Christina Gao ready for Olympic season

2013-cgao-qaby Gina Capellazzi

Christina Gao may have placed fifth in the past four U.S. Championships, but this year she’s hoping to break that streak by finishing in the top three and go on to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics.

The 2012-2013 season was full of break-out moments for Christina.  She finished second at Skate America and fourth at Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for her first ISU Senior Grand Prix Final. She did this all while taking a full course load at Harvard University.

Christina will start her quest for Sochi with the Nepela Trophy in Slovakia in October, followed by Skate Canada and Trophee Bompard Paris in the ISU Grand Prix Series.

With just about a month to the start of the 2013-2014 season, Figure Skaters Online chatted with Christina about her training, her college studies and her summer adventures.

You are training in Boston with coaches Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson for the 2013-2014 season. What is it like to train where the 2014 U.S. Championships are being held?

It is great to train in Boston. Nationals are still a few months away but you can already feel the energy and excitement in Boston. I love Boston. It is my second hometown. They are lots of promotions going on for the All-Event tickets and soon the single session tickets will be available. I told my friends at Harvard to come and watch. The energy in our rink has been amazing. Everyone has been working really hard.  You are seeing quads from Ross Miner and Stephen Carriere and even throw quads from Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.

How is training going so far? What are your short and long program music selections?

My training is going really well. I’m really happy. I’m keeping my short program music from last season, to Kostia and David Arkenstone’s “Close without Touching”. Even though it is the same music, we changed up the choreography and I’m really able to connect with it more. I’m skating my long program to Hans Zimmer’s Angels and Demons soundtrack. At first, I was a little hesitant about the music. After we choreographed it, I still wasn’t really feeling it and I told my coaches I needed a new program. But when we broke it down and worked on every single movement and element, it really started to grow on me. Now I can’t imagine skating to anything else. I’m getting to portray both the angel and the demon. When I tell people what I’m skating to, they are like, ‘Oh you are going to portray the angel.’ But when I told my friends what I was skating to, they are like, ‘Oh you are definitely the demon.’ I’m like, ‘thanks guys.’ But it is really cool to portray two different characters in my long program.

You attended Champs Camp in Colorado Springs in August, which prepares skaters for the upcoming season. How was it?

Champs Camp was really productive. I got some good feedback on my programs. Spins have been one of my weak points. In the past, I’ve used my spins in my programs as a rest. So at Champs Camp, I did some extra spin lessons and did my programs with no jumps, just spins. I’m working on having more energy in my spins.

What would it mean for you to make the Olympic team?

It would mean the world to me to make the Olympic team. People dream about going to the Olympics. I dreamed about it when I was 7-years-old. I even wrote a letter to myself in second grade about going to the Olympics. To have the opportunity to go to the Olympics would be a dream come true. But no matter what happens, I want to have no regrets this season. I’m just going to take one day at a time.

The U.S. women will be able to send three spots to the Olympics. How do you perceive the competition for those three spots?
With three spots, everyone is going to put up their best at Nationals. Who goes to the Olympics all depends on who brings it at Nationals. It is going to be a tough competition.

You have put off school at Harvard to focus on this season. How hard of a decision was that to choose between skating and school?

I have taken the Spring 2013 and Fall 2013 semesters off from Harvard to focus solely on my skating. It was a really hard decision for me to make. I love school so much and I have made so many great friends. It was especially hard for me when all my friends were moving back to campus a couple of weeks ago and I wasn’t. I don’t live too far from Harvard, so I have been back to campus to visit a few times, so I’m not missing too much.

Last fall, you did both. How hard was it to balance a full college course load and skating?

When people heard I was going to Harvard full time and still skating, they were like, ‘You can’t do it’.  I was like, ‘I got this’. I just threw myself in. I took four courses and I found myself a good schedule and a good routine. It really wasn’t that bad. Midterms and finals week were the hardest for me.

What is your major?
I’m still undecided on my major. You don’t have to declare a major at Harvard until your sophomore year. I’m interested in business and leadership. I like to be in charge.

Did you live on campus? Did you get along with your roommates?
I lived on campus in one of the freshmen dorms. I had three roommates. They were very great. They understood my schedule and were very supportive which was good.

2013-cgao-qa-1You participated in the Skate for Hope, the annual breast cancer awareness fundraising event held in Columbus, Ohio in June. What was it like for you to return to your home state?

I love skating in Ohio. It is always nice to return home. It was also my first time performing in the Skate for Hope. The show also meant a lot to me personally. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She is on her way to recovery and has since returned back to work. It was really hard for me especially since my mom was going to chemotherapy in Ohio and I was in Boston. Because the Skate for Hope was in Ohio, my mom got to attend. My mom doesn’t get to watch me live a lot, so I wanted to do a special show program for her. My mom wanted me to skate to Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” So I put together a program for that song. I can’t even put into words what it meant for me to skate for my mom.

While you were in Columbus, you visited a local fire station along with Max Aaron, Sarah and Emily Hughes. What was that like?

It was really cool. I think the last time I visited a fire station was when I was on a field trip in 4th grade. But this was really cool. We got a tour of the place. They showed us where they eat and sleep. We also got to try on their uniforms. Then we each took turns sliding down the fire pole. I was nervous because I’m scared of heights. But I did it. My recommendation if you are to slide down the pole is that it is not a good idea to wear shorts because you stick to the pole and it hurts. The firemen asked us if we needed a ride back to our hotel. So we got a ride back to our hotel on a fire truck. It was very cool!


Finally, what are you most excited for this season?

I’m just really excited for this season. I love my programs so much and I’m really happy with my training. I think this season when I step on the ice, people will see a different skater. I can’t wait to show everyone how hard I have been working.