An Unseen Skaters special. January 9, 2005.
Brittney Rizo, age 13, represents and trains at the Skating Club of Boston. She is coached by Lisa Coppola and Connie Nakamura. Coppola and Deidre Williams choreographed her programs for the 2004-05 season. After qualifying for the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in 2003 and 2004 at the Juvenile and Intermediate levels, respectively, Brittney finished 2nd in Novice Ladies at the 2005 New England Regional Championships and 1st at the 2005 Eastern Sectional Championships to earn her first trip to the 2005 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon.
When and how did you begin skating?
My mom took me to a synchro competition when I was two years old to see my auntie Jeannine compete with the Haydenettes. I asked my mom that day for a pair of skates. I wanted to be able to skate just like my auntie. She is 10 years younger than my mom, so when I was younger I thought of her as a cousin or a role model. She would take me to public skating once or twice a month at the Hingham Sports Center.
What has been the most memorable moment in your skating career so far?
The most memorable moment was when I landed my first double axel. I was on a lesson with my coach Connie, and right before I had a lesson on the harness with my other coach Lisa. There was one week left until I turned 12 and all I could think about was, “I have to get this jump before I turn 12, I just have to.” On my lesson with Connie I was getting closer and closer. I remember people skating by and telling me, “Come on, Riz, just nail it.” Lisa was banging on the boards with excitement but the clock was clicking to the end of the session. Then the buzzer rings and a spark flashes inside of me. As everyone goes to get off the ice, I skate around one more time and nail it! Lisa was banging on the boards and I felt excitement run through my body. As I ran off the ice to call my mom, my friends were giving me high fives. That memory is so vivid I get excited just thinking about it.
What has been the biggest challenge or disappointment that you have overcome in your skating career?
My biggest disappointment or challenge was probably 2004 Junior Nationals. After skating my short program landing everything, I missed my single axel, the last jump in the last 10 seconds of my program. I just let my focus go. Going into my long program, knowing I could pull up, I still had disappointment in me from the short. That led to another bomb. Fortunately this year I was able to overcome this.
Do you have an embarrassing moment in skating that you're willing to share?
I really don’t have a moment that I think I was embarrassed. I do stupid things from time to time like stepping on the ice with my guards on or sliding on my butt from blue line to blue line on a crossover. Those are pretty typical for me so I just don’t get embarrassed by them.
How long have you been working with your current coaches, Lisa Coppola and Connie Nakamura, and how would you describe their coaching styles?
I have been with Lisa for four years and Connie for two years. They know how hard they can push me, and they expect me to go to my limit everyday. Sometimes I have needed motivation so they have given it to me in many different ways. On my lessons with Connie we usually focus on my new jumps and making the old ones better. With Lisa we work on my programs, spins, old jumps, and new jumps.
What music are you using this season? Who choreographed your programs?
I really love my music this year. My short program is a different version of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” with an orchestra instead of a band. My long program is Middle Eastern music, which I have never skated to before. For this program I actually had to do belly dancing classes with my mom to get the feel of the music. Lisa Coppola and Deidre Williams choreographed these programs together.
How have you improved as a skater since last year, when you qualified for Junior Nationals at the Intermediate level and placed 11th in the final round?
Since that final Intermediate long program I have improved a great deal with my confidence and mental training. I knew how to do everything in practice; it was just a matter of doing it when it really counted. I have been practicing physically and mentally all year both equally as much. I also think my stroking is better and stronger, and I’ve improved my spins.
You competed in many club competitions from April through September (Cherry Blossom, Spring Challenge, North Shore, Liberty, Cranberry, Boston Open). Was there one competition in particular that helped build your confidence this season?
I think that the biggest confidence-builder was definitely Cherry Blossom. It was the first real competition (not including the Boston club competition), I competed against girls I don’t usually skate against except at Liberty, and I skated without any of my coaches so I put myself on the ice for each event. When I made finals I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be able to skate that well since I had only been doing my programs for a few weeks, but when I overcame that I was extremely excited.
How would you assess/describe/compare your performances at New England Regionals (2nd) and at Eastern Sectionals (1st)?
At New England Regionals I was a completely different person than at Eastern Sectionals. At New Englands I might have been physically ready, but for Easterns I wasn’t just physically ready, I was also mentally ready. At Easterns I felt more confident and complete. I trusted what I practiced and knew I could rely on it, but that didn’t mean I could just sit back and relax--I would still have to fight for what I wanted. When I stepped onto the ice for New Englands I said to myself, “Alright, let’s try and make this a good one.” But for Easterns, when I stepped on the ice I said, “I am doing this for myself and I am going to fight the whole way through for what I want.” For me that was the difference between 2nd place at regionals and 1st place at sectionals.
How would you describe the feeling of qualifying for "big" Nationals for the first time?
There are no actual words to describe me making it. If I had to pick one word it would probably be, “Wow!” It had been my goal all year, and I have worked really hard to achieve it. It took me a week to realize I was actually going to Nationals, or as my brother Jared would call it, “the capital N.”
Will you be making any significant changes (on the technical and/or presentation sides) in your programs for Nationals?
Right now I will not be adding any more technical moves into my program. If I start to get any new jumps consistent between now and Nationals then Lisa might consider adding something in, but for right now my technical elements will stay the same. On the presentation side, I have changed the ending footwork and the middle section spiral.
What are your goals for Nationals in Portland? Long-term skating goals?
My goal for Nationals at this time last year was to make the top four, but that goal has changed as the year went on. I have realized that I should only worry about what is in my control, and what place the judges put me in is not. My goal for Nationals is to skate the best I can in both programs. My long-term goal is to make the U.S. team and go to Worlds some day.
What do you consider to be the strongest and weakest aspects of your skating?
I think that the strongest aspect of my skating is probably my presentation. When I skate I just feel like I am connecting with the audience. I feel the rhythm of the music almost like I am telling them a story. I think that the weakest part of my skating is my spins. I never really feel secure with them. I enjoy watching spins but not so much mine. They never feel as though they are fast enough, or stretched enough, or back enough.
What is your current favorite jump, spin, and connecting element?
My absolute favorite jump is the triple toe. I love this jump! It is so exciting, and you can just let it be free, unlike edge jumps were you have to wait and jump at a certain time. On a triple toe you can be off a little and still land it. My favorite connecting element is the split jump. I never really liked it until my friend Tanya gave me a secret key clue on how to do it. Ever since it has been really good, and I have grown to love it! Out of all the crazy spins there are I have to say I am not a spin person. They are really not my favorite things to do. However, if I had to pick one spin and say it is the one I most enjoy, it would probably be the flying camel.
Who has had the greatest influence on your skating?
My whole family has influenced and helped me at some time. My mom and dad are always there when I am down and up, and my grandparents bring me to the rink day in and out because my parents are working. My brother is there when I have had a bad day and I need cheering up, and my dog is there to just sit with me. My coaches help me when I need encouragement and when I just need to be pushed a little more. It is really just a team effort from everyone.
Who are your favorite skaters and why?
My favorite skater is Brian Joubert--he is wicked awesome! He has the biggest jumps ever, and when he does them they look so easy, even though we know they really aren’t. His spins are fast; his jumps are high; the only thing I can complain about is that his choreography isn’t the greatest. One person who I think has great presentation is Sasha Cohen. She feels her music no matter what she is skating to.
What is your current schooling arrangement, year, favorite, and least favorite subject?
Every day I get out of school an hour early. It is hard to keep up with the homework, but I love skating so I am willing to do anything to reach my goals. My favorite subject is totally science. I love experiments and hands-on activities. My least favorite subject is math. I just don’t understand when we are going to need algebra in our lives.
What are your long-term goals beyond skating?
I love science. I really like studying outer space, from black holes to galaxies and supernovas. I also really enjoy watching “CSI.” I am interested in all of the experiments they do with the bodies and how they figure things out. Away from skating I could be an astronomer or a crime scene investigator. I love them both; the only downside is that there is a lot of schooling for these jobs.
What do you like to do for fun away from the ice? What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I have many hobbies off the ice. I like talking online to all of my friends, shopping, swimming in my pool, and going to the beach. And I love reading! Even though it sounds dorky, I really love it. I have been reading the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books since I was in about fourth grade. Some more of my favorites are the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” and of course the “Harry Potter” series. I also enjoy seeing scary movies with my friends. Even though we are scared and scream the whole time, it is really fun because we just like the laugh of all the stupid things we do after.
Do you have any similarly athletic siblings? You come from a family that has a history in skating going back a generation or two. Tell us a little about that.
My brother Jared is 11 and is very involved in hockey, baseball, basketball, and soccer. My auntie Jeannine was a competitive figure skater and also a Haydenette. She skated with them in 1992 when they were the international gold medalists in Helsinki. My grandfather played hockey as a goalie and announces skating competitions here and there.
What do you like the most about skating that motivates you to keep going day in and day out?
When I practice everyday I think about the 3 ½ minutes I have on the ice and the noisy crowd. The louder the crowd is, the better I feel. I love doing shows where everyone knows who I really am. I just let the audience sit back and enjoy the show I put on for them. I love a good competition because when you skate great you feel great, but you feel even better when you place high in a difficult competition. You just know that all of the hard work you have been doing has paid off.
What do you like the most about skating that motivates you to keep going
day in and day out?
Competing, and the fact that you can learn something new every day.
Name: Brittney Rizo
Date of Birth: February 27, 1991
Place of Birth: Quincy, MA
Height: 5’ 2”
Hometown: Braintree, MA
Training Town: Boston, MA
Home Club: Skating Club of Boston
Coaches: Lisa Coppola and Connie Nakamura
Choreographers: Lisa Coppola and Deidre Williams
Skating photograph copyright(s) unknown. 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.