Out skater Amber Glenn nabs bronze at Nationals
COY COVINGTON | Contributing Writer
PHOTOS COURTESY U.S. FIGURE SKATING
Just two short weeks ago, on Jan. 27, Plano’s own Amber Glenn wowed the crowd and wooed the judges at the 2023 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in San Jose and skated away with the coveted bronze medal. This wasn’t Glenn’s first trip to the podium at Nationals: She won the U.S. Jr. title at 14 years old and captured the silver medal in a glorious performance in 2021.
But she couldn’t help feeling a rush of vindication for medaling this year after having been forced to withdraw from the 2022 championships because she tested positive for Covid 19. It is said that the theater is a cruel mistress, but the ice can be both cooler and crueler.
For the last several years, Glenn has been known for attempting — with mixed results — the most difficult triple jump in the Women’s arsenal — the treacherous triple axel.
During the six minute warm-up group before the free skate on the final night of the Women’s competition in San Jose, Glenn had a rough go of it attempting the triple axel again and again and failing. But when she returned to the ice to compete for the judges, there was a fight and a fire in her eyes that hadn’t been there before, leaving many with little doubt that she was going for that axel.
When it came time for the jump there was a would-she-or-wouldn’t-she-go-for-it feeling in the audience. Of course she went for it. Although she fumbled the landing a bit, she had hit all 3.5 revolutions in the air (in about 1 second) which was critical to the score. As long as she hit those revolutions, she got the full score — minus a few style points — and, of course, got the bronze medal.
The fight that urged her to tackle that jump is ferocious. But she doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she relies on her training.
“I have been nailing it in practice every day, almost so that I become a bit relaxed with it,” she said. “I got out there that night and let my body do what it knows to do, and it was almost too relaxed on the landing, causing the fumble.”
But she got the points for those three-and-a-half revolutions, had a solid free skate after the opening wobble and qualified for the Four Continents Championships (being contested this week in Colorado Springs) and the World Championships happening March 22-26 in Saitama, Japan.
But there’s a lot more to Glenn than ice and axels. In 2019 she came out to this reporter in this publication as bisexual/pansexual. Although neither of us expected it, the story went national and even international in the skating world.
When I caught up with Glenn last month at Nationals in San Jose we laughed about the response. “It was insane,” she chuckled.
But was it good or bad insane?
“I mean, any big thing like that is going to have some good and some bad,” she said. “I truly felt an overwhelming amount of support, but there are always going to be people who hate on you. I thought this was going to be my first baby steps, but it ended up, like, fully diving in, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
“Skating after that for the first time, I truly felt fully comfortable and that I was finally able to be myself for the first time and not trying to pretend to be someone else,” she added.
This past year has been one of major change for Glenn. She left her home town, left her home rink and said goodbye to long-time coaches and close friends to move to a new training base in Colorado Springs.
Leaving long time training mates and dear friends Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc (two-time U.S. champions) was especially difficult. “I miss them so much,” she acknowledged. “After I knew they were going to retire (from competitive skating), I was really sad. I knew I wouldn’t have them as training mates anymore, but I’d still have them as great friends. They are still going to be my forever skating parents. They are the ones who helped me find myself. I’ll be forever grateful for that.
“But they had a new journey to experience,” Glenn continued, “and I wasn’t quite ready to move on. So I decided to start my life as an adult. I was 22 going on 23, and I wanted to give skating my best shot. And the best shot I had was the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as a resource. I can have physical therapy, and I can have all the people at U.S. Figure Skating Headquarters at my fingertips.
“It was a hard decision but one I know I’m glad I made.”
Retirement? Hmph. If her body feels like she can still do it after this season, Glenn will do it. Decisions are something Amber Glenn sticks with. Since those early baby steps in 2019 coming out on the pages of the Dallas Voice, Glenn has become an LGBTQ role model for a generation of figure skaters and skating fans. At the 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she became the first out U.S. ladies’ medalist.
The Four Continents Championships and World Championships will be covered by the networks of NBC. Check local listings.