From blade-sharpening to ballet — the cost of being an Olympic figure skater

Figure skating when done right looks effortless at the Winter Olympics — but those flawless performances take hours of extreme physical labor on and off the ice and thousands of dollars spent on skates, coaching and outfits.

Training with the intention of competing can cost skaters and their families between $10,000 to $20,000, if not more. The most expensive part of training: Coaching. Serious skaters need around five hours a week of coaching, at $100 to $160 an hour, as well as separate coaching from a choreographer and off-ice trainers for ballet or stretching.

Those non-skating sessions or classes can cost just as much as a main coach, said Rosie Tovi, a former professional figure skater for the U.S.A. International Figure Skating Team. “You watch the Olympics and it looks so lyrical and beautiful, but people don’t realize the athleticism involved,” she said. “You have to look like a ballerina doing it and that takes time. The amount of time is really intense.”

See: Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon’s ‘Hunger Games’ — he swiped free aples because he was too poor to buy food

Here’s how it adds up: Skates alone can cost up to $2,000 per pair. Blades need to be sharpened every few weeks, which costs $30 to $40 at a time. Sturdy boots are important because they protect skaters’ ankles, especially during countless jumps and twists, which means skaters can expect to replace their skates once a year, according to a breakdown of skating costs by rank of interest and commitment.

Add to that travel costs and fees for as many as six competitions a year either at the regional, sectional or national level. Traveling can cost total thousands of dollars a year for the skater, parents and coaches.

Competition outfits can cost hundreds dollars. The most expensive are often adorned with Swarovski crystals. Skaters also need someone to edit music for the song they’ll use during their actual performance, unless they do it themselves. Ice time for practices can cost about $25 an hour in New York, Tovi said, and skaters tend to spend at least four hours a day on the ice practicing.

Also see: When the Olympic Games don’t pay the bills for Team USA athletes

Do you get nervous watching figure skaters like Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu at the Winter Olympics? Try being the one on the ice. There’s one more cost figure skating viewers may not consider: Therapy. And that can cost up to $300 an hour.

“The pressure of holding it together is really a lot,” Tovi said. Professional figure skaters, such as two-time National Champion Gracie Gold, are being more honest about the mental hurdles it takes to compete. In November, Gold said she was taking time off from the ice. More coaches suggest skaters-in-training meet with therapists to prepare them for competition and nonstop practice.

Why the pressure? Skaters’ schedules are never-ending, and they’re expected to perform well, Tovi said. Young athletes looking to make it to make it to championships one day are training before and after school, and on weekends. Young skaters can be found on the ice as early as 5 a.m. for a couple of hours, and then back for coaching after the last school bell rings.

“It looks easier than it is,” Tovi said.

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