Journal-February 2017

Looking back over my website, I’ve realized that I haven’t written a journal entry in over a year. As I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to keep my life more private, not tweeting or facebooking incessantly, only when it seemed to be something of mild importance. However, I would like to use this time to get a little bit more personal with you, my friends and supporters. Right now I’m on a long flight back from Four Continents and I think it’s a good time to do just that.

I finished the 2015-16 season on the greatest high of my life. I worked hard that season to improve on my consistency, to show the skating world that I was dependable and could be counted on in high pressure moments. I finished fourth at both of my Grand Prix competitions (China and Japan), with each performance improving on the previous one. The trend continued at 2016 U.S. Nationals, where, barring a fall on my quad toe in the short, I competed with confidence and gave proof to my new consistency. It was my first ever standing ovation at this event, as well as my first ever senior medal, a pewter. I was named to the Four Continents team and listed as first alternate to Worlds. As fate would have it, I would be placed onto that world team after Nathan Chen’s unfortunate injury.

I performed well enough in the short program at 2016 Four Continents in Taipei City to put myself in sixth place, securing a spot in the final warmup. Unfortunately for me, and a few other members of the team, I contracted a pretty serious case of the flu. I was stuck in bed for most of the day between the short and long and wasn’t sure I would even make it through the free skate. If you watched, I’m not quite sure I did make it through. I suppose if you count skating from the beginning of your program to the end, then yes I did. I dropped down to 8th overall, which was a decent final result, but not the one I was looking for. I promised myself that I would work even harder for Worlds and that I did.

I showed up to Boston in the best shape of my life. I could skate clean programs with my eyes closed. I knew this was an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of, not knowing how many more chances I would have to compete at worlds. Given the fact that it would take place in the U.S., I was fortunate to have a large number of friends and family in attendance in Boston. My short program was a little rocky. I was quite nervous and nothing seemed to go exactly as I had trained at home. I found myself in a disappointing 16th place. I headed into my free skate knowing I would be performing my “Les Miserables” program for the final time, a program that I really connected with. I allowed myself to take in every single moment of the performance, landing my quad toe and skating a nearly flawless rest of the program. The crowd was amazing, cheering so loudly in my final choreographed sequence that I could barely hear the music. It was a moment I had dreamed about my entire life but was never sure I would ever attain. I will never forget how I felt during that free skate and those emotions will remain with me forever.

After Worlds, I proposed to Caroline on our vacation to New York City. I’ve gone over the details of this about a million times, so I will spare the time here, but I promised then, and I will always promise to cherish her, protect her and love her to the best of my ability. She is so special to me and knowing I am going to share the rest of my life with her is the greatest gift that God could have ever given me.

Coming down from this exciting year was a challenge in itself. I made a lot of mistakes that I know now contributed to my difficulties during this current season. I had never competed so late into the season, finishing in early April. I told myself that I needed time to rest and recover. I took a good six or seven weeks off from skating and then quickly realized that it was June and if I wanted to compete at the early fall internationals that I would have to get my act together pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, I didn’t finish my programs until the beginning of July. I debuted both programs a few weeks later at the Glacier Falls Summer Classic club competition where I finished a disappointing 7th. I also began to have boot problems and quickly tried to rectify the situation by switching out of the skates I had worn for nearly a decade into the Edea brand. The transition went pretty smoothly, but I only had about 10 days to get ready for Champs Camp once I got the new boots. I underperformed in Colorado Springs, but I told myself I just needed to adjust and that I would be fine at Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy in September. I was wrong. I landed my quad toe in the short program, but popped my triple axel into a single and received negative GOE for my triple Lutz. My long program that followed was a disaster. I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been and my confidence began to slide.

I skated better at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany two weeks later, but only marginally. It was, however, good enough to secure me my first senior international medal, a bronze. I know I could have skated better, but I thought after my early season struggles, things might be starting to turn around. Wrong again. At Skate Canada International I blew my short program, hard. And what I mean by that is, I didn’t land one jump and scored 60 points, some 15 points less than I did in the short program in Germany. I finished dead last in the short program. I did manage to pull myself up to 8th in the long, landing a good quad toe and nice triple Axel in the second half. A few unfortunate small errors held me down, but the low short program score killed my overall score, leaving me in 11th place.

I showed up at NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan with a mild hip injury and about a week’s worth of training to support me. I decided at the last minute to go back to my “Due Tramonti” short program from the previous season in an attempt to calm my nerves and settle me down. I skated slightly better in the short, but with a lack of any real training, there wasn’t much anybody could do to help me. My long program was a disaster and utterly humiliating for me. In less than a year I had reached the highest point of my skating career thus far, tenth in the world, and then crashed harder than I could have ever imagined. It was a true rock bottom moment for me. I had a good breakdown and vowed to myself that I would work hard with my head down and surprise everyone at Nationals. On the plane home I made a list of promises to myself about not making excuses, doing full run throughs no matter how hard I wanted to stop, and being accountable for the work I was producing.

By putting in the hard work at home, I showed up to Nationals in Kansas City feeling confident again. My quad toes were better than they had ever been and I knew that I was ready. Unfortunately, I missed the quad in the short, but put together a good rest of the program that I was proud of. I finished fifth in the short, less than a point out of fourth. In the long, I put out another solid and consistent skate, the kind of performance that created my success the previous year. I pulled up to fourth place, receiving the pewter medal for the second year in a row. I was also assigned to compete at Four Continents again, the reward for my hard work.

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Click on photo to see more photos from Four Continents.

I want to share with you, quickly, as I’ve begun to drag on, how wonderful the experience was in Gangneung, South Korea, last week. It was so inspirational to be able to compete in the arena where the Winter Olympics will be held in less than a year. To be surrounded by the Olympic Rings was a constant reminder of the end goal and something that really helped push me through the week.

The level of skating at this event was ridiculous. The number of quads being attempted and completed by the men is remarkable. I may not be doing five quads in a program, but I was proud of myself for completing and standing up on my quad toe in the short and both quad toes in the long. My short program was a new personal best score for me. I’ve never scored in the 80s before, even domestically, so to do it at this event was a big deal for me. I feel like I took my time and enjoyed the performance. I even said that to myself once I landed my final jump, “Okay, now breathe and enjoy this! Take in every moment!” It was one of the first times all season I had truly enjoyed the competition and skated right from my heart. My long program wasn’t quite as great as the short, dropping me to 9th in the long and overall. Even with the few mistakes I made, I was still proud of my effort. It’s really hard to dig yourself out of a hole, and that’s exactly what I’ve had to do as this season has gone on. You can have people all around you telling you what to do, but until you force yourself, truly and with conviction to get up and get to work, it is impossible.

So, as I bring this long journal entry to a close, I am ending my season feeling satisfied. I’m not overjoyed and on top of the world like I was last year, but I know I’m ending this season wiser and with a better grip on my career. I’m looking forward to going home and getting back to work for next season. It is important to me, not only because it is the Olympic season, but because it is my final season. I’m going to approach this year by skating from the heart and skating because it is what I love to do. This sport takes you on such a beautiful and incredible journey, no matter what your level of skating. It teaches you how to get up when you fall, to be humble, to be brave and most importantly, it teaches you to believe in yourself. It takes you to places you previously thought were impossible and unattainable, but gives you the opportunity if you dare to try. I can’t imagine my life without competing, which is why I’m heading into this final season full of hope and appreciation for the sport that has given me so much. Maybe I will make the Olympic team and maybe I won’t, but I’m sure going to give it my best shot!

I want to thank you for being a part of my journey and I look forward to sharing the next year with all of you.

–Grant