Ellenton pairs skaters Felicia Zhang, Nathan Bartholomay approach 2014 Winter Olympics with confidence

Ellenton skaters approach Sochi with confidence

jlembo@bradenton.comJanuary 23, 2014 

ELLENTON -- One of Jim Peterson's favorite movie is "Hoosiers."

So when two of his pair figure skating teams made their Winter Olympic debuts 2010 in Vancouver, Peterson, the co-coach of figure skating at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, took a page out of coach Norman Dale's playbook.

He took his skaters into a near-empty rink and pointed at the ice.

"It's still just frozen water," Peterson said.

He plans on taking a similar approach with Nathan Bartholomay and Felicia Zhang, the Ellenton-based pair who qualified for the 2014 games by finishing second during this month's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.

Peterson wants his skaters to do well, obviously. But he also wants them to enjoy the experience.

After all, it's the Olympics.

Bartholomay and Zhang are locked in with Peterson's plan, however, and consider their first Olympics an opportunity rather than a pressure-packed competition.

"We're going to go out and we're going to do what we do every day in training," said Bartholomay, a Pennsylvania native, "and just really try to embrace the Olympic spirit. It's something that's been true to me and something I believe in.

"We're not even treating it, honestly, as we're training like it's a special event. It's huge and it's special, but we're just like, 'It's just another sheet of ice.' Every time we go to compete, we take the sheet of ice we compete on and make it our home."

Bartholomay's clearest Olympic memory dates back to the 2002 Winter Games, when as an 11-year-old, he watched Russian Alexi Yagudin beat out countryman Evgeni Plushenko for the gold.

"It was the first thing I really remember watching and being like, 'Whoa,'" he said, 'dreams do come true.'"

Yet when it comes to this year's games, Bartholomay hopes to meet American snowboarding star Shaun White.

"His story's incredible. The amount of talent that this guy has -- mentally, physically, everything," he said. "He's really been an idol of mine as far as sport goes. I'm hoping I can get a couple of pictures with him. We'll see."

Zhang, who was born in New Jersey, said being an Olympian hasn't quite hit her yet, even though she and the 12 other members of the U.S. figure skating team remind themselves daily in a chat group they created.

"The Olympics is just another competition that we're going to focus on right now," she said. "We're definitely going to enjoy the experience while we're there, but once we step on the ice, it's just another practice, another program we'll have to do and another jump we'll have to land."

Zhang is looking forward to the opening ceremony and walking in with other American athletes, especially the figure skaters.

"Just listen to their story," she said. "We're all so supportive of each other, and we all have gone through the same things -- the good days, the bad days -- and just knowing that we made it is a great feeling."

Consequently, the skaters aren't feeling too much pressure as they approach their first Olympics.

But that's how Bartholomay and Zhang treat every competition.

"I've actually had some of our competitors come up to me and say, 'You guys don't even, like, sweat. You're not even worried.' What am I going to do? Fall down?

"If you can really grasp that ... then that's how we can capitalize on every skate we have."

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service