Just before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, Niskayuna figure skater Lillie Nye was taking part in another sort of opening ceremony.
This one was on Mirror Lake and marked the start of the Empire State Winter Games, which Nye has competed in many times since she began figure skating competitively 10 years ago at the age of 6.
This year’s games held a bit more excitement than usual. Not only did the timing align with the Winter Olympic Games, but it was also her first time back at the games in two years and, to top it all off, she won first place in her division.
“It was very exciting. Around the town of Lake Placid, they had this big screen that would just be playing the Olympics. We were having the opening ceremonies and then in China the next morning was their opening ceremonies which was really cool,” Nye said.
During the opening ceremony, Nye joined with a few of the other older figure skaters to help out some youngsters.
“We were with a bunch of little kids from our rink, helping them so that they don’t get lost. We had to lift two of the little girls the whole time because they couldn’t see. [It was] so cool because that used to be me getting lifted and then I was now lifting a little kid,” Nye said.
She started skating at Capital Arena in Clifton Park when she was 4, along with her older sister, Sophie, who competes collegiately. Skating has always been a family affair; their mom, Shelley Baldwin-Nye, the principal at Glencliff Elementary in Rexford, also skates.
Nye trains on the ice around six days a week, mainly at the Clifton Park rink, though she also skates at rinks in Saratoga Springs and Schenectady County. She works with coach Roland Burghart and in a typical year, she’ll go to around eight competitions in the Northeast, though some have been as far away as Virginia.
The Empire State Winter Games is usually the kick-off to the year’s competitions.
“[You] just get your programs out there and have fun,” Nye said. “It’s a small little competition where you can go to have fun and do your thing without a lot of added pressure.”
This year, she skated a four-minute program to songs from the musical “Les Miserables.” Her program included some tricky jumps that took time to work through.
“The triple jumps I was trying to do were giving me a lot of trouble the weeks leading up and I was really worried about it. But when I had my practices when I got there, they were really good. So I stopped worrying about it,” Nye said.
While she had two falls, she still walked away with a high score of 71.98.
“Everybody was very supportive of everybody. I went out to watch so many people, so many people came out to watch me,” Nye said.
Since it was live-streamed, Capital Region community members were able to tune in from home and show their support. Some reached out to Nye after she competed and congratulated her.
In the coming months, she’ll be gearing up for other competitions and working on her program.
“I just love the feeling of learning something new and accomplishing something new,” Nye said.