Author: Margaret Su
Skating has been an integral part of Emiko Schwab’s (senior) life since she was three years old. Her career has taken her as far as France, where she had the opportunity to represent Team USA as part of a synchronized skating team. Now, she has come full circle and is training to become a figure skating judge.
Although Schwab skated individually for most of her life, she became involved in synchronized skating in 10th grade when her best friend introduced her to the sport. She then joined California Gold, a synchronized skating team based in Orange County.
Training as a member of a synchronized skating team is a huge time commitment. Training occurs year around and Schwab’s team had practices that lasted from 4 to 10 a.m. on weekends. She also needed to train individually on off days.
Synchronized skating is the newest discipline in figure skating, originating in the 1970s. The sport involves eight to 20 skaters — depending on the level — moving across the ice in coordination and includes spins, jumps and intersections.
Every year, the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) selects 14 synchronized skating teams to represent Team USA (skaters do not qualify as individuals.)
During Schwab’s senior year of high school and her first year of college, California Gold qualified as one of those 14 teams — out of 574 nationally registered programs — by placing in Nationals. The team went on to compete internationally in France and Germany.
According to Schwab, the USFSA emphasized the importance of representing the USA.
“I think it’s really awesome that they so forwardly remind you that you are representing something so much bigger than yourself,” Schwab said.
Schwab said that the French Cup — in which she competed in 2012 — is one of the most difficult international synchronized skating competitions. While her team did not medal, they did place in the top half of all teams. She also recalled that the event in France was televised — which would have been unheard of in the U.S. It made her appreciate that other countries valued her sport in ways that the U.S. did not.
“Synchronized skating is pretty big everywhere else except for in the U.S.,” Schwab said. “Not a lot of people in the U.S. know that synchronized skating is a thing at all.”
Schwab made the decision to quit synchronized skating after her first year at Occidental because it became too hard to commute to and from Orange County while also focusing on school. Additionally, she had already attained her ultimate goal — skating for Team USA. Because she missed skating, she decided to train to volunteer as a figure skating judge as a way of staying involved in the skating world while also giving back to the sport.
Progressing as a judge requires passing different tests, each one leading to a higher level. She has a mentor who helps guide her both in learning the rules and in the overall process of becoming a judge.
Schwab is currently qualified as a bronze level judge, which allows her to judge the lower third of figure skating. She aspires to become a high-level judge at the gold level and will likely attain that status at some point this year.
Because she did not realize the extent of the training judges had to undergo until she began the process, Schawb said she has gained a new appreciation for judges, of whom she had previously taken little note.
After graduation, Schwab plans to attend a physician assistant school and to return to the world of competitive skating via ice dance, a discipline of figure skating derived from ballroom dancing.
Although Schwab has since left behind all of the athletic activities that she was formerly involved in, she has pursued many other endeavors while at Occidental. She is currently a speaker curator for Occidental’s April 2 TEDx event and is also involved in community outreach for the biology club, which she has been a part of since her sophomore year. Additionally, Schwab conducts research with Professor John McCormack in the Moore Lab of Zoology, to which she attributes her birdwatching hobby.
Schwab has also served as a teacher’s aide for multiple biology courses like Professor Elizabeth Braker’s Organisms on Earth and Ecology courses. Braker thinks that Schwab is a great role model for younger students.
“When Emiko makes a commitment, you can have confidence that she will follow through,” Braker said via email.
This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.