Q: What have you thought of Omaha so far?
A: It’s like Miami right now compared to New York. I did “The Today Show” (Friday), and it was 12 degrees. I almost died. I get here, and it’s like 40. I was like, “This is so nice.”
Q: What kind of pressure does the Olympics put on a competitor who trains for four years to have to be great for one or two nights?
A: It’s huge! I mean, you kind of see your life ending at the end of that Olympic cycle. It’s what you sleep, eat, breathe. It consumes you. The pressure is immense because you have just a few minutes. It’s not like a class you can fail and just take again. That’s it. It teaches you to be really strong, block out the noise and just believe in yourself.
Q: You won the Olympic silver in 2006 and took silver at the world championships later that year. Will you ultimately remember 2006 as a year of great achievement or as a year where you fell short of your goals?
A: As it was closer, it was very difficult for me. I did my best, and I have no regrets. But I was very injured between (the U.S. championships) and the Olympics. My first clean short program was at the Olympics. That was just so traumatizing going into something knowing you weren’t prepared but trying your best to be. I was receiving steroid treatments three times a day and thinking, “Why is this happening to me?” But, ultimately, as an event in my life, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t that golden, fairy tale ending. But something in me is stronger because of that. I had to deal with that difficulty and come back from it. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but as time goes by, I appreciate the dichotomy of it, the difficulty, and the jubilation and victory of overcoming something. It’s bittersweet, but at this point, I don’t know if I would go back and change it. It’s kind of defined who I am now.
Q: You’re a sophomore now at Columbia University in New York City. What is your life like at Columbia? Do other students recognize you?
A: A couple of my professors recognize me. But my legal name is “Alexandra.” I go by “Alex.” I’m pretty low-key. I live downtown and I still skate at Chelsea. I’m involved in a lot of different charities. My life isn’t completely one of a student. But school started last week, and I have the most amazing classes. I brought a stack of reading with me on the plane. I feel really blessed to have a well-balanced life right now after having such a long career, and to be able to come back to the sport from a different side and cheer for the USA at the next Olympics.
Q: What advice would you have for aspiring skaters?
A: I always say perspective, perseverance and passion. You have to have those, because the passion is what motivates you to get up and keep going every day. You have to know perspective-wise that things are going to be amazing and going to be rocky, but you have to have the staying power to push yourself. Love what you do, and it will teach you. It’s a journey. Never did I think when I put on my first pair of skates and slid all over the rink that it would be such a life-defining journey to create character and take me where I am today.
Q: You’ve been working lately to design a line of affordable figure skates for beginners. What do you remember about your first pair of skates?
A: I feel like I was 7 when my mom bought me my first pair of skates. She was mortified because she made them open like 12 boxes and none of them came with blades. She was like, “I’m pretty sure they come with blades. You’re tricking me.” They said, “No, the blades come separate from the boots.” So that’s one reason we wanted to create a pretty good quality beginner skate that’s affordable. That people can use when they first buy skates. It’s just so exciting to come back to this world that’s been so good to me and taught me so much and be able to create a product that can get more people to skate and fall in love with it the same way I fell in love with the sport.