A Skating Mother’s Journey to the Olympics


Only a mother knows that dedication
Rising before four, often new rinks, new places;
things you need for the drive and the practice.
In those days, not one pair of skates but
two – start with figures (patch) skating turns with precision.

Your skater alert at last, changes boots, jackets, other things;
on to free style and then repeat, pay for ice,
drive back hoping that rush traffic doesn’t cut
you off; you glance over, see him as he traces
on his bookcover –brackets, threes on olympic rings.

Later on partners, new coaches – rush, delay
waiting on costumes, new blades, shaking but-
terflies before he skates then races
over to find out the results, meeting your eyes
with his looks of satisfaction or fierce dismay.

Decisions, money, time, travel, loss and gain
I know the competition rungs, the tarnish and the graces.
I’ve felt the courage, the joy, the hurt and anger disguised
with smiles, fists in gloves inside pockets – clenched shut.
Finally they open, ready to give him control over that joy and pain.

© Gay Reiser Cannon * 2014 * All Rights Reserved
This poem is a Karousel (so appropriate for a sport that goes round and round and round).
The form was invented by David James and his article can be found here.
I am posting for d’Versepoets today on OpenLinkNight

33 thoughts on “A Skating Mother’s Journey to the Olympics

  1. If this is a first person poem, wow; and even if it’s not, what wonderful detail & emotion conveyed; parents do give & give for sports, or music lessons, for orthodontia, & it never stops it seems. My 3 daughters are in their 30’s now, and we have the 5 grandchildren to fuss over; carousel indeed.

    • Oh first person indeed – nearly forty years in the sport of Figure Skating and still counting. I watched Davis and White’s mothers through all of this and was right there with them. My son didn’t go all the way to Olympics, college intervened, and he opted for his scholarship instead.

  2. this reminded me of the guy who went to the olympics this year and then couldn’t skate – he had an operation on the spine – they said his mom was his trainer for many years – i only can imagine how much work, love discipline it must be to train in such a league … and fear and pain and joy. as well….

  3. This is amazing.. first .. a new form to set my teeth in.. I love that.. and the dedication that goes into an athlete’s passion to win.. I friend of mine have three kids all going into swimming.. and those kids seems to be in the water all the time… I’ve heard figure skating is even more.

  4. I am not familiar with this form; a perfect choice for the subject of your poem. You’ve captured well what the sport exacts from the parent to the athlete. Nice to see you join with those creating Olympic poetry, Gay.

    • Thank you Maureen. My son says “skating is like HOTEL CALIFORNIA. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.” I have had many skating hats over the years – skating mom, competition chair, fund raiser, rink manager, and USFS judge. I think he’s right about that.

  5. Hi Gay, There’s a skaterly precision to this account of ultimate soccer momming, a spiral really leading up all the levels of competition to this summit. I’ve heard that it’s frightfully expensive for winter Olympians to get there — all of the equipment, travel, etc., often funded by the parents. This insider’s tale shreds away all of the outside pomp to see how the parenting never stops.

    • Yes – so expensive in so many ways – not just money, but time – and trying to balance responsibilities – not only to the skater but to his/her siblings and to your spouse. You trade off duties, you are in it as a family. There is so much confusion, complexity, and politics – one feels as though you are in the court of Louis XIV at times – there are “things you can do, and can say – and many that you cannot”. That was particularly difficult for someone as generally outspoken as I am, as you can imagine.

      • I took this as a fiction, not a real-life narrative — doesn’t matter, really, though the rounds do become more intense. It must be hard to maintain international decorum when that’s your little boy out there … Wild.

  6. The ending stanza is by far my favorite; the ending four lines are very strong. Often, the focus can be on the athlete, but you brought to light where the dedication and strength behind them comes from. Lovely. I like your reasoning for choosing this form. While I recognized the name (and your post on the form and its counterpart Weave), I had to go back and remind myself of its structure.

  7. I remember this form before Gay ~ For us, we were rooting for Tessa & Scott, smiles ~ I have read and marvelled at the dedication of the families for their children dreams ~ The competition is tough and gruelling including some favoritism to deal with ~ But winning has its own rewards and joy ~ good to see you Gay ~

  8. cool form, for the subject matter….
    being the parent of athletes is not the easiest thing..wanting so much for them…and trying to see them through it all…and then when the competition begins realizing they have no control at that point…

  9. I loved watching Davis & White win the gold last night! There’s something so beautiful about duo skating. Great poem, Gay. You’ve given us an inside look at what this often misunderstood sport can actually be like.

  10. I can’t imagine being the mother in the stands, holding your breath, ticking off each move completed correctly. I remember that old ABC sports quote “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” Must be x10 when you are rooting for your own child. Very well written from a mom’s perspective, indeed.

  11. oh gosh! another reminder to watch the Winter Olympics..sadly none yet for me..
    Ahh..you capture the picture of the competitive spirit here well..
    Ice skating for me..would never work..nor skates..for any wheels on land
    for an uncoordinated me..
    But oh my GOD..even though this picture of competition..is not for me..
    i actually skate on department floor store floors..like a Michael Jackson Moonwalk..
    in skating fashion as such…
    Competition breeds winners..
    and sometimes
    and LOVE for others….

    • I’m sure the big events will make it to youtube. Do watch the Sochi ice dancing – including the French and Italians as well as the bronze Russians and of course the U.S. and Canada who were splendid! The men are not worth viewing, they made big mistakes, pairs event was boring, looking forward to Ladies tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. The effort always seems out of proportion to the public appreciation. Still, I find myself applauding on the sofa when i see what these skaters produce. The ice-dancing top couples are such sublime artists. Their skating is art of a much higher quality than normal dance in my eyes. They add a dimension and a tension that is sublime.
    I so hope that youngsters who don’t make it to the olympics will still take away happy thoughts of achievement into the rest of their lives.

  13. I’ve never been a sporty guy, but, I’ve certainly had friends who were very heavily into athletics! All the time and energy that goes into sports… that’s dedication… btw, long time no talk, Gay!

  14. Oh Gay! I felt I was there…on the ice! And I can’t skate at all…You pulled me in emotionally and physically, my ankles twisting (I was known for how bad a skater I was…hehee) the cold of the air, and falling.

    Every time I watch the figureskating of the Olympics….I think of YOU! Wonderful, evocative poem….from someone who was there in all parts.

    Love, Jane

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