Parker Pennington, a 19-year-old from Hartford, Connecticut, is rapidly moving up the ranks in the United States. After winning the novice men’s gold in 1998, he went bronze-silver-gold in juniors the next three years, before switching to seniors. In his first try at senior Nationals, Pennington finished 13th in 2002, but jumped to sixth last season. He also took silver medals in two Junior Grand Prix events and finished third at the Junior Grand Prix Final, but had to withdraw from Junior Worlds with an injury.
“I hurt my back on the takeoff for a triple Axel just before leaving for Ostrava,” he said. “It was tight on the plane but the second day it felt good. But I popped a triple Axel and landed wrong and my back started spasming. I thought I could skate through the pain but there was no way. I have one more year in Juniors and I’m looking forward to doing better next year.”
Pennington now has two programs and is working on getting the quad consistent. His first competition of the season will be the 2003 Mentor Sunshine Invitational. “I will also be doing several shows throughout the competitive season including Evening with Champions, the Simsbury club show, Scott Hamilton and Friends, and more,” Pennington stated.
Pennington began skating when he was three. “I went to Learn to Skate classes in Enfield, CT, a few times a week,” he said. “By the time I was seven or eight, I was really enjoying it and wanted to make it a career. I had dreams of becoming an elite skater, so I moved to Ohio in 1994 to train with Carol [Heiss-Jenkins].”
He was 12 when he landed his first triple, a triple lutz. “Then I landed a triple flip and a triple salchow,” he said. The triple toe was the last jump I got other than the Axel.” The triple loop and the triple salchow are his favorite jumps, but now he’s working on quads. “I’m close on the quad salchow,” he said. “I’ve been landing it in practice, but I’m not trying the quad toe yet. I’m hoping to have a quad salchow/triple toe in the long program next year.” Currently he uses a triple Axel/triple toe in the short and adds a triple lutz/triple toe in the long.
Pennington usually changes both programs every year. “I only keep one if I really enjoy it. It gets too stale. But I can also get well adjusted to it and interchange anything into it. The last time I used the same program two years was when I went from novice to junior.” Pennington’s programs are choreographed by Olga Volozhinskaya and Renee Roca. “For the most part, I choose my own music,” he said. “I listen to a bunch of CDs until I find something that strikes me, something I feel that I can skate to.”
His short program last season was Bizet’s Carmen and his long was Tchaikovski’s Piano Concerto No. 1. “I really enjoyed skating to Carmen,” he said. “It brought out the maturity in my skating. I like skating to classical music because it brings out my artistic ability and shows what I can do.” Pennington used Justin Guarini’s A Moment Like This for his exhibition music.
Off ice, Pennington listens to mainly alternative music. It’s the kind where you either like it or you don’t,” he stated, “but I really like it. I like bands like “Creed” and “Breaking Benjamins”. It’s not skating music though. I don’t think the audience or the judges would like it. It’s too wild and crazy, with non-stop screaming.”
Pennington isn’t just a jumper. “I love spinning, spread-eagles and spirals,” he said. “I like ballet and I’m working to improve my flexibility. When I was younger, I was more flexible and never stretched. Now I take ballet three times a week and occasionally yoga classes although I’m not too fond of yoga. My body feels dead the day after yoga and it’s hard to skate. But it helps improve flexibility and strengthens the abdominal muscles. It works parts of the body that ballet doesn’t cover. Ballet loosens me up and helps me do good spirals. I’m going to pick music for next season that incorporates some of that in my program.”
Pennington trained for three hours a day five days a week around school classes before he recently graduated from Lakewood High School. Although he liked math and science, his favorite subject was writing. “I can express what I feel,” he said. “Now I’ll probably go to Baldwin-Wallace College and take a couple of general classes this fall,” he added. “I need something to keep my mind off of skating so I’m not thinking of skating all the time.” He plans to go into sports management as a career.
Off ice, he likes to rollerblade, shop, and go out with friends on weekends. He also uses the computer quite a bit. Pennington reads James Patterson mysteries and enjoys suspense movies, plus ones the critics like such as “The Green Mile” and “Gangs of New York.” “I don’t collect anything except clothes,” he said. The Penningtons have a Chinese pug in the home they share with their mother in Ohio, while their father remains in Connecticut.
Pennington’s goal is to be the Olympic champion. “I’m taking it one step at a time,” he said. “Next year, I want to be the Junior Worlds champion. I’d love to do shows and pro skating later on. It’s what I love to do, being in front of an audience and having fun.”