There's more to Puerto Rico than Alexis Mateo and Yara Sofia. BAM! Echa pa'lante! I'm telling you the truth, hunty. The U.S. territory, which is a Caribbean island north of the Dominican Republic is not only to Marc Anthony, but to a relatively new figure skating association first represented in international competition by Victoria Muniz. Having represented Puerto Rico in four World Championships, Victoria shared some huge news about her upcoming 2013/2014 season, related stories of her competitive experiences and talked about skating in Puerto Rico:
Q: You were born in Guam, train in the United States and represent Puerto Rico internationally, and are actually the first skater to represent Puerto Rico internationally at an ISU Championship. What did this moment mean to you?
A: I was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to compete for Puerto Rico. I was excited that I was representing my father’s side of the family. I have always been proud of my heritage and this was a way to show how proud I was of being part Puerto Rican.
Q: In competing at four World Championships (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012), what were your experiences at each of these competitions and what did you learn most from them?
A: 2008 Worlds was my first senior international and it was definitely the most exciting. I went into that competition with no expectations. I was relaxed the entire time and really was a learning experience. It showed me how the seniors competed and practiced. 2009 was definitely the hardest competition I had ever done. Being from a small federation I was used to nobody showing up or cheering for me or even knowing who I was, but that year Worlds was in my training home town of Los Angeles. Everyone that I knew was there to watch me. I remembered I got extremely nervous and just at one point didn’t even want to go out on the ice for the short program. My coaches could not get me together backstage after the six minute warm-up. I was crying up until I stepped on the ice to compete. I was so prepared for the competition but I let my nerves of performing in front of a home crowd get to me. It was definitely terrifying. I still remember the immense roar of the crowd and I felt the ice shaking under my feet. I was not prepared mentally for the magnitude of being in front of my home crowd. 2010 Worlds I was having a mental breakdown most of the week. I was afraid that I was going to implode like the year before. My friends and family back home had to keep constant contact with me and try to keep me calm all week. I remember most nights I could not sleep, but by the time it came to competition I had let all the doubts go and stopped psyching myself out. 2012 Worlds I was just happy to be there after missing Worlds the year before due to problems within the federation. It was definitely my favorite Worlds. I was the most prepared I could have been. I loved every second on the ice. Everything felt like it lined up perfectly. The biggest thing I learned from competing at Worlds every year that it takes a lot of mental strength to be at these types of competition. You could be at your best physically but if you aren’t right in the mind then everything can disappear in an instant.
Q: How do you keep busy when you're not on the ice?
A: I am currently a full time student in college majoring in kinesiology. I want to pursue Sports psychology and Physical Therapy. I also have a part time job at a department store so I usually keep a busy schedule. The busier I am, the happier I am and the better I skate.
Q: Who are your favourite skaters and who is your favourite skater that you have competed against?
A: My favorite skater has always been Michelle Kwan. She has definitely had a huge impact on my skating and it’s who I’ve always wanted to skate like. Being in Los Angeles, I have been able to train at her rink on and off. I’ve even gotten a few tips from her as well. She’s definitely a class act both on and off the ice.
My favorite skater that I have competed against would have to be Yu Na Kim. Her technique and speed across the ice is amazing. I always liked sharing the ice with her on practices.
Q: How do you see Puerto Rico's skating program developing, both since you started representing them, and in the foreseeable future?
A: I had the pleasure of coaching in Puerto Rico for 2 months in the summer of 2012. The rink is very tiny and the ice is not the best. The girls that I worked with I absolutely adored. Unfortunately, the program has not developed at all. They only had one skating coach and unfortunately he moved to Florida. So there is nobody coaching at the rink in Aguadilla where I taught. When I started skating with the federation, there was a very small program and there was a coach from Canada that taught there for awhile a couple of years ago. I would like to see a better future for figure skating in Puerto Rico, but under the current control of the President of the federation I don’t think there will be any development. It’s sad and heartbreaking because at one time I hoped that I could make a difference and have a future Puerto Rican skater from the island take my place in competition.
Q: Do you plan on competing at the Nebelhorn Trophy and trying to qualify for Sochi this fall?
A: As of April of this year (2013) I was released from the Puerto Rican Federation due to unfortunate circumstances. I felt that it was in my best interest to part ways with the federation. It was a tough decision with the Olympics next year, but I could not participate any longer in a federation that treated their skaters as badly as they treated me, my coaches and my family. At first I was very disappointed in knowing that I was losing my chance at the 2014 Olympics, but now I am completely happy with my choice. Yes, the Olympics were my dream, but being able to enjoy skating again is much more important to me. I will continue this season competing within the USA to try to make it to U.S. Nationals.
Q: How has skating been going for you so far this summer? Are you working on new programs?
A: Skating this summer has been tough. I am taking summer classes which have kept me extremely busy. I have classes four days a week from 7:30am until 1pm. It's definitely not an ideal schedule for me, but I am making it work. I have already put out my new short program in a competition in my home rink and will be participating in Skate Detroit at the end of July. I have a new short program to "Cinema Paradiso" that I absolutely love, choreographed by one of my coaches Alexander Chang. I am keeping my Astor Piazzolla "Tango" freeskate from last season since I had a very disappointing season due to injury and problems within the federation.
Q: What kind of goals have you set for yourself in skating and have you achieved them so far?
A: My goal for this season is to qualify for U.S. Nationals. I have been to Sectionals before as a junior when I first started skating and that’s where I was approached about joining the Puerto Rican federation.
Q: What is your favourite and least favourite thing about the sport?
A: My favorite part of skating is being able to portray a story within a program. I love that for a couple of minutes that I can pretend to be someone else. My least favorite part about the sport would have to be the judging system, especially the PCS. I have had one competition where my entire PCS score got lowered because two judges blatantly disliked me and were way off line with the other judges. I just feel that the judges have too much control still.
Q: If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
A: My first wish would be to be able to repay my parents for all the money they spent over the years to help me reach my dreams. My second wish would be that Puerto Rico could finally develop a program and eventually become one of the power players in the sport. My third wish would be to be able to sing. I wish I had a good voice, but unfortunately I can’t carry a tune.
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