Ashley Cain: "I feel almost like a new skater"
Her programs are full of power and she has so much energy off the ice as well. She doesn't mind an interview late at night, and with her enthusiasm she is even able to energize the tired journalists, too! Meet Ashley Cain, an 18-year-old skater from the United States, who grabbed the bronze at the Nebelhorn Trophy, earlier this season.
How did you feel about your first international senior competition in singles?
Coming into the Nebelhorn Trophy I had trained really well, but about a week before I started to feel really nervous. I don't know why. I told myself every day that I've trained all summer for this, so don't give it up. When I got here to Oberstdorf, I felt completely relaxed, and it just helped me to skate two really good programs. I didn't feel any pressure at all; everybody was really great- my coach, and my team leader. They just kept me very calm and very happy.
How did the other, older skaters welcome you into this world?
It was really great to see how they compete and how they handle all the pressure. It's very different than what you see in the junior circuit. There everybody is a lot younger, while these women have been doing it for years. It's really great to be welcomed into the senior level, and to compete against all these ladies who are considered the top in the world.
What is the main difference between the junior and the senior circuit?
The maturity level of the skating and the atmosphere in the competition. You feel that you are competing against some of the top people in this sport. When you watch the skating out there, what's being done, it's incredible.
At the beginning of your career you were a pair skater. Why did you switch to singles?
My partner and I just decided to go our separate ways. Not that I wanted to do just singles, I still loved pairs, but it just ended. I had always done singles and pairs at the same time, so I stuck to relying on myself with singles. At first it was a bit strange, but I feel that this season I'm finally finding myself.
Wasn't it hard to do singles and pairs at the same time?
Sometimes it was very hard, but it was also very natural to me, because I did it every single day. I trained both every day, so it felt really normal to me. When I stopped doing pairs, I had so much time; I didn't know what to do! It felt very weird. That's why this season I have a plan and I know what I want to do. It's much better like this.
So what do you do with your spare time?
I work a lot on my skating skills. We do a lot of spins, because I need to become a stronger spinner. We also do a lot of jumping, much more compared to what I used to do. I do a triple- triple now, so I need to train that. We also do lots of programs. It's just kind of a level up [from what I used to practice].
How did you choose your programs this season?
My short program is a flamenco piece. There is not really a story behind it; it's more like an attack program. When I'm doing it I just really toughly attack the program and it puts me out there. The long program, Ave Maria, is the same one I had last year, but we changed it a little bit. We changed the choreography completely. It's a very calm program; it's about being peaceful. The two programs are very different from each other, and I want to show that I can do very different skating styles.
Is that variety important to you?
Yes, because it shows figure skating can be so much more than just a sport. It becomes more like art than just putting on a piece of music and skating to it.
You are part of a new generation of skaters, who grew up with the new judging system. So, what do you think about it?
It's great because it makes a base for skating. It's really nice to come into a competition and know how many points you can get for your program and where you can improve. It's nice to have that and know you can be in this placement if you do this or that.
How much time do you spend studying the rules and calculating points?
I'm lucky because my dad is my coach and he is also a technical specialist. He knows all that stuff. I'm getting into it, I know what my stuff is, but he knows all the technical things.
Do you have any mental preparation? You are very confident and full of energy!
This is kind of my thing this year. Last year I would be kind of shy and really nervous, but this year I just tell myself: “This is your competition, this is your day, this is your time to do it! And you can do it, you practice so much, why not just do it one more time?”
How is this season different for you from the previous ones?
I just feel very confident this season. I feel almost like a new skater compared to last year. I feel like I'm myself and I'm growing into this sport, I'm able to compete against the best in the world.
How do you see your chances to get to the Olympics?
You can never know what will happen. It's about who shows up on that day, and who gets those three spots. It could be anybody, it can be somebody who is completely unexpected, but I will never give up trying. I will keep trying every day and I'm going to train for it.
What is your relationship with the other U. S. skaters, the other contenders for the Olympic spots?
Very good. Everybody is very supportive of each other. Of course, everybody wants to win and once you are out there you are competitors. But once we get off the ice we are friends. I think this is great. We just support each other no matter what, no matter who makes the team and who doesn't.
What are your future plans in the sport?
I'm still very young and it's great to see someone like Miki Ando, who is quite a bit older than me and is still skating, or Yuna Kim being back after winning Olympic gold. It is great to see how far you can go in the sport and how much you can still be able to do at that age. So I still want to be doing that when I'm their age and I still want to be competing.
What is your favourite element?
Triple loop. I love the triple loop! It's my favourite jump. I can do it whenever. It's always been a favourite of mine but when I started doing triples, it was the one that I got right away.
What about the spins and the steps? Do you like them?
I don't like the spins too much, because I'm not too flexible, so they hurt a little bit, but if I have to pick a spin I'd definitely pick death drop, because it's fun, you fly. And I love the step sequences! Especially at the end of my program, it's like “yeah!” you get really into it and it's very exciting. You can really connect to the judges and the crowd. It's a great way to end my program. I try to connect as much as I can to the audience and I try to show them that I'm enjoying what I'm doing.