Articles & Interviews

Elicia Reynolds & Stephen Reynolds: The Battle to Boston

reynolds-14easby Melanie Hoyt | Photos by Katie Weigel and Daphne Backman

When the seniors take the ice this weekend at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, the hype will undoubtedly surround Meryl Davis & Charlie White’s quest for a record-setting sixth title and the race for the remaining Olympic berths. Far away from the buzz of the media, a pair of siblings who have been skating together for almost as long as Davis & White will quietly fulfill a lifelong goal and compete in their first U.S. Championships.

Elicia & Stephen Reynolds have known that they were ice dancers since their first competition as a team, over 11 years ago. They had already been successful as singles skaters and violinists before then, but in 2002, they competed as a dance team for the first time, and knew where they belonged. The siblings won the U.S. intermediate silver medal in 2007, which affirmed their talent and motivated them as they prepared for the novice level.

But that year, the whole country careened into a downward economic spiral, and Florida, where the Reynolds family lived, was among the hardest hit. Elicia and Stephen’s father was involved in real estate, and when the market plunged, it really hurt their family’s situation.

“We were planning to go back to Junior Nationals that year, but we had to stop skating,” Stephen explained. “We didn’t know if we would ever return to the ice.”

Over the next three years, skating remained on their minds, though they could not afford to pursue their dream. Elicia and Stephen both finished high school during their break from the ice, and they began to focus on building sources of income that could help them resume training. They joined orchestras, started a violin duo that played at weddings, gave violin lessons, and coached. In February 2011, the family relocated.

“Our family moved up north,” Elicia said. “There were better business opportunities for our father…and there was Ice Works.”

The Reynoldses returned to the ice and began taking lessons from Olympic champions Natalia Linichuk & Gennadi Karponosov. Unfortunately, the bills mounted quickly, and they exhausted their savings in just a few months. They were making enough money to afford ice time, but not both ice time and lessons, so they decided to keep skating, without a coach.

“We couldn’t afford the lessons, but we had a lot of testing to do before we could compete at junior,” Stephen said. “So we thought, ‘Well, let’s just try to do it on our own.’”

“We pretty much had the dances through silver and pre-gold, but we still had to do junior moves and junior free,” Elicia explained. “We were able to bypass novice free, because we had the silver dances.”

“YouTube was a very valuable tool,” Elicia said.

“And a video camera,” Stephen added, “to see what we were doing wrong. We did comparisons of our own dances to others.”

“Like Grishuk & Platov doing the Blues,” Elicia said.

reynolds-13lpidcThe Reynolds siblings had missed four seasons since their intermediate silver medal in 2007, and a lot had changed. Gone were compulsory and original dances at the junior and senior levels, and the short dance was beginning its second season. Over the course of six months, they completed their tests and choreographed their own short and free dances, with their mother’s assistance.

“Our mom was an actress,” Stephen said, “so she knows artistry and choreography with the upper body. She helped us out a lot.”

They were certainly determined, but they had a lot to learn about the sport, and their 2012 season ended early, when they finished sixth at the 2012 Eastern Sectional Championships, over 30 points behind the final qualifying spot.

Not to be deterred from their goal, the Reynoldses began preparing to move to the senior level for the 2013 season. They had eight dance tests left to complete, and they passed all of them on their own, all without affording a single lesson. 

“We were still lacking funds,” Stephen said, “but we wanted to keep going.”

The prescribed pattern for the 2012-13 senior short dance was the Yankee Polka, and its quick edges tripped up even the most seasoned veterans. Elicia and Stephen watched carefully over the season and tried to learn from others’ mistakes. Once again, they choreographed their own dances, but just before 2013 Eastern Sectionals, they caught a break, and were able to enlist coaches Uschi Keszler and Yovanny Durango. Keszler and Durango helped them polish and train their programs, and at Sectionals, their first major senior-level competition, the Reynolds siblings placed fifth of seven teams, one spot away from qualifying for the U.S. Championships. And instead of the 30-point deficit they had faced the year before, they were only 8 points away. Competing at Nationals was no longer a long-shot goal—it was within reach.

“We almost made it to Nationals [last year],” Elicia said.

They work with Skates US, helping to market Edea boots, and they traveled to Omaha for the 2013 U.S. Championships anyway, to work the merchandise booth. Being at Nationals was a great experience for them and gave them extra motivation to keep training for this season.

Finances are still a concern for Elicia and Stephen, although their situation has improved and they are now able to retain coaches. The cost of skating can grow exponentially, with all kinds of expenses besides ice time and lessons to manage. They control their expenses as much as they can, limiting their travel to the most important competitions and continuing to assist with their own choreography.

The Reynoldses returned to the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships for the first time in seven years this season, where they gave solid performances of their new programs. A respectable showing for their “Cats” free dance was especially encouraging.

“We learned a lot of things and grew,” Elicia said about their return to Lake Placid. “We want to keep improving upon where we were [then], and it was a great experience competing against skaters from other countries, not just U.S. teams.”

In November, the duo finished fourth at the Eastern Sectional Championships, which qualified them to compete at their first “big” U.S. Championships.

Elicia & Stephen Reynolds may not be medal contenders this week, but in a sport where dedication thrives and where inspiration matters, they have earned their place and they belong.

Comment here