The U.S. Figure Skating Championships are held annually to crown U.S. Champions in ladies’, men’s, pairs, and ice dancing events. The annual event, held since 1914, is the nation’s most prestigious figure skating event, serving as the final qualifying event to make the U.S. World Figure Skating Team and the U.S. Olympic Team every four years.
For many Minnesotans, it seems like first steps were taken in a pair of ice skates. Alexander Johnson is no different, having started skating at a young age. Johnson grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and is set to compete once again at the national level when the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships come to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center in January.
As a Minnesota native, what’s it like to be competing on home turf, so to speak?
Alexander Johnson: I cannot wait to compete in St. Paul. I have lived in Colorado for the past five years of my life and I always enjoy my visits home to Minnesota. I’m very excited to be able to skate in front of my family and friends. The U.S. Championships are always so fun and having it in my home state makes it all the more special for me.
How do you select your music?
AJ: I believe that both my programs are very abstract. My short program is to music titled “Trance” and the whole story for the program has evolved from the concept of a wild cobra. My long program is to three different pieces of music, “The Christ Trilogy” and “In the Act of Creation,” by Balazs Havasi and “Parce mihi Domine” by The Hillard Ensemble. I am portraying a monk in a temple; however, I play around with the theme and have added a more modern twist to it. Both my coach and I have say as to what music I skate to and each year we usually sit down and listen to music for hours and hours before we decide on a few pieces. We then play around with options on the ice and see what we like best before picking my programs for the season.
In typical Minnesotan fashion, you began on hockey skates in your backyard at age 3, with actual lessons at 9. You’ve been skating for a long time – how did you decide to start pursuing this professionally?
AJ: I have to say that my older sister was a big reason as to why I got involved in figure skating. I always looked up to my sister and wanted to do everything that she did. Whenever she would have lessons, I would always copy her and try to teach myself the elements she was doing. Eventually, I started taking lessons as well and it was just a natural progression from there. I loved skating from a young age and that passion has been what spurred me to continue on this wild journey.
Last year was your first time competing with lyrics and you commented that it takes figure skating to a whole new level. Can you tell me more about the use of lyrics in your program?
AJ: I used lyrics last year to emphasize the story I was telling. I don’t currently have lyrics in my program as the music that inspired me for this season was without them. However, I find that vocals can be a great way to get the crowd involved and open up a wider variety of music to be used in the sport.
What keeps you motivated to keep going?
AJ: I am extremely passionate about skating and I believe that I continue to grow as an athlete and an artist. There is not a day where I don’t learn something about the sport of figure skating or even about myself. I feel there is a lot left in me in terms of what I am able to contribute to the sport of skating and that continues to inspire me day in and day out.
For more information on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and to purchase tickets, head to www.2016uschampionships.com.