St. Clair Shores figure skater wins medal at national event

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 23, 2018

 Emilea Zingas skates during her long program during the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Emilea Zingas skates during her long program during the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Photo provided by U.S. Figure Skating

ST. CLAIR SHORES — A local skater has started the new year off right, bringing home a silver medal from the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Fifteen-year-old Emilea Zingas, of Grosse Pointe Farms, took silver in the novice division at the championships in San Jose, California, Jan. 2 and 3. The 10th-grader at Grosse Pointe South High School said she began skating when she was a preschooler and joined the St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club when she was 7.

“I don’t think there’s anything like skating,” she said. “Nailing a jump is an amazing feeling.”

There are five levels of competition: juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior. Zingas said she began training with her program about a year ago. 

“You do those same programs throughout the entire season,” she said. “You’re training, you’re adding new stuff to the program, and then in October it’s regionals.”

Her short program is “Fireball,” by Pitbull, and her long program is “Malagueña.” Skaters compete using the same short and long programs throughout the year, she said. 

“I hear my program music probably 200 times a day,” she joked. “It’s so hard to find great music.”

In order to make it to the championships, Zingas first competed at regionals in Nashville, Tennessee, in October. Her first-place win there against competitors from nine states qualified her to go to sectionals in Bloomington, Minnesota, where she competed against skaters from a third of the country. She took second place at that competition, which qualified her to compete against 11 other girls in her level at the national competition.

“She’s very entertaining. She’s a really good performer. She’s very athletic. She’s a very good jumper,” said Lindsay O’Donoghue, director of skating for the St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club, who has been one of Zingas’ coaches since she was 8 years old. “She’s a good student. School’s very important and she does really well in school, as well. She’s a very well-rounded kid.”

It takes a lot of work to make it to the national stage, O’Donoghue said. Zingas skates about three hours each day. 

“A program seems so, so long when you’re doing it in practice. You don’t realize it’s kind of like a three-minute sprint,” Zingas said. “It takes a lot of strength, a lot of endurance, but when it was over, it’s like, I want to do it again!”

Nationals is a “totally different experience” than other competitions, she said. 

“Everybody that’s there is really good, and you’re around all of these amazing skaters and amazing coaches,” she said. “Just being in that kind of environment is really motivating, and it’s just really a whole new experience.”

Her mother, Marsha Zingas, said that staying at the same hotel as skaters who are headed to the Winter Olympics was amazing. 

“Emilea’s competition was really difficult,” she said. 

Emilea Zingas skated 11th out of 12 skaters, but she said she doesn’t watch the other skaters perform before she goes on. She explained that she came out of her triple lutz in her short program, so she received no points for it. She was in sixth place after the short program. But she said she was a lot more confident heading into her long program. 

“It was just an amazing feeling once the scores came back,” she said. 

“Emilea has made a lot of progress this year,” Marsha Zingas said. “I’m just really proud of Emilea’s accomplishments.”

“Skating is just such a mental game,” Emilea Zingas explained. “It’s about who’s mentally strong and who’s ready to handle the pressure.”

With the next Olympics four years away, O’Donoghue said that making the U.S. team is an obvious goal for Zingas.

“This is kind of the first step, medaling at nationals as novice. That’s opening some doors for her now,” O’Donoghue said. “We were really happy with how well she did, considering it was her first time.”

Zingas will be moving up to the junior level of competition now and is looking forward to international competitions. 

“People should know how amazing this sport is and how much strength it takes. I train probably 24 hours a week,” she said. “It’s crazy, but it’s amazing. I love it and I think other girls should get the chance, too.”

Zingas will be skating with other members of the St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club during “Reflections on Ice” March 16-18 at Civic Arena. 

O’Donoghue said that not many other skaters from the club have competed or placed at nationals. 

“Our club is a little bit of a smaller club compared to some of the other ones, so it’s a big deal for our club to have somebody at such an elite level,” she said. “It’s motivating, definitely, for all the young skaters coming up, and everybody’s excited for her.”

Zingas said she can’t wait to get back on the ice.

“I know it’s the end to my season, but it’s totally the beginning to my career.”