Golden Skate

Zawadzki plans for success

Agnes Zawadzki performs to Piazzolla's Verano Porteño at the AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Scott Hamilton has often professed that the most difficult triple jump to execute is the one right after a fall.  Fifteen year-old Agnes Zawadzki might not know much about that, as she has been one of the most consistent jumpers in the last season. But that doesn’t mean that the high school junior doesn’t know how to persevere after a competitive disappointment.

The 2008-09 season promised to be a coming out party of sorts for the rising star, creating buzz about her chances to win a medal at the national championships with impressive summer competitions. However, at the 2009 Midwestern Sectional Championships, Zawadzki struggled in the short program and was unable to overcome the point deficit to earn a trip to the 2009 U.S. National Championships in St. Paul, Minn.

Instead, Zawadzki would go home and train for the next season, hoping to erase the mistakes that postponed her moment in the sun. “Everything was so new to me when I moved to Colorado Springs,” Zawadzki remembered about her first season with coach Tom Zakrajsek. 

“I didn’t really understand how to use the information that I was given. After Sectionals, I think I started to understand all the new information and how to use it. Plus, in the first several months I was there I had gotten the rest of my triples. I just needed time to process everything and to master the technique for my jumps. ”

With the disappointment behind her, Zawadzki’s training started to kick in, and the girl with all of the promise started to show great confidence in her performances.  By the end of the summer, Zawadzki found herself as an alternate for the ISU’s Junior Grand Prix Series, and was again a frontrunner to qualify for her first national championships on the junior level.

After winning the 2010 Midwestern Sectionals, Zawadzki was a clear favorite to win the U.S. Junior title in January.  In Spokane, Wash., Zawadzki came away with the title in convincing fashion, and found herself in the spotlight for the first time in her career.

“Nothing has really changed since I won the junior title,” Zawadzki admitted. “I’m still my same self.  I’m just working harder to become a better skater. ”

Due to her strong performance in Spokane, Zawadzki was named to and won the silver medal at the 2010 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in The Hague, Netherlands, her first international competition.

“My Junior Worlds experience was a blast! It was the first time I’ve ever been in Europe and it was great,” Zawadzki said energetically. “Words can’t explain how excited I was to find out that I was selected for Junior Worlds.  I was very thankful. As for winning the silver medal, I was happy that all that hard training and work I did paid off. ”

Zawadzki began skating at the age of five in her native Illinois, and has only trained in three locations throughout her career- Iceland Ice Arena in Niles, Ill., Oakton Ice Arena in Park Ridge, Ill., and presently at the World Arena Ice Hall in Colorado Springs, Colo.  Since stepping foot on the ice, she has not thought about quitting even when things just aren’t going her way.

“Five years ago I had a bruise on the bone on the inside of my knee,” Zawadzki said of her only notable injury. “I was on and off the ice for a couple of months.  There never was a time when I thought about quitting.  I’ve had my ups and downs during training, but this is my passion. ”

Like other teenagers, Zawadzki’s other passion is her friends. “We usually go to the movie theater or just hang out at someone’s house,” said the Cheyenne Mountain School District student. “I used to do gymnastics, but I stopped when I realized that skating was my true passion. ”

Zawadzki lives with her mother, Jolanta, who is self-employed, and has one brother, Bart, who is married and has a son named Hayden.  Zawadzki’s father passed away when she was ten years old.  The U.S. Junior Champion also has a dog named Sammy. “He’s a Chihuahua mix,” she explained. “He’s bigger than one, but his face looks like a Chihuahua. ”

After her skating career is over, Zawadzki hopes to hang up the skates in order to make the streets a safer place. “I really want to do something in the criminal investigation field,” Zawadzki said.

After such a successful season, Zawadzki and Coach Zakrajsek decided that she would move up to the senior level both nationally and internationally, and as a result, the World Junior silver medalist earned two invitations to compete on the Grand Prix Series this fall in Canada and Russia. “We feel like I have the potential to succeed, and figured that since I did so well at Junior Worlds, that I should move up,” Zawadzki said confidently. “My goals this season are to get myself noticed as an elite athlete and to show everyone how much I’ve matured in my skating. ”

In preparation for her Grand Prix debut, Zawadzki has been training an average of six hours a day on ice, and adds at least one hour of off-ice training on each of five days. “On Fridays I have Fire and Ice which is an exhibition type of thing were you do a program like you’re competing,” she explained.  On Saturday I skate for about two hours and hang out with my friends, and then I go to church on Sundays. ”

This season, Zawadzki has tasked renowned choreographers Tom Dickson and Lori Nichol with her short and long programs respectively, and aims to show a new side to her skating. “My long program is to the music Zigeunerweisen and Hungarian Rhapsody, while my short is choreographed to Gopher Mambo and Concierto para Bongo,” Zawadzki announced. 

Over the weekend, Zawadzki got her season off to a good start, finishing in second place in her group in the short program behind U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, and in first place in the free skate. “I really wanted to get my programs out there, especially my long since it was the first time that I did it in competition,” Zawadzki said.

In the off-season, Zawadzki has been working on the skills necessary to make a big impression on the senior level, and hopes that the hard work will be recognized. “I’ve been working on harder triple-triple combinations such as the lutz-toe as well as triple Axels,” Zawadzki confessed. “In the short program, I have added a triple toe-triple toe, and in the free, I do a double Axel-triple toe. I have also really been working on my skating skills in order to become a better overall skater. ”

Zawadzki admits that jumping comes somewhat easy for her, but something that might seem so simple to some skaters is perhaps her most difficult skating skill to master. “As funny as it may sound, I think my edges are my hardest skating move,” Zawadzki said with a serious tone. “The most difficult part about skating, however, is training through the days that just aren’t going my way. ”

Zawadzki relies on that same training to propel her to the top of the skating world, and finds competitions to be much simpler than a difficult training day. “The easiest part about skating is competing because when you’ve trained hard for a competition, you know you’re ready and all you have to worry about is doing the same thing that you’ve done in practice,” she said.

And to make her training more reliable, Zawadzki has formulated a plan with her personal trainer. “We have done a fitness plan with my trainer, and it helps us to know when I need to taper off in the gym before a competition,” Zawadzki explained. “It also let’s me know when I need to push harder in the gym.  I haven’t really had any setbacks in the off-season.  Getting back into the swing of things was hard, but I know have it under control. “

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