Butler students place 13th in Winter Olympic trials

From left, Ernie Stevens and Caitlin Fields perform on the ice. The two have been skating together for four years. Photo courtesy of Ernie Stevens.

CHLOE SELL | STAFF REPORTER | csell@butler.edu

What’s cooler than being cool? Ice-skaters.

In early January, students Caitlin Fields, junior psychology major, and Ernie Stevens, senior strategic communications major, competed in the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in San Jose, California. They were in the Championships/Senior level pairs team, and placed 13th in the short program and 12th in the free skate. Overall, they finished 13th in the Senior Pairs event.

“It was really cool to be there during an Olympic year, to go through the process of an Olympic-qualifying competition,” Fields said.

Stevens was critical of the performance, stating that while the team had promise, being so young, the pressure of trying to meet the Olympic standard was too much.

“You never know how you’re going to handle the situation until you face it,” Stevens said. “It was definitely a lot of pressure, competing in our first Olympic trials, and unfortunately, we cracked under that pressure. There were some good parts of our program, we just wish we could have ranked higher and put on the performance we knew we were capable of.”

Their coach Serguei Zaitsev  explained that some parts of their program were good, but others needed work.

“Mostly, it’s due to the severe injuries that we have been experiencing for the last two years,” Zaitsev said. “It’s a traumatic sport, figure-skating.”

A concussion, appendix removal, and ankle injuries have all hindered the pair in the year or two leading up to the big event. Fields sustained the concussion in 2016, resulting in the pair withdrawing from the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships held in Kansas City, Missouri.

Fields recovered, and the pair qualified for the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in November 2017 after placing in the top four. Then they competed in the final round for Team USA two months later.

Fields and Stevens met eight years ago, and competed against each other later in high school. After Stevens parted ways with his previous partner, who is the daughter of his current coach, Stevens picked Fields as his female pairs partner. They have been skating together for four years. Stevens thought Fields had the motivation and the skill to be his female pairs partner. For Fields, it was less about skill and more about personal connection.

“I would say we’ve always been friends,” Fields said. “I definitely ended up skating with Ernie not really because of his skating abilities but because of him as a person. I wanted to enjoy skating. [I didn’t] just want to be good.”

Both Fields and Stevens started ice-skating when they were young — Fields was two or three and Stevens was a little older.

“[Figure-skating] began as a hobby, because when you’re young, you don’t realize how far a sport can take you,” Stevens said. “I started winning competitions, I realized I had a lot of potential in the sport, and I wanted to pursue that. The Olympics has always been on my mind, so that’s been the motivating goal.”

Fields also had that retrospective outlook. She thought that because she was so young when she started, it made a heavy impression.

“When you start something so young, they become your family, the other girls at the rink,” Fields said. “As you get older, you realize you’re good at this. I’ve always tried to have a lot of opportunities, all over the world.”

Both skaters have gone to several countries in Europe to compete, from Belarus to Croatia to Estonia. They have also competed in Canada. This was their first attempt at the Winter Olympics.

For their routine, Fields and Stevens performed to classical scores, but opened their short program with a poem by Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Poems are not common openers for performances. The pair followed the poem with “Also sprach Zarathustra”. For their long program, the free-skate, they took from the ballet Spartacus, composed by Aram Khachaturian.

“We have a classical style to our skating, and one of our best features is our lines and extensions,” Stevens said.

Classical music also made sense because of the team’s background in ballet, which is one of the ways they train. They dance, weight lift, exercise, do physical therapy, and skate six days a week. For six hours each day, they do something related to their sport. They constantly have to juggle eating right, training and  completing schoolwork. Above all, they have to have chemistry.

“In pairs, you have to really skate together as one,” Stevens said. “Trying out together, I knew we would have a good future together.”

Because it is the end of the skating season, Stevens and Fields are not planning to compete in the near future. The 2018 Winter Olympics is in full swing; they will have to wait until 2022 to compete in the next Winter Olympics trials.

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