In 2010, Amanda Evora and her partner Mark Ladwig achieved their ultimate goal in their lengthy partnership, representing the U.S. at the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now a graduate of the University Of South Florida, a successful pairs coach and was most recently the winner of CBC's hugely popular series Battle Of The Blades with her hockey player partner Scott Thornton (who has played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings). Amanda has rekindled her love affair with skating and was kind enough to take time away from her busy coaching and holiday season to talk about her eligible career with Ladwig, Battle Of The Blades win, the way figure skating is judged, her favourite skaters and her future. An absolute must read for all of you skating fans!:
Q: In September, I interviewed your former partner Mark Ladwig! He talked about your goal of making programs that connected with audiences and your belief in skating every program to the best of your abilities. Sharing an Olympic experience together and achieving your dreams must have been so fulfilling! When you reflect on your career together, what made your partnership so ultimately successful?
A: The fundamentals of having a successful partnership were there - trust, common goals, and hard work. Our belief in longevity cultivated these fundamentals. We understood many of our common goals were long-term and would take time to develop. It was our hard work through the years that allowed us to take opportunities when they presented themselves.
Q: You have represented the United States at Grand Prix events, the Four Continents Championships, World Championships and at the Olympics in Vancouver, where you finished within the top ten. Looking back on all of your travels - all of those competitions and experiences - what are your proudest moments?
A: I have been so fortunate to have so many proud moments in skating. By far, the 2010 U.S. Championships where we were selected onto the Olympic Team was my ultimate moment. Going into U.S. Championships, we knew we had an outside chance making the Olympics never placing higher than fourth at US Championships before that point. We were underdogs and in 3rd after the short program. Heading into the long, my only concerns were having the chance to show our improvements from the year before, under the pressure of it being an "Olympic year." Our free skate was nowhere near perfect, but as our program continued, the quality of our elements and performance level just continually got better. The energy level of the whole arena just electrified. You could see the excitement and satisfaction from our faces in the nosebleed section of the arena. At the end of the program, I remember thinking "This is why you never give up. Moments like these make it totally worthwhile." Mark and I had skated first in the last warm up so we had three pair teams behind us before knowing what placement we would get. At the end of the competition, it was just the frosting on the cake that we ended up being 2nd, and heading the Olympics! Clearly skating at the Olympics was one of my proudest moments as well in my life representing the U.S. I thought of it as a celebratory performance. Our goal was making the Olympic team. With a little less pressure at the Olympics, we aimed to be in the top half of the competition, which we successfully did placing 10th out of 20. Our short program in Vancouver was probably one of our best performances of our career.
A: I got the call from Sandra Bezic in late spring. I had spoken in Tanith Belbin and Kim Navarro regarding their opinions on the show. Knowing how great of an opportunity it was, my only concerns were making sure it worked with my other job requirements. With the support of my fellow coaches and my office job, I accepted skating on the Battle Of The Blades sometime in June.
Q: How would you sum up the entire experience of going from skating with Mark Ladwig, who's obviously a great figure skater to skating with a hockey player?
A: First of all, accepting to be on the show, you are accepting and trusting the whole entire experiment. I was definitely prepped well taking the advice from former skaters on the show, listening to my head choreographer/coach Michael Seibert, and doing my own research watching and learning from the past Battle Of The Blades seasons. Scott and I had similar mentalities and attitudes. I have to thank Battle Of The Blades for doing so well matching us. We both believed in hard work, so we developed trust in each other quickly.
Q: I still can't get over the sheer courage you displayed in doing triple twists on Battle Of The Blades with a HOCKEY PLAYER. That's insane! People just don't do that! Did you ever dream you'd win?
Q: Scott was fit and well trained. His understanding of movement made it easy for him to understand the technique of the twist and throw. It was his consistency of his technique that what made me confident in advancing the twist into a triple. The thought of breaking new grounds such as being the first skater to do a triple twist with a hockey player just gave me more motivation to do it. What could be our potential? Pushing our limits and seeking excellence became our common goal. Going into Battle of the Blades, I didn't even think I would have a chance in winning even though of course we all wanted that. Being a rookie and a non-Canadian, I was just thankful that Scott would think I was a good enough partner. Once we had completed the triple twist and made the top three, our last performance was just a celebratory performance and it was truly up to the audience who their favourite was. The fact that we raised $100,000 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation still blows my mind, and I am just thankful I was put into a position where I was able to help such a worthy cause.
Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?
A: Growing up, Scott Hamilton was my idol. I loved how he entertained the audience and clearly understood how he felt being so short! It was only when I got older and understood his entire story, did I have even more respect for the man. When I became a pair skater, Katia Gordeeva was another one of my idols. I even read the entire "My Sergei" book. I remember watching her Tribute To Sergei skating show, and just being so in awe with her strength and obviously in tears watching. I got to meet her for the first time on the Battle Of The Blades. Not only did I finally get to meet her, but she taught all the Battle teams for a day. I only got to learn from her for an hour and a half, but it was such a privilege to work with her and listen to her ideas and thoughts. Amazing. Kristi Yamaguchi was another childhood idol. I remember watching her win the Olympics and wanting to skate like her when I was a little girl.
Q: What movie could you watch over and over again?
A: A skating movie I could watch over and over again is Blades Of Glory. I think any skater could appreciate all the humor in the movie!
A: Having competed under both the 6.0 system and IJS, I do prefer the IJS from a judging standpoint. Under the IJS, there is an exact value for each element being performed, giving a better systematic formula for the skater to understand the result. It allows more movement between placements, it doesn't matter if you skate first or las, and the skater knows how much technical value that are attempting before their performance. I do believe the IJS has pushed the limits of what the skaters can do but has limited creativity and has become so complicated for the audience attending. Interest levels has continuously decreased through the years. It's also harder for skaters to continually produce consistent performances with the level of difficulty they are trying to achieve each time. Just like everything else in life, competitive skating is in a time of evolution and change. If I could change one thing in the IJS, it would be to encourage more creativity. I'm optimistic and believe there will be a happy medium between the two systems, but who knows where in the future.
Scott Thornton, Amanda Evora, Michael Seibert, Ekaterina Gordeeva and Paul Martini on the set of Battle Of The Blades
Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?
A: Sticking to the theme of skating, most people don't know that when I was about 16, my parents wanted me to chose between two sports. They wanted me to try out starting pair skating or diving. My parents researched that many gymnasts become very good divers. They thought perhaps a skater would be good at diving as well. Just imagine if I chose diving instead... thank God I chose pair skating!
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see skating in 10 years?
A: In 10 years, I'll be 39/40. Yikes! I am not sure what I see myself doing in 10 years, however I am confident that I'll be in skating in some shape or form. As for skating, I think the team event is going to get more popular over the years. Let's hope it creates more interest for the sport after this Olympic Games!
Q: What's next for you? Will you be back for another season of Battle Of The Blades? Will you be competing in the ProSkaters professional competition in Sun Valley next summer?
A: The Battle Of The Blades experience helped bring back my love for performing again. As odd as this sounds, it taught me how to have fun! Sometimes in the competitive world when the pressure is so high, we forget to enjoy ourselves in the moment. I do hope my success after this show brings more performance opportunities. As of right now, I am focusing on the teams I assist as they finish their competitive season. I am so fortunately to be working with 2 Senior teams (Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay and Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea), a Junior team, 2 Novice teams, and a Senior man (Daniel Raad) who will be competing in the U.S. Championships coming up this January. As well, our British pair team Stacy Kemp and David King just officially made it to their second Olympics. These skaters are my priority right now wherever I can assist! Thank you for bringing up the ProSkaters competition in Sun Valley. I will have to do my research on it and see if that's something I could possibly do!
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