"Everything in life happens with dreams"


by Helga Dobor
Photos © Hajni & Sarah S. Brannen

When you go to the USA, it is relatively easy to find an athlete from your own country living and training there. The opposite would be less likely and certainly not expected - like going to the practice rink of the Hungarian federation to find an American skater there. I am pretty sure this would surprise you, if you hadn’t expected it before. I must admit, I knew about it, but it is still quite hard to grasp. We got the chance to meet the young, new talent Katherine Hadford, a skater from the USA, right here in Budapest.

Katherine, or Kati, as everybody calls her, talked about her life, skating and her connection to Hungary. A special thank you goes to her supportive family, especially her mother who helped to make this meeting happen and to Eszter and Hajni.

They are inspired by the present time eligible skaters, the big televised competitions, or by their relatives.
“I started skating at about 7 years old, after watching the 1994 Olympics. There were no skaters in my family, mostly skiers, soccer players and horseback riders. But Oksana Baiul's style greatly inspired me in figure skating.”
And like all other skaters, Kati has some funny stories and memorable experiences from her early skating days.
“The funny thing that I can remember was when I was about 10 years old and I had completed a whole 3 minutes program completely clean. When I finished to curtsy to the audience I fell, tried to get up and fell again. I just decided to quickly laugh it off and make it part of my ending of my program. I still won the event.”

Perhaps it is not well-known, but lots of skaters have European ancestry and lots of them still have relatives in their old country. Some of them originated from Hungary, like Elvis Stojko, or are related to our language, like Gheorge Chiper. Kati has relatives in Hungary. And what relatives! One of them was István Széchenyi, an Hungarian reformer and writer, he played a big part in our history!

Kati’s family moved to the USA from Hungary and now she was back, she spent a week here in Budapest. We Hungarians would like to ask about her feelings towards Hungary. Would our little country still have a special place in Kati's and her family’s heart?

“I love Hungary, especially because it is fun to visit our relatives and friends who live here. Budapest is one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. The surrounding countryside, the homes, valleys, flowers and lakes are all so beautiful. For my family Hungary will always have a very special part in our hearts. My grandmother, Kornélia Széchenyi told me many stories about what her ancestors did for Hungary and some day I hope to be able to also do something special and great for Hungary too.“
Growing up in the USA, Kati still has friends in Hungary and is able to communicate well with them.
“We do have friends, but not my age. I understand Hungarian very well but I do not speak it very much”

Kati has already skated in several European competitions, such as the Triglav Trophy in Jesenice, Slovenia. It doesn’t really matter to her, where she skates.
“I really cannot think of any big difference between skating in Europe and in America. Ice is ice everywhere. The rink of Budapest where I practiced was as nice as any rink in America. I like skating in Hungary because it is always exciting to train in different places.”

Skating in several competitions in more countries builds memories and this means that one of the places can become a favorite.
“I have done many memorable competitions, but the one that first comes to my mind is the Triglav Trophy in Slovenia. It was my first international competition and I skated very well and placed third out of about 26 skaters.”

Kati lives in Vienna, Virginia and skates in the Skating Club Of New York.
“My main coach is Priscilla Hill but this summer I also worked with Tatiana Tarasova. I usually train about 2-3 hours per day, 5 days a week on the ice, and about 1 hour per day off the ice.”
To work with Tatiana Tarasova is a very important part of a skater's practice season. She works with excellent skaters, and to be in her team has a special significance.

“It was my first season working with Tatiana Tarasova. At first I felt a bit nervous being on the same ice with so many world champions, but soon I felt very comfortable because I was with skaters who all work very hard, are focused and have goals like mine. Tatiana expects all her skaters to work hard and I like that because it is difficult to train in a rink where skaters are not focused.”

During the upcoming season, we can reflect on last season's results. Perhaps the best and the worst moments don’t stay the same, as perceptions do change over time.
“I have mixed feelings about my results from last season. At the Regionals competition I skated quite well and became Regional Champion. At the Sectionals I also skated well and placed third. Since I placed in the top 3 at this competition I earned a spot to the US Nationals, so I had reached my first goal. But then about three weeks before the US Nationals I had a stress fracture in my landing knee. For me this was the worst moment because I could not train correctly to be prepared for the Nationals. Because of the injury, I was only allowed to swim. A few days before the competition I resumed skating to a lesser degree, but was not prepared enough to skate as well at the Nationals as I could have. It was very frustrating because I had been skating so well in my practices and I wanted very much to perform as well in competition.”

With coach Hill & Linichuk in K&C at Nationals

After a hard season and the injuries Kati suffered, she wants to perform her best next season.
“My goals in the next season and overall are always primarily the same - to be focused, train hard, learn as much as I can, and compete clean. From this, I hope to be assigned to as many international competitions as possible”

In a difficult season, not to mention Olympic year, the skaters, even the nonseeded ones, prepare a stronger program. So does Kati. Creating a new program is always an interesting process, and usually one that cannot be done alone.
“My short program is a piece from the French movie, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” by Le Grand and my long program consists of different pieces from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. My coaches and my mother give me advice on my music, but in the end they usually tell me to make the final decision because they say it is very important that I like my music. My choreography is usually totally done by coaches. Sometimes I come up with some unique spins or moves and then I show it to my coaches who will then decide whether or not to use them.”

It's not an easy life being a figure skater. However figure skating is one of the most beautiful sports and to be a skater you have to be committed to skating.
“For me figure skating is a sport that I enjoy very much. To be competitive in the senior level, it takes a lot of dedication on the ice and off ice, but there is also a lot of fun.”
In the USA there are lots of competitive figure skaters, and they skate in multiple Sectionals and Regionals. It is hard to believe, that with so many rivals and so little time, there can be friendship in figure skating.
“No, there can be friendships! But it is not the same as when you are in school because there is not a lot of free time. With other skaters in my country it is like we all train together and have similar goals, but there really is not a lot of free time for a big social life because training and school require a lot of time.”
She started skating, inspired by Oksana Baiul. Does this perhaps mean that she is still Kati’s favorite?
“Yes, my favourite is Oksana, and Irina Slutskaya, Michelle Kwan and Johnny Weir :)”

What is the biggest treasure in your life?
My biggest treasures in my life are my family and religion.
How could you live without: - your skates?
I could not skate.
- without sport?
Without my sport my life would be very different and probably strange in the beginning, because I have skated most of my life and have scheduled a lot around my sport.
- without music?
It might be a bit boring in life because music is entertainment, it is joyful, it is relaxing.
- without credit card?
I can easily live because I do not have one now anyway.
-without computer?
I could also easily live, after all every generation before me live very successfully without computer.
- without friends?
it would be a very lonely life.
- without dreams?
There would be no direction and no goals and few possibilities!
Which would be the worst?
The worst would be to be without dreams, because everything in life happens with dreams. In dreams goals are born, possibilities are thought of, the impossible becomes possible, and creativity is a reality.

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