining moment?
A: As an eligible skater, my brightest moment was this year's free skate in Omaha to "Ave Maria". I was so trained, and emotionally prepared to connect with the audience and share my true self with all who watched. This season was about doing what I LOVE and to be able to skate a clean program, paced and confident, on my own terms, is something that every artist dreams of. I feel very blessed to have had that experience. When I finished and the crowd was on their feet in the arena, the overwhelming sense of finally meeting a personal goal overtook me, and I knew I had given the performance of my career.
A: In terms of the most difficult or challenging moment, competitively had to be the 2010 u.s. championships in Spokane. I had stress fractures in 2 metatarsals on my landing foot. I had been over training, and not eating properly, and my body couldn't handle the rigorous diet and jump repetition I was putting it through that season. It was really my chance to make an Olympic team, and I was doing 20 triple axels in a row, and forcing triple/triple combinations even when I knew I was too tired on a daily basis... trying to gain the consistency I thought I needed. The mid-December 2009 stress fractures kept me from being able to be on the ice leading up to Nationals in January, but I was determined to compete anyway. It was a disastrous competition for me, but I persevered through both programs and finished 19th. In the long run, the lessons learned about overly obsessing, and over training have proven to be valuable to me as an athlete and coach, but at the time, essentially saying goodbye to my Olympic dreams was disheartening, and debilitating.
Q: What impacted your decision to turn professional and why do you think it was the best decision for you?
A: My decision to turn pro was was based on the need to be in constant "growth" mode. As an eligible skater, I mastered a level of consistency with management of my current skills, and I felt it was time to learn some new things. I wanted to learn about production, and learn pairs, as well as potentially developing my artistry through different kinds of movements, and acrobatic skills. I am still discovering all the new things I want to do. I have a huge passion to create, and the professional world accepts and lends itself to those who are creatively inclined. I am a firm believer that when we we stop growing, we start dying... And I am not prepared to start dying anytime soon!
Q: Your skating has great line, style and substance. What skaters do you most admire artistically and why should young skaters spend time on the ice as much as in the air?
A: First of all, thank you for the compliment! I honestly think that the basic control and glide of the edge based upon body position and lean into or out of your circles are not only gratifying on an artistic level, but also are the keys to timing and injury prevention in jumping. Knowing the timing of your edges and the control of your turns will give a permanent foundation of technique that will allow a skater to become consistent and limitless in terms of what he or she can do on the ice. The most basic figure eight or edge exercise done well is both visually stunning, and technique building.
Q: Who do you consider your biggest role models and influences?
A: Influences and role models.... Wow. What a question! So many people come in and out of our lives! People who we connect with who change us permanently. When thinking about my skating career, people who come to mind are Julie Graham, the coach who guided me to the performance of my life this year. Sheryl Franks - a choreographer and kindred spirit in this world who inspired the gift of "Ave Maria". Robert Mauti - one of my closest friends and colleagues - an innovative partner who has ideas and creative juices flowing galore! Laura Sanders and Bill Fauver who nurtured my skating career for 16 years in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. They enforced basic skating as a staple and key point, and gave me the best start a skater could ask for. Janice Wallace - my first coach who saw the spark and believed in me. My mom, who worked 16 hour days to make ends meet and keep me on the ice... She's remarkable. All of these people are human... and they all have faults. But they're all incredible, worth recognizing, and I look up to and admire each and every one of them.
Q: If you could have 3 wishes, what would be they be?
A: 3 wishes... well, a good friend on my cast here in Asia mentioned to me that she says, "good management of your skills" instead of "good luck". I think this is pure wisdom! There's no pipe dream. All things we wish for can be achieved. And for this reason, I'm going to rephrase this question 3 GOALS: A loving, healthy relationship, and family, to always remain a man of character and uphold values above all. In showbiz, this is a biggie and to create my own show/company of skaters and dancers one day, perhaps on Broadway, and advance the possiblites of skating... to leave my mark on this sport.
Wesley's performance of "Ave Maria" at the 2013 NE Regionals
A: Mmmm... I drink a 6 shot soy latte every morning of my life. My doctor says its fine and that my heart's in perfect health so don't worry!
Q: What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you?
A: The funniest thing that has ever happened to me? Well, I have a lot of funny things happen. My life is kinda funny. Actually, this is embarrassing but it's fresh on my mind... In my very first show here as a professional skater for Willy Bietak, I literally fell on my very first step of the opening, while wearing an afghan and a turban on my head and full show make up and my poor partner and I got tangled up. Blades and fabric everywhere! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Luckily, our boss was there and laughed it off with us. We did a good solo after that.
Q: If you had a magic wand and could change 3 things about the skating world in a moment, what would they be?
A: 1. Politics - it's a subjective sport. People are entitled to liking different things, but jumping on the bandwagon and doing what's best for a coaches skaters or judge's future career at the expense of these athletes present careers is unacceptable and downright wrong. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it happens. 2. The new judging system. There's not a lot of room for emotion or artistic scoring the way there was under the old system. I long for the days when a skater had the performance of their life and got a 6.0 for artistic impression! People could relate to that. It wasn't confusing, it was exciting. 3. Bring back figures. They taught technique way better than moves in the field. We need these figures... They were the groundwork for all the other stuff we do!
Q: Where do you envision yourself in five years?
A: In five years, I plan to be settled in one place after spending time travelling the world, doing different contracts, expanding my knowledge of the sport, as well as continuing to grow as an athlete. I would like to be starting up my own production project in a major city, or be heavily involved in production and choreography of show skating, competitive skating, film, and theatre.
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