His busy schedule includes three hours of skating every day and at least an hour of off-ice training. Marcus also takes ballet twice a week, a stretching class, plyometrics and conditioning. Add to it his coaching responsibilities – Marcus teaches a learn-to-skate class at Lancaster Ice Rink – and you will see that the boy eats, breathes and sleeps skating. “A fanatic,” a skeptic would say shaking his head. A true believer would disagree. “A true champion.”
I first saw Marcus five years ago. The tiny thirteen-year-old soared across the rink landing double jumps. They looked big and flowing, yet effortless. Even back then, I was sure I was looking at a future champion. Now the sprightly eighteen-year old competes at the junior level. I watched his performance at May Day Competition in Laurel, MD. On ice, Marcus looked cool and composed. He admitted that the excitement of competitions had little effect on him.
“How do you handle all the pressure?” I asked him.
Marcus looked pensive. “I try to breathe – that’s very important. When I skate, I try to relax and do one thing at a time. Actually, I like performing in public.”
Marcus’s jumps looked big and solid. He already has all of the triples under his belt plus the triple flip-triple-toe loop combination and the triple-lutz-triple toe loop combination. He is currently working on his triple axel and quad salchow. It means that he will be in the big league pretty soon.
“How long does it take you to land a new jump?” I asked.
“I find new jumps relatively easy to learn,” Marcus admitted. He thought for a moment. “I would say I need a couple of months to get a new jump down.”
“How about footwork?” I asked. The reason I was interested in that particular aspect of skating was that I had just finished watching the world’s championships on icenetwork. The star of the competition was, of course, Patrick Chan, whose incredible skating skills had made him practically unbeatable.
“Definitely,” Marcus said answering my question whether a high-level skater could significantly improve his mastery of the blades: stroking, flow, the depth of edges. “It all comes down to softer knees. I’m sure it’s an achievable goal. I take a stroking class every week concentrating on deeper knee bend.”
This summer, Marcus is facing a few changes in his life. Following his high-school graduation, he is going to move to Wilmington, DE, where he can skate full time. For years, he has been commuting to the rink, where he is coached by Priscilla Hill and Carl Kurtz. He is planning on taking one college course next year, but most of his time will be devoted to skating – his passion.
“Being as busy as you are, do you even have time for friends?” It was hard for me to imagine a teenager spending most of his waking hours at the rink.
Marcus smiled. “Oh, I have a lot of friends. Of course, most of them are skaters, so we have a lot of things to talk about.”
Busy as he is, Marcus still finds time for reading. His favorite author is John Grisham. He also likes travelling around the world, and he has already been to Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Greece. No, his trips weren’t skating related; he simply toured those countries. But I have no doubt that Marcus’s skating career will take him to many more interesting places. He will see more sights, meet more people and, most of all, show the skating world how a small skinny boy from Lancaster, Pennsylvania developed into an elite-level skater. I really believe these things will happen very soon.