by Liza Birnbaum
This past week I traveled 4,350 miles to Berlin, Germany to compete in the 2018 Cup of Berlin with my team, Starlights Junior. This was my second international competition so I was extremely excited to represent the USA once again.
On Monday afternoon we left for our first flight to Amsterdam and landed approximately 12 a.m. central time (my birthday!) Tuesday morning. The plane ride was pretty long but we had a system for everyone to take turns getting up to stretch and walk around so we wouldn’t be too stiff. Once we landed we had to rush to our next gate for our connecting flight to Berlin since we only had 50 minutes. Right as we landed, we were all so eager to find “good” WiFi to let everyone know on social media that we finally reached our destination. We were then bused to the hotel, ate lunch, and then casually waited three hours in the lobby for our rooms to be ready. Even though it was a long wait, we made the most out of it by playing games and crashing on the couches. After dinner, we cleaned ourselves up and had our team meeting with our coach Heather to discuss expectations and what the next day would be like.
We woke up Wednesday morning ready for the day ahead. We saw many other teams at the hotel’s breakfast like Skyliners Junior and Senior team and wished them luck on their first day of practices. As we pulled into the practice rink, we turned our game faces on and were ready to do our job. We jumped off the bus to start our warm up by foam rolling and performing dynamic stretches. Once we piled into the locker room, we laced up our skates and were prepared to have a great first practice with positive attitudes. Our first practice couldn’t have been better! Jenna and Heather were pleased with the way we executed our elements and were confident in us going into the competition the next day. Right after practice we rushed to our hotel to change for our tour of the city with our parents. We were able to go off on our own for two hours to eat and shop. It was really nice to spend quality time with our families before the competition began.
The next morning followed the same agenda as Wednesday’s with an early wake up, breakfast, and another two hour on ice practice session. Just like any other practice there were a few bumps in the road but overall, it was a successful practice and we couldn’t have been more pleased. After practice we bussed back to the hotel to eat a yummy lunch and had some downtime. During that time, we took naps and did homework since many of us were missing school. Lucky for me, I was still on winter break so I didn’t have any school work to catch up on. At the end of the night we had the drawing ceremony and drew 3rd.
Friday kicked off the competition with Junior official practice around 10am. As we were finishing up with our pep talk in the locker room we quickly noticed that the clock inside the rink was ahead from our watches. Never a dull moment with Starlights! We started out with one full run of our short program; it didn’t go as well as we hoped so we ended up doing a second full run ending on a strong note. Although our practice wasn’t perfect, we kept our heads held high walking out of the arena and into our dressing room. Later that night we returned back to the Sportforum Berlin Hohenschönhausen to compete our short program. As part of SLJR tradition, we pumped up to High School Musical’s “Now or Never” and were ready to show the world what we were made of. As we stepped onto the ice for our quick warm up, I knew we were going to rock it: and we did! It was amazing hearing the crowd chant USA as we waited for our scores. Our short program skate landed us in second place behind Skyliners.
On Saturday, we were ready to fly through the competition with our freeskate program to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. Before our official practice we had video review at the hotel to go over details and corrections we made in the previous days during practice. When it was time for our official practice, we concentrated on keeping a positive attitude and skating aggressively. Our first full run was so on point that we got to skip the entire no hold element the next time through. That night we skated the best program we could and despite minor mistakes, we scored 87.33 points earning the silver medal behind Skyliners. We couldn’t have been more thrilled with our performance. After the awards ceremony, we came back to the hotel for a delicious dinner and then danced the night away at the competitor’s party. I always find the party to be so much fun because we get to meet new people from other teams and build new friendships!
Overall, being able to represent Team USA internationally is always an experience of a lifetime. I am so grateful to be able to travel the world with all of my teammates and share our passion for skating with the rest of the world. I, and the rest of Starlights Junior, will continue to make big strides during our training as we prepare for the French Cup and Nationals. Go USA!