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Skate Today

Painful Breakups Lead to New Beginnings for Silverstein and O’Meara

Jamie Silverstein and Ryan O’Meara

For 21-year-olds Jamie Silverstein and Ryan O’Meara, twists of fate seemed to have conspired against them to rob them of their Olympic dreams just as they were about to be realized after years of effort. But then another twist of fate brought them together for another chance.

Silverstein, who won the 1999 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in 1999 with Justin Pekarek, was once heralded as a probable World champion by no less an authority than famed French ice dancer and coach Paul Duchesnay. But after finishing second at U. S. Nationals in 2000 and 12th at the World Championships in Nice, Silverstein dropped out of skating for almost five years. Since she had been skating since she was three years old, the long break was out of character for her.

“When Justin and I broke up, it was very hard for me,” Silverstein recalled. “I was just a kid at the time and I wasn’t really taking care of myself. I had a few tryouts after the split but either the chemistry wasn’t right or I wasn’t ready to give that much of myself again. So I quit skating completely and concentrated on school.”

“I have been attending Cornell University in New York,” she continued. “I hadn’t been skating at all for about four years. Then I was home over Christmas break and decided I wanted to go skating. I had kept my skates in the trunk of my car for a couple of years, but there was a leak in the trunk and my skates were all covered with mold and rust. I was so frustrated that I wanted to go skating and couldn’t. But I managed to get the boots cleaned up and salvaged the blades.”

Ryan O’Meara had a similar story. He had started playing hockey when he was seven, but switched to figure skating when he was nine. “I enjoyed skating but not playing hockey,” he said. “There was a freestyle session after hockey so I tried it out. I started dance when I was 13. My coach in Arizona had a Russian coach come and work with him. He told me that I’d make a better dancer than a singles skater. I could jump but there was no real future in singles for me.”

After finishing third in senior dance at the U. S. Nationals in 2005 with Lydia Manon, O’Meara was a favorite for a berth at the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. But then he too fell victim to a partner breakup. “We split the day after Four Continents,” O’Meara stated. “It was a total surprise to me. But I went to talk to Igor Shpilband and told him I really wanted to skate this season. We were talking about possible partners and Jamie’s name came up so I gave her a call.” “I was just fooling around with skating again when Ryan called me,” Silverstein added. “I was pretty nervous but we tried out for about three weeks and skating was fun again for me. It feels very beautiful and there’s only a few times that happens in life.”

“It was emotionally scary for me to come back,” she continued. “The first practice was really hard, But Ryan’s fantastic. He’s a really good guy and a really solid, strong skater. I feel honored and lucky to have him as a partner. Plus he puts up with my cheeky sense of humor.” “It felt good right from the start,” O’Meara continued. “Jamie’s an excellent skater and a great partner. And it helped that we both had the same training with Igor and Marina Zoueva.” The couple started training in April 2005, right after Worlds. They train four hours a day five days a week. “I’ve been relaxed the whole time,” Silverstein said. “It’s been a lot of fun getting the kinks out.”

Shpilband choreographs the couple’s programs. “He’s fantastic with choreography,” Silverstein said. “I love the free dance. The music is fun and different. It’s a unique modern program.” They are using “Nu Tango” for their free program, music they got from another pairs team at their rink. For their original dance, they are doing a salsa, rhumba, and cha cha. “The music include “Salsa Around the World”, Tori Amos’ “Sweet the Sting” for the rhumba, and a cha cha. Off ice, Silverstein said she had “an eclectic taste in music”, while O’Meara said he listens to “anything and everything.”

Off ice, Silverstein said, “I’m a yoga fiend. I’m even certified to teach yoga.” O’Meara said, “I’m interested in interior design and architecture so I do a lot of design things and crafts. I work on my own place a lot.” He’s taking a few college courses as the College for Creative Studies and hopes to open his own interior design shop in the future. Silverstein is a junior at Cornell, enrolled in a special program where she studies catharsis within artistic media. “It’s like art therapy,” she said. “You learn how different kinds of art give emotional liberation.” Silverstein has several future career options. “I love kids,” she said. “I’m working in a kindergarten now and I love it. I may do art therapy or nutrition counseling or psychology. Or maybe I’ll own a yoga studio.”

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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