Amber Glenn performs her stunning ‘Ina Bauer’ element at 2022 Skate America (Photo courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating)

Elite — and out — figure skater Amber Glenn has her nurturing side, but on the ice she’s one tough cookie

COY COVINGTON | Contributing Writer

Veteran elite figure skater and Team USA member Amber Glenn is about to do something she’s never done before in her illustrious career: compete in an international skating event at home! Skate America, the first stop on the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, starts today (Friday, Oct. 20) at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center in Allen, mere miles from Glenn’s hometown of Plano.

Glenn wasn’t born in 1993 when Skate America was last contested in the Dallas area at the long-gone Reunion Arena.

The International Skating Union’s annual Grand Prix is a series of invitational senior events that will be held around the world from now through December this year. Medals will be awarded in the disciplines of men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs and ice dance. Skaters earn points based on their placement at each event, and the top six in each discipline qualify to compete at the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China.

This will not be the first turn around the Skate America ice for Glenn, who identifies as bisexual and pansexual and is the only openly LGBTQ women’s figure skater on Team USA. She is the reigning bronze medalist from the 2022 competition held in Norwood, Mass., outside Boston.

The 2022-23 season was busy — and successful — for Glenn — who competed internationally six times, not only medaling at Skate America, but also snagging bronze at the U.S. National Championships and thus qualifying for the World Team. She also was part of the gold medal winning squad at World Team Trophy.

She eagerly recalls her favorite moment from the entire past season: “At Skate America in Boston, there was a sold-out arena, and during my short program I was a few seconds early before I started my footwork,” she said during a Zoom chat. “I looked at one section, I had noticed in the crowd, and pumped my arms toward them, and they went nuts- waving Pride flags, pan flags, rainbow flags. The feeling it gave me I’d never felt before.

“It was one of the most uplifting, encouraging experiences of my career. I will never forget it.”

Glenn, who came out to this reporter in the Dallas Voice in a 2019 story that went national and even international in the skating world, has had mostly positive feedback since. “Luckily I’ve had a ton of support,” she said. “Everyone has become more and more comfortable and accepting of the fact, and I’ve had great experiences.”

She continued, “Skaters have told me it has made them more comfortable in their own rink environment, and that’s all I could really ask for.”

Known for her powerful and fast yet graceful, skating, Glenn is looking forward to her short program as the new season kicks off. Former Canadian ice dance champion Kaitlyn Weaver, herself an out queer woman, brought Glenn a challenging new piece of music. Hesitant at first because it seemed a little “out there” for her, she has come to embrace the piece, “Heads Will Roll” by indie rock band Yeah,Yeah,Yeahs. With its driving dance beat and seductively catchy lyrics (“Off, off, off with your head … dance, dance, dance ’til your dead”), Glenn said it has been exciting to collaborate on the program with Weaver, who has taught Glenn some fun new moves (Did someone say “voguing?”). She said she’s eager to put it out on the ice.

Then, in a stunner of an about face, comes Glenn’s Free program, which is set to the lyrical “Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 3 (Redemption)” by Muse. The piece will feature her signature move: the ‘Ina Bauer.’ And her Ina Bauer is arguably the best in the world, with its stunning back bend position and extended glide.

The music has been often used by other skaters in the past, but that doesn’t worry Glenn. “I’m at the point now that I’m going to skate to whatever I want,” she declared. “If I like it, I’m going to skate to it… I don’t care.”

What she does care about is putting out clean programs. After another skater crashed into her recently during training — knocking her out and off the ice for three weeks — Glenn said she’s back in good condition and ready to rumble.

Based at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, she trains six days a week, but her focus is different now. “In less than a month I’m turning 24,” she explained, “and I’ve had all my triples since I was 11. Nowadays it’s more about quality over quantity. It’s about refining the elements, putting the puzzle pieces together and getting the job done.”

Though spare time is rare, Glenn has her ways to unwind. She lets off steam playing Magic the Gathering, an addictive collectable trading card game, played either in person with printed cards or digitally. She also has a living play toy in her puppy, Uki, an adorable bundle of black fur that she named after a character in the card game.

Glenn keeps a healthy diet but does have a not-so-guilty pleasure in chocolate chip cookies that she bakes every other weekend and often shares with her training mates at the rink. Sharing and caring about others is something that will continue to be a part of her life when her competitive days are done.

Glenn enjoys taking on the role of mentor and often helps skaters at her rink, so coaching seems to be an obvious next step. “I’d love to work with athletes in some way,” she said, “and that might mean going back to school and getting licensed in physical therapy, but definitely coaching will be a part of it.

“I will stay involved with the sport for sure.”

The skating world is huge. But it can seem small and, perhaps, even claustrophobic with whispers and innuendo looming large.

One wonders how a skater handles giving themselves over to an audience while keeping a sense of self. It’s a balance that has been hard for Glenn to find. But she has come to understand that while you give your all on the ice, you stand up for yourself when need be.

“I try to shut down things I hear that are incorrect,” she shared. “I want people to know what I stand for and what I don’t. But there’s a point where people are going to think what they want, and you’re not going to make them think otherwise.

“They can say the sky is purple, and you’re not going to be able to convince them it’s blue,” she added.

A career in competitive skating can be all-encompassing, but staying involved and giving back and supporting others is what brings joy to Glenn.

“What makes me happiest is when I’m able to see that something I’ve done or said or contributed to someone — whether they know it or not — has had some sort of improvement or positive impact on their life or career,” she commented.

Make no mistake, Glenn is as fierce as they come and an aggressive competitor. But there’s also a softer side — the one that bakes cookies for friends.

In talking with her it becomes clear she’s a nurturer. “If you were to ask anyone who knows me, they’d tell you that’s just how I am,” she said. “I’m always carrying around a big bag with band-aids and tape and medicine and blah, blah, blah … I just want to make sure everyone has enough of what they need.

“Sometimes it’s just a word of encouragement, but it’s something that is very prevalent in me and will stay prevalent long past my skating career.”

On the ice, Glenn holds nothing back, relishing the challenge of taming the devilishly difficult triple axel. She nailed it at U.S. Figure Skating’s late summer Champs Camp (an invitation-only camp provided for high performance athletes intended to prepare them for the Grand Prix Series) and has been cranking them out consistently in practice.

But fans want to know if she intends to throw the high risk-high reward element at this weekend’s Skate America. The answer is, yes, she does — “100 percent!”

Although she does have a softer side, don’t expect her to ever back down in competition. Never forget. Amber Glenn is one tough cookie.

Skate America can be seen on-air via NBC, E! and streaming on