WILMINGTON — This past weekend should have been one of the most special weekends of Janelle Anderson's life. If all had gone according to plan, Anderson would have headed to the University of Delaware Arena in Newark, Delaware to compete in the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships.
Anderson, a long time Wilmington resident, had earned her spot in the Nationals with an outstanding performance at the Eastern Sectional Championships last month, and was eagerly anticipating her opportunity to compete against competitors from all over the country.
But of course, as well all know, things are rarely going as planned in our current situation on the United States and throughout the world. Like most events throughout the country, the Adult Figure Skating Championships were canceled, denying Anderson and numerous others the chance to fulfill their dreams.
While heartbroken of course to not have the chance to compete, the 42-year-old Anderson was able to put her disappointment into perspective.
“It was very disappointing, because not only was I really looking forward to competing, but I was looking forward to seeing everybody again at Nationals," Anderson said of her fellow competitors. "We are competing against each other, but we really want each other to do well.
“Even though I have not done this for very long, I have become close friends with many of the other skaters.
"It is very disappointing, but we are just like everybody else missing out on some of life’s moments, like (high school) proms and graduations and things like that. The good news for us is that we are adult skater and we will be back there next year.”
Missing out on the Nationals was obviously the bad news for Anderson. The good news had come about four weeks earlier, back on March 7th and 8th when she competed at the 2020 Eastern Adult Sectional FS Championships at the Philadelphia Skating Club in Ardmore, PA. It was there that Anderson had put together a clutch performance in the free skate of the Adult Silver Ladies Championship to earn a fourth place finish and a spot in the national championships.
Anderson's performance in the finals was truly amazing. The preliminary round, which was held on March 7, consists of two groups, Group A and Group B totaling 35 skaters, with the top four in each group, along with the next four highest scores overall earning a spot in the finals, for a total of 12 skaters.
Anderson earned her way into the finals with a clutch performance in the preliminary round, totaling 21.77 points, earning a fourth place finish and narrowly edging out the fifth place finisher who totaled 21.17 points.
A fine preliminary performance no doubt, but it was in the finals where Anderson really shined, totaling 23.05 points to snare that all important fourth place finish, beating out some very talented competition along the way.
“There were the top two or three skaters that were just so amazing and it didn’t seem like we had any chance of knocking off the podium, but one of them made a minor mistake and ended up finishing last," Anderson said. "That’s how close it was, where just one mistake was the difference.”
And while Anderson certainly had a bit of good fortune in earning her way onto the podium, her spot in the Nationals wasn't earned due to another competitor's error, but rather through her own clutch performance.
“The thing that made me happy was not just that I placed, but that I skated really well. I was very happy with the way I skated." Anderson said.
Part of the reason for her outstanding overall score was her great score in the program components, or the artistic portion of the competition, where she totaled 14.38 of her 23.05 points. There was no element of luck in the high score, it was a result of a concerted effort by Anderson to improve in that category.
“One of the things that I have been working on is my artistry," Anderson said. "I have felt like that was really lacking in the past, so a couple of months before the competition I started working very hard on that, and it worked out very well because I was able to earn a lot of points in that regard.”
But it wasn't her artistic efforts alone that got her the fourth place finish. She also skated a perfectly clean program, executing all of her jumps, and hitting every required element.
“You are required to do a certain number of jumps, with some of them being single jump and some being combinations," Anderson said. " My jumps are not as strong as some skaters, but it really is all about execution, because the competition is so tight.
And execute she did. She knew she had nailed her performance, but the question remained as to whether it would be good enough. For that answer, Anderson would have to wait just a little bit longer.
“They were streaming the scores live, so once I calmed down a little after skating and was sitting with some friends I was able to see my scores," Anderson said. "I was the ninth skater out of 12, and by the time I saw the scores, the eleventh skater had just finished and I saw that I was in fourth place with just one skater to go. I was in shock, because I did not have the jumps that some of the other skaters had. I couldn’t believe it, but I was ecstatic.”
Anderson had been pretty excited even before she got on the ice, when she had the chance to meet 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Gracie Gold just before she was scheduled to take the ice.
“Before the final round, I saw Gracie Gold, who was the coach of one of the other skaters," Anderson recalled. "I introduced myself and right before I went out on the ice I asked if I could get a picture with her and she said sure. That might have helped calm my nerves a little. She was really great, and wished by luck before I got on the ice.”
The mere fact that Anderson was in position to do so well was pretty amazing in itself. While she had done some competitive skating in her early teens, she had long ago given up the sport when she decided several years ago to pick it up again.
“I picked it back up again about nine years ago, after about 18 years of not skating at all," Anderson said. “I took group lessons at first at the figure skating club, and after a while I was able to compete. I was very nervous at my first competition, because you are out there all alone and all eyes are on you. It was a very different experience, but the more you do it, the more confident you become. I am still always a little nervous when I skate, but I am much more used to it now.”
Anderson skates out of the North Shore Skating Club at Burbank Rink in Reading where she has trained for the past five years under the guidance of her professional coach May Moscariello. When she is not skating, Anderson works full-time is a retirement plan advisor at Sentinel Benefits and Financial Group in Wakefield, where she has worked for the past seven years.
While maintaining a training schedule while also working a full-time job is not easy, Anderson is grateful for the opportunity to get on the ice as often as possible.
“I am very fortunate in that I live in Wilmington, work in Wakefield and my rink is in Reading," Anderson said. "Some of the skaters that I became close with at sectionals are from Georgia, and they have to get up at 3:30 in the morning to drive an hour to their rink just to get in a lesson. We are very fortunate here in Massachusetts to have more access.”
Anderson is also on the ice very frequently as an instructor at the Bay State Skating School in Waltham where she is the coordinator of the Learn to Skate program for skaters from the ages of 4-18. She has been with the program for nearly ten years now, and credits them with getting her back into competitive skating.
'That's actually what got me back to skating. I have always wanted to teach and Bay State hired me,' Anderson said. "Once I was hired, I thought "well, I better skate again" and found adult group lessons in Stoneham. From there, one thing led to another. I've been teaching there for almost ten years and for the last six I have the coordinator at the Waltham rink."
If there is one thing that Anderson enjoys more than competing herself, it may well be teaching the sport to young skaters.
"The four-year-olds are like herding kittens and catching butterflies," she joked. "But it is amazing to have a little one in tears one minute and then be up and skating on their first session!"
Anderson obviously has a great passion for sport she loves. While she was one of the older skaters in her division at the sectionals, which is made up of skaters 21 and over, she is showing no signs of letting up. Not only does she plan on being back at sectionals and hopefully nationals again next year she plans on skating for many years to come.
When asked if she could see herself still skating at the age of 50, Anderson revealed that she has much bigger plans than that milestone.
“I hope to keep skating well past that. There are skaters in their 80’s and 90’s who are still out there skating," Anderson said. " They do it because they love it and that’s why we all do it. It’s a lot of fun and we enjoy it more than anything.
“It has been a great experience. It is a great sport, and one of the things that is fantastic about it is that there is always so much to learn. Even as you get older, there is always more you can do. There is always something you can improve on. There is always a reason to practice and that is something that I really like.”