CLIFTON PARK — Yes, she has put in hundreds of hours on the ice — a decade of hard work that has made gliding around an ice rink as natural as walking — and it has earned her more than a few medals.
Violeta Ushakova was born to skate. It is a family tradition, one she is carrying on with distinction through the help of her parents.
Now 13, Ushakova has been skating since she was 2. On the Clifton Park teen's resume are accolades from local, state and national competitions, capped by a recent bronze medal at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships novice ladies division.
While Ushakova’s skating may seem effortless, she explained that there have been hours of practice and years of focus that have propelled her to her current skill level.
Both of Ushakova’s parents were figure skaters and now double as her coaches.
Kelly Ushakova, from Albany, and Yuri Ushakov, from Moscow, Russia, have been married for 16 years; they have coached skating in Clifton Park since they were wed.
Kelly Ushakova started skating when she was 8. She competed in regionals and sectionals twice and was a three-time U.S. Figure Skating Association gold medalist for moves in the field, free skating and ice dancing. She has also achieved gold levels in Canadian freestyle and ice skating through programs that allow figure skaters to participate in skating standard tests from different countries.
Yuri Ushakov represented Russia nationally and internationally in skating competitions.
"My husband and I decided to coach Violeta because, with our knowledge and both our experience between ourselves, we would afford Violeta both our strengths — and nobody knows a child like their parents," Kelly Ushakova said. "We have been successful with coaching national and international level skaters prior to coaching our own daughter, and even though coaching your own child can definitely be a challenge, we trust ourselves as parents and coaches to help Violeta achieve her goal in the sport of figure skating."
They did not have to drag the daughter onto the ice. Violeta enjoyed the sport as soon as she first laced up skates. A decade later, she still isn’t able to put her finger on just one thing she loves about skating.
“I just like everything about it,” she said.
Ushakova, who is home-schooled, is on the ice six days a week. During a typical day, she wakes up and does her schoolwork. Then, she heads to the rink. She skates for three hours a day at most, broken up into two sessions.
While she admitted the grind can be tiring, Ushakova also is keenly aware the hours of practice are only helping her.
“It takes lots of training. Lots of hard work and stress,” she said. She competes once every two months, and her mother is primarily responsible for entering her in competitions.
Ushakova has grown accustomed to the competitions. This year was her second time competing at nationals.
“I just like to not talk and stay focused,” she said of her approach to competition. “My mom normally tries to talk to me. I just try to stay focused. It’s all I think about.”
She also checks out the scores of other skaters. Watching others is something that has helped her grow, Ushakova said. Her biggest sources of inspiration are American skater Karen Chen and Russian skater Evgenia Medvedeva, whose videos she watches on YouTube.
“It feels like I was growing up with them,” she explained.
Ushakova said she’s focusing on getting all of her triple jumps consistent. But during her rare free time, she said she enjoys arts and crafts. She’s particularly fond of drawing.
Ushakova said she would like to someday compete in the Olympics, which begin this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But her short-term goal is to win the national championships, and she won't let distractions keep her from achieving that.
“I go pretty hardcore,” she said. “I just do what I have to do.”