The Case for Winter - by Tonia Kwiatkowski

1996 U.S. Figure Skating National Championship silver medalist; three-time World team member

Being an ice skater, I never minded the cold. I find it exhilarating to be outside in the winter, feeling the fresh air whip against your face. It can be very peaceful to watch the snow falling.

As a child, I remember, there was a pond down the street from my parents' home in Broadview Heights that would freeze over every winter. I really wanted to skate on it. I kept begging to go. My mom had learned how to skate on a pond, so I wanted to try it, too.

One day, when I was young, maybe 7, my mom finally agreed to take me. It was late in the day and starting to get dark out. My mom put on her headlights so I could see what I was doing. I remember skating on the pond felt really different.

I was tentative at first. The surface was bumpy, and I had to be careful of leaves. But I loved being outdoors. The air was so fresh and clean and crisp. It was a solitary feeling. The skating rink that I practiced at was always really crowded. But that night, I was the only one out there in the middle of the ice. I guess it was a forecast of things to come.

Eight years later, my very first international competition was at an outdoor rink in Italy. It was 75 degrees outside, and the ice was soft and watery as I cut figure eights. I was wearing my royal blue skating dress, and I remember I skated really well. I ended up winning. I guess it all sort of came full circle.

Today, happiness for me is putting on my sweater and turtleneck and mittens and going outside in the winter to build a snowman with my 5-year-old daughter.

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