How one freshman glides between competitive skating and school

On any typical school day before COVID-19 struck, freshman Kate Wang rose at 4:30 a.m. and made her way to the local ice skating rink. She warmed up at 6 a.m., before getting on the ice to perform repetitions of jumps and spins under the careful supervision of her coach. Wang gracefully glided across the ice until she had to head to school at 7 a.m. Even now, during this shelter in place, Wang maintains her off ice workouts at home, putting in one and a half hours every day.  

This routine might seem unusual to most students, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg of Wang’s commitment to skating.

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Wang performs her Short Program routine at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Having skated since she was three years old, Wang currently represents the Skating Club of San Francisco in national and international competitions, and Team U.S.A. in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). On top of skating, Wang attends Lowell, a school known for its academic rigor and competitiveness. The combination of demanding academics and a time-consuming skating career pose a unique challenge in terms of time available to study and train compared to other students and skaters at her level. 

When Wang began skating at the age of five, she only skated for fun and had no intention of skating professionally. Slowly, however, she grew to love skating. “My mom just took me when I was little. I stepped on the ice and I really liked it, so we just kept coming back again and again,” Wang said. As her love for skating developed, her parents hired a coach to further develop her skills. From then on, Wang has participated in skating competitions, starting with smaller, local ones. After her coach recognized her rare talent fit for more recognized and prestigious competitions, he recommended she train professionally and compete in more elite skating competitions in 2017. “I didn’t really realize how good I was until about two years ago when I started doing triple [jumps and spins] and I started competing in international competitions,” Wang said.

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Wang skated to “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz by Harold Arlen.

In the 2019-20 season, she competed in three major international competitions: two Junior Grand Prix and the 2020 Winter YOG. Wang was one of two skaters in her division selected to represent Team U.S.A. at the YOG. This opportunity was granted to her due to her outstanding performance throughout the past season. According to Wang, her performance at the YOG was not as strong as her personal best, but she still enjoyed the overall experience. She placed 13th in the Women Single category, but her mixed National Olympic Committee team took home silver medals.

While these experiences may be fun, balancing skating and school can be stressful. Wang’s busy schedule has cost her precious time on the ice. Prior to the pandemic, she was only able to train on ice for one hour on a typical school day. In comparison to other elite athletes at her age and level, this is considered minimal, as many of them are homeschooled and can train three to four hours a day. According to Wang, however, she enjoys attending school and has never considered homeschooling, even though it would allow her to train more.

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Wang performs her Free Skate routine at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.


Wang often finds herself having to make up school work and tests in order to travel and compete. Her skating season begins in the summer, but many major competitions occur during the fall semester of the school year. “Making up work sometimes is a bit stressful,” Wang said, “But otherwise, I’m really lucky to have pretty chill teachers this year who understand my situation.” 

Wang acknowledges the fact that she is only a freshman and expects her workload to increase as she continues through high school. Her goals for the next few years are to win a medal at a national competition and compete in more international competitions to expand her horizons as a skater and in order to do so, Wang wants to keep her workload under control and manageable. According to Wang, she isn’t sure if she wants to take many Advanced Placement courses because she “probably won’t have a lot of time to study for them.”

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Wang skated to Music from the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack by Maurice Jarre.

Balancing school and skating has taught Wang various life lessons. On top of skating and schoolwork, Wang also works out daily to keep up her stamina and heads to bed around 8 p.m. to be fully prepared for the next day’s practice. This packed schedule has coached Wang to have good time management skills. Wang says she has learned to “just get things done” and complete tasks or assignments earlier rather than later. Although she has to put in numerous hours to prepare for her competitions, skating is more than just practicing repetitions for Wang. To her, it’s primarily about having fun and meeting new people from around the world. “[I love] the feeling of skating and being on the ice and being able to do everything that I can do,” Wang said. On top of that, she has also met many skaters around the world and remains friends with them even after competitions. The most important lesson Wang has learned from skating is to never give up. She has learned to push through challenges and grow stronger with each experience. She also offers this lesson as advice to any new skaters, which could apply to just about any pursuit. “You’re gonna think that it’s not gonna work and you’re not gonna make it and everything’s going to fail,” Wang said. “But it’s ok, you’re not, you’re better than you think you are.”

Although Wang is uncertain whether or not she can maintain skating competitively long-term, she hopes to continue for the foreseeable future. “I’m not going to quit [skating] while I have so much stuff that I haven’t done,” Wang said. As for after high school, Wang doesn’t necessarily see herself involved with skating and would rather pursue a career as a marine biologist. “Everyone stops skating at a certain point, but when that happens, I think I’ll be ready for it,” Wang said.