Originally published in GirlTalkHQ – December 13, 2017
Remember the name Emilia Murdock – she is undoubtedly a future American Olympic champion, which we are unafraid of saying given her impressive achievements so far. Oh yeah, and she’s only 14 years old. Her story is one of inspiration and determination, proving that tomorrow’s generation not only have what it takes to do great things in the future, but are already doing it now.
As we look ahead to the upcoming winter Olympics in South Korea, February 2018, Emilia has her sights set on the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. But the road to her success wasn’t always smooth for the 9th grader, who is able to juggle school and training by attention George Washington University Online High School, powered by K12. Earlier this year she suffered a major fall on the ice and fractured her back.
For any aspiring or professional athlete, an injury can literally be the end of an illustrious career. Not so for Emilia, who managed to recover, and take first place at New England Regionals in October. Next up, she will be competing at Nationals in January 2018. Before her busy schedule takes her on the road, we had an opportunity to speak with this rising star about balancing her studies, her figure skating career and her Olympic ambitions.
First things first, when did you start skating and how did you become interested in it?
Funnily enough, my mom was a skater and a coach and actually tried not to get me into skating! I participated in several other activities like gymnastics growing up, but none seemed to provide me remarkable feeling that skating offered.
When I was about two years old, my mom began coaching again. Since I was so little, she would often bring me to her sessions and I would stay on the ice and either play or color. This experience made me naturally drawn to the ice from a young age, sparking my interest.
It is a very competitive sport around the world. How do you prepare for competition and keep the nerves away?
I prepare for my competitions in several ways. Before competing, I partake in reiki energy work, hypnosis, visualization, and meditation. All of these mind activities help me get into the right attitude of a calming mindset before I step onto the ice.
But even though the mental training is helpful, practicing is by far the most important preparation I can do before competition. When my practices leading up to a competition are strong, I know that I will skate well. When my practices are not ideal, generally my performance is lacking. I almost always reflect what I’ve been executing in practice. This is both good and bad, since my performance is consistent, but can be predictable based on my work leading up. The most crucial time is two weeks prior to the competition.
Having an injury is an athlete’s worst nightmare, and you experienced quite an injury earlier this year. Can you tell us about that?
I came in second in Nationals in January. Then I fractured the lower right side of my back in February during training. I was out for six months, and then came back to training in time to get ready for qualifiers.
The most important thing with an injury is to treat the PT (physical therapy) seriously. When this happened to me, I went through a series of difficult emotions. The cause was simple… I was growing quicker than I was building muscles and stretching… so that’s how I the fracture happened.
I did well at Regionals, but not as well at Eastern’s (came in 5th) so now I am the alternate for Nationals in January. This may end up being betting in the long run since I missed my off-season last year. I’m also really trying to get ready for Junior’s next year. Then, I will try to get on Team U.S. before the summer to help get ready for Nationals and gain international experience.
The best advice about injuries I can offer is to focus in the PT as if it’s a sport. I had to learn how to be injured and recover. It is a process.
While some may have written you off with that kind of injury, you recovered so well and went on to win a major title. Tell us about your road to recovery and the title you won.
Dealing with my injury was certainly tough. But, I skate with Mitchell Johansson Methods, an Olympic training center in Boston. My coach, Peter Johansson, is European and uses a Russian method for training, and it’s a new method for the U.S. – I don’t know of another one in the U.S. that’s like it.
My coaches are really tough, but they teach us to work hard. When I was injured, I don’t think I would have been able to come back the way I did and be an alternate for Nationals if it wasn’t for them. They actually encourage other skaters to participate in online schools like K12. That’s why I enrolled at George Washington University Online High School.
Being the best at any sport takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. As a teen you are also juggling school. How do you fit it all in?
I certainly have a lot on my plate but attending online school has really helped me manage my time, training, and education. I am currently enrolled in GWUOHS, an online private school. I absolutely love the program. My teachers are incredibly supportive and understanding of my complex schedule. I especially appreciate my math teacher who is always available to Skype and answer any questions I have for additional help.
I do see myself as the perfect candidate for online school since I am disciplined. I also learn best when absorbing information in small spurts. GWUOHS allows me to customize my education to maximize my abilities.
My classes have been challenging but it’s been great. I believe that GWUOHS will well prepare me for my future. I am only fifteen so we are just beginning to research colleges. But I know I will be able to handle the academics. Online school really empowers you to manage your own time effectively and these skills will carry through to when I’m at college. I hope to enroll in a university program that allows me to further my education and skate simultaneously.
The 2018 Winter Olympics begin in February, which we have no doubt you will be watching with great interest as we hear you have your sights set on the 2022 Olympics?
Yes, the goal for all skaters is to make the Olympics! What makes the Olympics so special is that it only happens every four years. Unfortunately, I am too young for this one coming up in January 2018. But joining a future Olympic team would be amazing! Everyone always wants to go to the Olympics, myself included. We skaters also highly value the opportunity to get a Senior Grand Prix or skate at Worlds.
Who are your skating inspirations?
My idol is Sasha Cohen. We share a similar look on the ice and I love her technique and work ethic.
There is a lot of pressure on women and girls in the sport especially when it comes to body image. Have you experienced any of this? If so, how do you deal with it and not allow it to consume you?
Luckily for me, I naturally have a small body structure. But this doesn’t mean I ignore my diet. In fact, I often pay close attention to what I eat, focusing on what foods will provide me with the best possible energy for skating while working with a nutritionist. I try to avoid counter-productive foods, but would not consider myself a “calorie counter”. When I am selecting meals, I ask myself, “What type of energy will this provide me to enhance my skating?”
What is the next big event you will be competing in?
Currently it’s off-season right now, so I have a little break. I recently performed at the tree lighting in Boston Common and the Scott Hamilton Cancer Charity show, called Scott Cares. But, for the most part my main goal is to train and prepare for on-season.