At a young age, Marissa Ulchaker (‘19), was introduced to a sport that has shaped her into the person she is today. When she started to take skating lessons at age three, she had no idea that skating would become a passion. Wrapping up her season at the National Solo Dance Finals September 14-16, she reflects upon her journey as a skater and a person.
Marissa began competing at only six years old and entered the National Solo Dance Series at age thirteen. She knew after her first lesson that figure skating was the sport for her. Unlike other sports, figure skating is strictly independent when it comes to working with coaches and attending competitions. Marissa enjoys the independence that the sport allows, but her love for skating really began with her parents’ overwhelming support.
The Ulchakers wanted to involve their children in a variety of sports and activities at a young age to see what their children were most passionate about. This ranged from dance lessons to art classes to soccer camps. For Marissa, it was figure skating that stood out.
Getting Back On Her Feet
Just like any sport, skating can prompt injuries from cuts and bruises to possible life-threatening events. Marissa faced a serious injury in 2015, only two months before Nationals. She fell while attempting a spin and was rushed to the emergency room. Marissa spent the next three days in the hospital due to a brain injury. For the next six weeks, she was off the ice recovering. While fear and concern could have combined for a major roadblock, the fall and injury motivated Marissa.
Luckily, she recovered fairly quickly and was able to get back on the ice to prepare for Nationals that year.
Skating Her Way Around the Country
Skating has taken Marissa all over the country including Dallas, Texas, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and most recently, Hyannis, Massachusetts. She has qualified for Nationals in both of her events for the past five years. Marissa is not just qualifying for Nationals; she has medaled as well.
The first event that she qualified for was the Solo Senior Combined Dance Event. In this event, she performs a Rhythm Dance and a Free Dance. Her scores from each dance are then combined to create an overall score. This year, she is very pleased with the placement of 13th (of 18 skaters) in this event.
The other event that she qualified for was the Solo Gold Pattern Dance Event in which she placed 4th (of 16 skaters), making her the Pewter medalist. For this event, Marissa competes two of four pattern dances that she trains, which are provided to her by the International Skating Union. Once again, she performs two dances separately that combine to create an overall score.
While Marissa does not aspire to be in the Olympics, she does have a set goal every season to qualify for Nationals. No matter where she places in the final standings, she views her experience as an accomplishment as she is competing against some of the top figure skaters in the country.
Marissa firmly believes that skating has truly shaped her into who she is today as it allows her to “be creative” and express herself “in different ways.” She is ultimately thankful for her family and friends who have supported her throughout her endeavours as she says she would not be where she is today without them.
Marissa Ulchaker is now beginning to train for her final season competing in the National Solo Dance Series. She hopes to make this the best season yet and to once again qualify for Nationals.