Spotlight on Stephanie Rosenthal
An Unseen Skaters special. January 6, 2005.
Stephanie Rosenthal, 17, is known for her choreographically inventive programs which she usually performs with great gusto. She qualified for U.S. Nationals for the third consecutive year, her second as a senior, by winning Central Pacific Regionals and placing 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals. She represents the Utah FSC and trains in Salt Lake City with her long-time coaches, Stewart and Christi Sturgeon. Rosenthal has just been named to the prestigious 2005 State Farm/U.S. Figure Skating Scholastic Honors Team.
Please describe your performances at Regionals and Sectionals this season (you landed a triple loop for the first time in your Regionals free skate and made your first triple lutz attempt in your free skate at Sectionals, correct?).
I was very pleased with my Regionals performance this season mostly because I had been off the ice for over a month recovering from a compression fracture in my lower back. People were asking me if I was nervous to compete my first competition of the season at Regionals, but I was so excited to show off my new programs that I wasn’t nervous
(until I got there). I was thrilled to have landed that triple loop, especially because I landed it right in front of my coach, who started laughing. I did not skate perfectly at Regionals but that was fine because is important to build up and peak your season at the right time. It was nice to have room to improve at Pacific Coasts. At Sectionals, I
was very excited to try the triple Lutz. They have been improving for quite awhile and I was standing them up consistently all week (too bad I didn’t in competition). Overall I feel like I’ve had a good season so far and I hope to improve more for Nationals.
How do you feel about qualifying for Nationals for the third straight year?
How do I feel? I am so excited! I love Nationals. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like skating in a big stadium filled with people. I cannot describe how lucky it made me feel last year when I stepped out onto the ice in the same warm-up group (short) as Sasha Cohen. To even be announced next to skaters of Sasha’s ability makes me feel so accomplished. I am a performer by nature and to be able to perform for that many people at one time is the best feeling in the world.
When and how did you begin skating?
I began skating because my father was playing ice hockey (still does). My father wanted to enroll me into hockey; however my mother said she preferred her daughter with teeth. It was then decided that I could start figure skating group lessons, just for fun. Little did my poor parents know that the sport would capture me and I would turn skating into a large part of my life.
What has been the most memorable moment in your skating career so far?
There have been three especially exciting moments in my skating career thus far. The first is the reason I have even come this far: the double axel. It took me four long years to get my double axel. So if there are any skaters reading this who struggle with a certain jump, remember that I did it and it took me FOUR YEARS! When I landed it about two months after my thirteenth birthday, Stewart Sturgeon (my coach) was crying. It was truly one of the happiest memories of my life.
The next moment that changed my life was my long program at Pacific Coasts in 2003 [in November 2002]. I was in first place after the short, but every other time I had made it to Sectionals in previous years I had been, at best, tenth after the short. I skated a perfect long program and just as my last spin was ending, the energy that had built up in the audience (the competition was in my home town) was so much that people began standing up and yelling before I was even done. I ended my program with a standing ovation and knew at that moment that I was going to Nationals for the first time. This was the moment my childhood dream was being granted and I cannot even describe how it felt. It truly changed my life because all of a sudden it opened up new possibilities in my life because I now knew I could accomplish any of my dreams.
Finally, last year at Nationals was my most recent memorable moment. I remember stepping on the ice, as a senior lady. The first thing I saw was a mass of people. This was the greatest number of people that would ever watch me skate at once. I remember seeing Dick Button and thinking “Oh man, I wonder what he would say about me?” I got really nervous, but right before I went on Stew, my coach, told me something that I will never forget, he said: “You’re here. Enjoy it.” He was right -- the moment I was about to experience is what every ice skater dreams of. I swallowed my nerves and realized that this was going to be a blast!
What has been the biggest challenge or disappointment that you have overcome in your skating career to date?
I have had a number of injuries that have challenged me over the years. At my first year in Nationals, my knee gave out. I have Osgood Schlatter Syndrome, which is a knee problem where the growth plate on my shin separates from the bone right below my knee. As a result a large bump of cartilage builds up over the separation. At Nationals, a piece of this cartilage came off the growth and got stuck in my tendon. This was extremely painful and I wound up in surgery when I came back to Salt Lake. The real challenge was recovering. Skating is a mental game and getting my confidence back after two months off the ice was a real struggle.
The next injury that occurred was this summer. I suffered a compression fracture in my lower back. This happened from a hard unexpected fall that compressed my spine so much that it cracked. I was off for one month and lost valuable summer training time. There was some blessing in this however; I had to keep in very good shape. I wound up over training and getting in better shape than I was before! Not only that, but I got to experience some new experiences that I normally don’t have time to do like long thirty mile bike rides with my father. I also got to go fly-fishing, which was unfortunately very wet and unsuccessful, but still fun.
Do you have an embarrassing or humorous moment on the ice that you're willing to share?
Do I ever have an embarrassing moment! At Regionals this year I had an awesome time skating my number. I was so excited that at the end of the number I changed my last spin and was late in the music for my ending, so I came out of the spin a little too fast. I end arched backward and I um... well, didn’t know I was falling but ended up in a seal-like belly flop on the ice. The entire audience was laughing at me.
How long have you been working with your current coaches and how would you describe their respective coaching styles?
I have been working with Stewart and Christi Sturgeon since I was in Learn-to-skate! I have never experimented with another main coach. I know their coaching style like the back of my hand and have been doing it for twelve years now. It is hard to describe their coaching style, but what I can say is that it focuses on the aesthetic side of figure skating as well as the athletic side. My coaches want high, clean, and smooth jumps, but will not sacrifice the aesthetic appearance of the jumps. I would be completely unacceptable to them if my jumps looked ugly. I think that focuses on both aspects of figure skating is what makes them such amazing coaches.
I also have one program a year choreographed by Stephanee Grosscup. She is extremely talented and is an artistic figure skating connoisseur. I work on Jumps with the one and only Jumpin’ Joe, Jozef Sabovcik. He is a very funny character is knows a lot about jumping, therefore has a lot to teach me and is very helpful. Kent Weigle has been teaching me ice dance for a very long time and has really improved me edge work as well.
Who conceived and choreographed your "Rockit" (Herbie Hancock), a.k.a. the "robot" short program, that was such an audience hit at the Wissahickon club competition near Philadelphia in July 2001?
I have to admit that I have a certain knack for hip hop. I really love it because it is unique and so interesting to watch. Those who can do it well are mesmerizing because it is a totally unique style of dance. My favorite part of doing that program was the crowd response. I would start out like a robot that was crazily waking up and it often woke the audience up with a start as well. I loved how the audience would be expecting another classical number, and then the music would start. It totally broke my nerves up to be able to get such a reaction. Stephanee Grosscup came up with the idea and everyone else was a little nervous about trying to do a hip hop techno number because it was so different (everyone except me: I try to only do unique numbers). Steph would choreograph a part and then I would do it with some popping and hip hop flair to get the movement we wanted.
You were one of the local Salt Lake City skaters featured on a huge Olympic banner that was hung on the side of a building before the 2002 Olympics. How did that come about and what do you recall of that experience?
The banner situation was a little bit of a surprising one. I was 13 years old when the banner went up, but I was only twelve when the photo shoot took place. I got a call to come do some commercial work for the Olympics, so my family communicated with the company and worked out a photo shoot. I have to say to everyone who wants to do film work that: it’s so hard! I was doing laybacks about six inches from a ladder with a photographer on top. I was in my skates for six hours straight and I was up at about 4 a.m. The work was very hard, but it was a wonderful experience! I enjoyed every second of it. I didn’t know about the banner until it went up actually. They didn’t tell me what they were exactly going to do with the pictures so the banner was a huge surprise. I was really excited because radio stations were interviewing me on the air and I was so young that I felt like a movie star! The banner was unveiled at the 500-day count down party for the Olympics to come to Salt Lake. It was on the then American Stores building (the tallest in Salt Lake at the time), but now it is called the Wells Fargo Building.
What was your involvement in the SLC Winter Olympics in 2002?
I was a Child of Light in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. This was again a lot of hard work for sometimes ten hours of being at the stadium rehearsing, but again it was a wonderful experience and I have my UGGs and Lantern to remember it by.
You've qualified Nationals for the past two seasons (8th in 2003 as a junior and 13th in 2004 as a senior). What were those two experiences like for you and what did you learn from them?
My junior year at Nationals was a huge stepping stone for me. I did not feel like I belonged there. I felt like the little girl from Utah with not enough jumps. That was until I skated the short program and ended up fifth. This was a huge confidence booster for me. It is important to have confidence in yourself because it can get you so much farther in life. I learned that I made it to that competition fair and square and that I did belong there. I learned to trust myself and have confidence because it can take you places you never dreamed you could go.
Senior Nationals was just a rush. It was such an invigorating experience. I was shaking on my first practice ice. I walked into the dressing room and sat down as I watched the skaters I had looked up to for years casually walk in and sit down beside me. I cannot even begin to explain how this made me feel but it really puts things into perspective when you are sitting next to your idols and about to compete against them.
What are your goals for the current skating season? (2004-05)
I would really like to land my triple Lutz consistently. It would be nice to land it in competition (Nationals hopefully). My other goal is the place in the top ten so that I have a chance of competing internationally. I have always wanted to see the world and doing so while ice skating would be like a fantasy.
What music are you using this season? How do you usually pick your skating music?
I usually pick my music by thinking of all the music that no one would pick. “The Pink Panther” [short program] has been used for children’s programs for years so I thought I would try to change the music’s reputation. Everyone was a little unsure, but I was sure I could pull it off. As far as the [long program] music, it was kind of an accident. We just kind of stumbled upon it, but there was no slow part so I asked Stew (because I know how talented he is) if he could compose and play a slow for me. He did it and of course it was amazing! It is a Cuban-type number, and we call it collectively “Gypsy,” though that is not its official name. It has no known title because it is a mix, but the composer of the fast part is Johannes Linstead from the CD Sol Luna Tierra.
How would you describe the choreographic process, working with Stephanee Grosscup and Stewart Sturgeon?
I would have to say that the programs that I have this year are my favorites ever! This is because I love skating them every time. When the music comes on my nerves always float away because I’m having so much fun. Stephanee and Stewart have totally different styles. I think what makes my programs different is the synthesis of their styles combined with mine. I love choreographing programs. Choreography time is my favorite time of year.
Stephanee usually has a really good idea of how she wants everything done. She is very organized and always puts a certain flair into all of her programs that really shines through. She is truly inspiring. Steph has a very distinct style. The only way I can describe her style is: Pizzazz! She puts so much energy into every move that she does and she is very good with detail. Every arm movement has to have the perfect timing, finger position and head position. For instance in my beginning pose [of “Pink Panther”], it took us about ten minutes to decide the exact position that she wanted.
Stewart’s programs are more of a process. He is careful and gives every movement meaning. Stew and I always come up with stories for my programs so that they convey more meaning. Stew will often say "okay, so right here I want some kind of twirly pattern." So, then I will just kind of do something on the spot, then he will do something and we will mix the two. An example from my long program that was choreographed collaboratively by Stew and me is my footwork. Each step in the footwork was done separately by me, and then Stew modified it. The part in the footwork where I turn in a circle with one toe and one heel was my idea, but Stew decided to make me go in a circle. Another part of the footwork was the lunge. A lot of the time, Stew will choreograph the footwork, and I will add in the arms. The lunge at the beginning of my footwork was Stew’s idea, but I added the Latin arms, which came naturally to me by my years of dance experience. Stew and I have been working together so long that he is like an uncle to me. He is always there for me when I need him and we always have fun together. Choreographing programs with him is always a lot of fun.
You debuted your "Pink Panther" short program at one of the Moscow-Utah Youth Games skating exhibitions in February 2004. Can you describe some highlights from that experience?
The Moscow Utah Youth Games were so incredibly amazing! I met a lot of Russian athletes in the games and some of them spoke English, some didn’t. I was very impressed by their friendliness and their English! They all were so excited to be in America and loved using their English. I speak Spanish so I was totally lost trying to speak Russian, but I learned how to say thank you as they kept giving me little gifts like light up pins and such. (Thank you is “spacibo.”) I learned this word because one of the Russians wrote it on a Russian flag he gave me. I really hope that it happens again next year because I loved making new friends from across the globe (literally).
What do you feel are the strongest and weakest aspects of your skating?
My weak aspect is my technical mark. I don’t have as many triples as I need (but I’m working hard at it!) I like the jumps I do, and they are nice, but I do need more of them. My strong point is my artistic mark. I love performing and I think that contributes to my artistic ability. I have been dancing for thirteen years so the dance training has really come in handy for my skating.
What do you hope to improve the most about your skating this season?
I really hope to make my triple Lutz consistent. It is such an important part of the technical mark. I am making really good progress and I’m glad I have time to work on it before Nationals.
What is your current favorite jump and spin?
My favorite jump by far is triple toe-loop. I love the air I get and how I know I can do it every time, even if I am crooked. My favorite spin is well… technically I don’t like spins unless I am twisted up in a weird position that is held by counterbalance, but there is one spin I like called the “Ball” that I actually figured out how to sleep in while spinning on the ice. (Even though I can only get about a minute of sleep at most in it, ha-ha.) In the early mornings I would do anything to catch a few more "zzs."
What are your long-term goals in skating and off the ice?
My long-term goal for figure skating is the Olympics. Whose isn’t? I just think that it would be so magical to walk in those opening ceremonies and know that you have made it to the top. My goal off the ice is to be happy. I am not sure what I will be doing in ten years or where I’ll be. I hope that I am skating, but I also hope that I am happy and that I have seen a good portion of the world.
Who are your favorite skaters and why?
It is hard to choose a favorite skater because all skaters have specific strengths and weaknesses. I love watching all skaters for different reasons, for Michelle [Kwan] her floating quality, for Sasha [Cohen] her amazing ability to contort her body into beautiful shapes, and Angela [Nikodinov] for her beautiful overall skating. My favorite skaters however are the ones who are nice people. I think more than being a good skater it is important to be a good person and nice to everybody.
Who has influenced your skating the most and how?
My family, coaches, friends, and boyfriend have influenced my skating the most. They are always there for me. It is so hard to be a figure skater because it is not a team sport. Once you are out there on the ice you are all alone. There is no one there to help you. It is the support that I get when I am off the ice that makes it possible for me to accomplish my dreams on the ice.
Do you have any similarly athletic siblings?
Yes, I have one younger sister and she is as close to perfect as you can get. Her name is Mallory and she is about to turn 16 in January. She is beautiful, nice, fun, and talented. She plays soccer and basketball, but mostly tennis. She is an awesome tennis player. She also does some acting and has a beautiful voice. She and I are very close seeing as we are so close in age, and she is incredibly supportive of me and my figure skating.
What are some of your off ice hobbies? What do you like to do for fun away from the ice?
I have a ton of hobbies! I love dancing (I’m an officer on the school dance company), I play piano, I snowboard, and I love making music videos with my friends! I love editing and making films because there is so much you can do with film that separates itself from anything else. I like hanging out with friends especially my best friend, who I make my videos with. I like doing things with my family and my sister who has always been behind me in whatever I do. She is only a year younger so it is like having a friend around the house to play with all the time. I also enjoy spending time with my boyfriend.
What is your current schooling arrangement?
I am in school full time. I also do dance company through the school. I go to Rowland-Hall St. Marks. They as a school are very supportive and when I miss school, they give me the work necessary to stay on stay on track. It is however, a very academic school. I am taking two AP classes and an honors class. My AP classes are biology and language composition English, and my honors class is pre-calculus. It gets difficult sometimes, but I have learned over time to balance my schedule so I can do well in both school and skating. I really love school and the people there. It is a small school, so I know everybody.
What is it about skating that motivates you to keep going day in and day out?
Figure Skating is so rewarding. There is nothing like stepping onto fresh ice and feeling the woosh of the cool air brush against your face. It is invigorating. The ice is not forgiving, and there is risk involved. It is so much fun to conquer your fears. It is like going on a scary roller-coaster and then getting off and wanting to go again and again. My favorite aspect of the sport is the performance aspect. I love performing for as large of audiences as I can. My goal with my skating is for people to enjoy watching me. I have fun skating and I want the audience to have fun too.
Name: Stephanie Rosenthal
Date of Birth: October 19, 1987
Place of Birth: Manhattan Beach, CA
Height: 5' 2"
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Training Town: Salt Lake City, UT
Home Club: Utah FSC
Coaches: Stewart Sturgeon, Christi Sturgeon
Choreographers: Stephanee Grosscup (SP), Stewart Sturgeon (FS)
Headshot and photographs from the 2002 Olympic Games courtesy of Stephanie Rosenthal and her family. Headshot copyright © George of G. P. Studio Photography. Skating photographs copyright © Dave Amorde. Skate photograph copyright © Dave Amorde. Unless otherwise noted, all content is copyright © 2000-2005 Unseen Skaters. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce elsewhere without permission.