Suffolk senior reflects on his figure skating career – The Suffolk Journal

The first time Suffolk University senior and Team USA skater Ryan Dunk stepped on the ice aged 8 in a public skating session, a woman asked her mother at what level he competed and who his coach was.

“I was trying to copy the figure skaters in the industry by doing pirouettes…my mom told the woman it was just my first day,” Dunk said.

Dunk’s career began to take off from there, starting with group lessons for a year followed by private lessons, a huge step into the world of figure skating; in addition to being a member of a skating club.

During the first year he started skating, his parents told Dunk that they didn’t want to buy him a pair of figure skates because they didn’t think he would stay true to the sport and that it wouldn’t. was just a phase. He will continue to travel around the world to Armenia, China, Austria, Poland and the Netherlands.

“I was always the kid who was very independent and learned things on his own,” Dunk said. “I would go home and watch Youtube videos of skaters and try to replicate moves at the rink; I am a visual learner.

At age 9 or 10, Dunk told his parents he wanted to focus on figure skating.

Dunk competed in his first national championships at the youth level at age 13 in Boston, where he would later go to college. The national figure skating competition is a showcase for five levels of competition: Junior, Intermediate, Novice, Junior and Senior (the ranking at which Olympians compete).

Dunk explained how one of his proudest accomplishments is competing in national championships every year since he was 13. This includes 2015 at the intermediate level, 2016 at the novice level, 2017-2019 at the junior level, and finally at the senior level since 2020.

Dunk won the national competition at the junior level in 2019. After competing in his first international competition, he realized Baltimore couldn’t offer him everything and decided to move to Boston and complete his senior year of high school. in line.

“That year was a really big year of transition,” Dunk said. “Winning national championships…it showed that all my hard work had paid off.”

Photo courtesy of Janet Liu.

Now in Boston, Dunk lives with a host family while training at the Boston Skating Club. After winning the national championships in January 2019, Dunk enrolled in Suffolk in the fall as a part-time student as he competed in three international competitions in the fall, the qualifying season for the national championships .

At the time, Dunk’s coaches wanted him to take a year off, but Dunk knew he needed balance in his life.

“School is a distraction from skating and skating is a distraction from school in some ways,” Dunk said. “I think it’s nice to have something you love that’s individualized to channel your passion outside of school.”

Dunk trained five days a week as a student. As a college student, Dunk has to manage his time between the ice and hitting the books, so his skating regimen may seem different than most.

“I normally skated two hours five days a week. Three days a week I was doing gym workouts with a trainer,” Dunk said. “Before I moved to Boston and started college, I would be there all day.”

For Dunk, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a blessing in disguise in helping him understand how the toxic culture of skating is affecting him and his body.

In December 2019, while preparing for his first senior national competition, Dunk’s ankles swelled due to bursitis from overtraining. Since he was training so much, Dunk explained that his boot would wear out, not providing enough support during jumps and tricks.

Bursitis is not uncommon in figure skaters, and the bursa can usually be drained. However, due to the buildup of scar tissue, Dunk wasn’t so lucky. After the season ended for him in January, Dunk underwent two surgeries and the doctor discovered bruised bones.

Dunk explained that because he didn’t skate as much, the coaches he had at the time emphasized controlling his diet and exercise.

“I was getting leaner and getting praise from people. If anything, [people were] actually encouraging me. Dunk said.

Photo courtesy of Janet Liu.

Outward thoughts of gaining weight and losing stamina began to infiltrate Dunk’s own thoughts and he began to limit his eating,

“There’s this belief that you have to be like an orphan to shoot…but you need strength and stamina and nourishment to keep going,” Dunk said.

Eating disorders are prevalent in aesthetic sports, such as figure skating. According to National Council for Mental WellbeingJenny Kirk, a former competitive skater, estimated that 85% of figure skaters struggle with some type of eating disorder.

At the 2018 Winter Olympics, two figure skaters had to take time off from competition due to eating disorders.

“Athletes are at 2-3 times the risk of developing an eating disorder compared to non-athletes,” said Paula A. Quatromoni, DSc, RD, chair of health sciences at the University of Boston, according to Walden’s Eating Disorders.

“There has been a lot of misinformation. I’ve had trainers who didn’t want me to do weight training because it would make me “bulky,” Dunk said. “I’ve had coaches tell me not to drink so much water. All kinds of things that aren’t scientifically accurate.

According to National Eating Disorders Association“About 33% of male athletes practicing weight category sports (wrestling, rowing) or aesthetic sports (bodybuilding, gymnastics, swimming) are affected by eating disorders.”

“It’s definitely an open secret that nobody wants to get into,” Dunk said.

Dunk has been a strong advocate for greater transparency around eating disorders, Speaking on figure skating’s toxic culture of body shaming and weight loss. He is part of STRIPED, the strategic training initiative for the prevention of eating disorders, as well as a research intern in the Eating Disorders Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

He also lobbied for MA to pass a law protecting children from harmful diet pills and muscle building supplements. (S.1525/H.4271)bills introduced by Rep. Kay Khan and Senator Michael Rush.

The Team USA figure skater competed in his last competition at the Senior Nationals in Nashville, TN last January. He completed his career competing against notable figure skaters such as Olympian Nathan Chen with a score of 191.36 (65.66 short program and 125.70 free program).

What’s next for Dunk? He said it was time for the next chapter of his life as he graduated from Suffolk, but skating is something he will always carry with him.

“This summer, when I start working full time, I will try again to [skate] the weekend,” Dunk said. “It was my life since I was 8. Now it will have to be more of a hobby, but it will always be an important part of my life forever.”

Dunk began turning to choreography and coaching – a side of the sport he has always enjoyed.

“A lot of skating is all about jumps and competition. Now doing choreography and performing, it’s artistic and creative,” Dunk said.

For those interested in seeing Dunk perform, he will be part of “An evening with champions” at Harvard University on April 9 and 10. The event is a non-profit charity dedicated to the fight against cancer by raising money for the Jimmy Fund. Tickets are available to online students for $15.

Follow Katelyn on Twitter @katelyn_norwood

Teresa E. Burton