- Associated Press - Saturday, January 2, 2016

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) - Olivia Phillips is one of a kind, at least as far as she knows.

“I’m actually the only one I know of in Florence that figure skates,” she said. “I know there are some hockey players here, but I don’t know of any other figure skaters.”

Olivia, now 16 years old, began ice skating when she was only 4. She used to watch professional skating on TV with her mother, Sandra Phillips, and fell in love with the sport.

“I always liked figure skating so I wanted her to have that opportunity,” Sandra said. “That was the only sport I liked watching on TV.”

While her mom’s favorite figure skater was Kristi Yamaguchi, Olivia idolized Michelle Kwan. Olivia even had a snow globe of the athlete that she treasured up until a few years ago, when it broke.

Although the Phillips lived in Bloomington, Indiana, they had to make a round-trip three-hour drive once or twice a week for Olivia’s skating lessons in Indianapolis. The ice rink in Bloomington said she was too young to skate there, being 4 years old.

“It was horrible,” said Sandra laughing, “It was an hour and a half drive (one way), and finding parallel parking downtown was pretty rough.”

Once Olivia turned 6, she was old enough to skate at the Bloomington rink, which was only 20 minutes away. She increased her lesson schedule to roughly four or five times per week, and before long she was competing.

“I think my first competition was when I was 6 or 7, and that was in St. Louis, Missouri,” Olivia said. “I remember being so nervous, I was wobbly and shaking before I stepped on the ice.”

Since that first competition, Olivia spent the next few years traveling all over the Midwest for competitions in places such as Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, Ohio, and Miami, Ohio. That all stopped a little more than three years ago, when her family relocated to Darlington for her father’s job. It turns out there are fewer ice rinks in South Carolina than in Indiana.

Once living in South Carolina, Olivia and her parents were driving to Columbia multiple times per week for Olivia’s skating lessons. After two years, though, the long drive back and forth on school nights got to be too much. Olivia stopped taking lessons approximately 1½ years ago.

“I’ve had to give it up for the most part,” said Olivia, “The last competition I did was in Chicago three years ago. I haven’t done one since I moved here.”

However, Olivia hasn’t given up hope that someday she will be able to get back into the sport. She aspires to participate in more competitions and possibly give skating lessons to children. When she learned that the Florence Civic Center was creating an ice rink this winter, she couldn’t wait to get back out on the ice.

“I was so excited,” she said. “It was a month ahead, and I was like, ‘Mom! We gotta get ready for this!’ In the past two weeks, I’ve probably skated 12 times there.”

The teenager might be a little disappointed about not being able to compete these past few years, but she still tries to get out on the ice whenever she can. Her mother also cherishes the moments she gets to see her daughter back in her element.

“I kind of wonder where she would’ve been if we hadn’t moved,” Sandra said, “but I still love seeing her on the ice.”


Information from: Morning News, https://www.scnow.com

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