Question: Is It True That Condoleezza Rice Was an Accomplished Figure Skater?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was an accomplished figure skater. This article shares a bit about her ice skating career and her young life.
Answer: As a teen, Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, spent summers in Denver, Colorado. While her parents took courses at the University of Denver, she took ice skating lessons. Eventually, her father accepted an administrative position at the university and the family moved to Denver. At "DU," her father became an assistant dean and taught a class called "The Black Experience in America."
At fifteen, she became a student at the university. She graduated from DU when she was only nineteen years old. In addition to pursuing figure skating, Rice was an accomplished pianist.
Like most serious figure skaters, she devoted hours and hours to figure skating. She skated early in the morning and after school. She especially enjoyed ice dancing.
Colorado figure skating coach and skate technician, Rich Griffin, remembers skating with Rice when she took her ice dancing tests. "I took her through her pre-silver dances," said Griffin.
Articles about Condoleeza Rice say that she enjoyed the structure of figure skating training and that she skated competitively. She has been quoted with saying the following:
- “I believe I may have learnt more from my failed figure-skating career than I did from anything else. Athletics gives you a kind of toughness and discipline that nothing else really does."
It has been many years since Condoleeza Rice has had a chance to skate, but she still does have an interest in figure skating. In 2006, she appointed figure skating legend, Michelle Kwan, as America's First Public Diplomacy Envoy. She has visited with figure skaters in China and in Russia. She also attended the figure skating events at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
Condoleezza Rice Talks About Her Skating:
(Below is an excerpt from the book The Games Do Count by Brian Kilmeade. The book's goal is to show children how sports can teach people to be great, honest, and respectable.)
"I took up figure skating during the summers in Denver. My parents were going to graduate school in Denver, even though we were living in Alabama. Skating was sort of high-priced childcare. They would drop me off at the rink for skating school, and then they would go to school all day and pick me up in the evening. When we moved to Denver when I was 12, I started skating competitively.
I loved being in the arena. I loved the feeling of being on the ice. But I was exactly the wrong body type for figure skating: size 8 feet, with, as my trainer said, “5-feet-10-inch legs,” and I wasn’t built very close to the ground. I probably would have been a better tennis player. In fact, I’ve always thought I was a little more naturally talented at tennis than at skating. But I loved skating and I worked very hard at it.
Getting on the ice at 5 or 5:15 a.m. in Denver, where it’s colder in the rink than it is outside, was not an easy thing to do. I always thought it was hardest on my father, who had to drive me to the rink at five o’clock in the morning and then sit there with the other parents while I skated. But it’s come to be a benefit now, because I get up now at 4:45 a.m. so I can exercise before I come to work. So all those years of early skating have paid off.
I was not naturally talented at skating, unlike tennis or golf, where picking up a tennis racket or a golf club felt totally natural. I had to work much harder at skating than I did at either piano or academics. But I really believe that this was important in shaping me, because it taught me to work hard at something I was not particularly good at and that although sometimes you might have disastrous performances, you still have to get up the next day and the world still goes on. During competitions, I was pretty nervous as I stood there waiting for the music to start. The problem was, I didn’t bend my knees all that well, because I’m pretty tall. When I was nervous, my knees were even straighter, so you can imagine what it looked like when I actually started to skate. I sometimes had pretty successful performances, but I remember one time in particular, I fell three times in the first minute and a half of my program.
The bad thing about figure skating is that you have to get up and smile and pretend that nothing ever happened. I used to envy football players or basketball players who had a chance to express their displeasure at a bad play. In skating, you’re all dressed up out there, in sequins and pretty clothes, and you’re supposed to get up when you fall and pretend that nothing happened. I always found that kind of hard.
When I gave my first speech to the Republican National Convention in 1992, I was told that there were going to be 30,000 people in the Astrodome. My first thought was, don’t they play football in the Astrodome? Why am I speaking in the Astrodome? Then, the night before, I started to get nervous. But at that moment the skating came back to me and I thought to myself, you know, at least you can’t slip and fall. So, I was really glad I’d had that experience, because I was never nervous before performances."