Madeline Heritage & Nathan Fast burst onto the ice dance scene last season and captured the juvenile national title at the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in Salt Lake City in December.
During their free dance in Salt Lake, the duo had a little stumble, but Madeline was quoted as saying, “we were able to make it work.” How could Ice-Dance.com not want to hear more from a team that espouses our slogan?! So on the eve of their partnership’s one-year anniversary, Madeline & Nathan took the time to do an interview with IDC.
IDC: How long have you been skating together? Did you have previous partners?
Madeline: Nathan and I formed our partnership in August 2007. Nathan is my first ice dancing partner, however I had experimented with pairs at a younger age with a couple of local boys before competing at novice pairs during the 2006-2007 season.
Nathan: Madeline and I will have been skating together for a year in August. We both had previous partners I had a partner in dance for about 5 years and Madeline had a partner in pairs.
IDC: When did you start skating and how long have you been ice dancing?
Madeline: I started skating at the age of 4 (1999). When I was 8, [I had to take] time off for health reasons. When I was ready to get back on the ice, my parents thought that taking ice dance lessons would be [a] good [way] for me to ease back into skating. After learning my Rhythm Blues, I competed in State Games of Oregon, and I received the silver medal. After that, I had no more interest in ice dancing. Later, I learned some dances with my former pairs partner, because he was teaching the class. So, instead of watching him, I joined in on some of the classes. In February of 2007, my skating club was hosting their annual Sweetheart Ball. I had a blast!! When my parents arrived home, I kept them awake for hours telling them of the great time I had! All I talked about was how much I loved ice dancing at the Ball and asked if I could take some ice dance lessons. Everything happens for a reason. When my pairs partnership dissolved, it really worked out for the best. I decided to focus on my own skating and that included attending the weekly ice dance socials at Lloyd Center Ice Rink. In April 2007, I started taking dance lessons with my coach, Ikaika Young. Of course it was only to test and improve my quality of edges.
Nathan: I began skating at the age of 4 years old, so I’ve been skating for 12 years now. I started my ice dancing career with my previous coach, Delores Mezyk, about six years ago with my previous partner, Heidi Henderson.
IDC: What made you choose to specialize in ice dancing?
Madeline: I’m not so sure I chose it as much as that it chose me, and this is where fate has lead me. As mentioned earlier, this really was meant to supplement my freestyle. I was a jumper and passionate about pair skating. Even at an early suggestion by Ikaika to consider ice dancing competitively, I still was against it. In May, after Nathan’s mother spoke to me about keeping up my partnering skills with Nathan, I was still against it. Ikaika was keeping my partnering skills fresh with the lessons I took with him. Then, one Sunday in July at a social ice dance session, Nathan asked me for a dance. Within a couple of weeks our mothers were talking, Nathan and I were spending more time dancing together on the social sessions, and I found myself becoming more open to the idea of ice dancing. Up until recently I still trained in freestyle–I even have a novice short and long program–and only because of an unforeseen circumstance have I had to put jumping aside.
Nathan: At first, Ice dancing chose me, but then I developed a strong passion for it. It’s pretty much my life now. There are all the lifts, spins, footwork, and twizzles, but then there is the other side which has the ballroom style dances waltz, Foxtrot, Paso, Rhumba, Tango, etc. Ice dancing is much more artsy then the other types of skating and that’s the fun part–but it takes a lot of work.
IDC: Do you have a favorite compulsory dance? Which one?
Madeline: Of course I do! My favorites are the Fourteen Step, Starlight Waltz, and Quickstep.
Nathan: I have a few favorite compulsory dances: the Paso Doble, the Quickstep, the Starlight Waltz, the Rocker Foxtrot and the Fourteen Step.
IDC: What is your favorite dance element?
Madeline & Nathan: We love doing lifts!
IDC What do you like best about skating with your partner?
Madeline: I love skating with Nathan! We have such a great partnership. We get along, and we like so much of the same things. It’s always fun even though we’re working! If a mistake is made, we usually laugh about it. Fingers are rarely pointed and, if pointed, are in jest only. We think that this all has something to do with us both being Scorpios (our birthdays are exactly a week apart). Even though we both skated in the same town, even the same rink, we really did not know each other very well before skating together. Actually, [referring to us as] strangers would be appropriate. But once we started skating together, it all just clicked, and now, we’re best of friends.
Nathan: She is funny and spontaneous, so she keeps Ikaika and I both on our toes, but then she has a very serious side when we really need to get to work and that’s a very good trait.
IDC: What do you like best about training with your coach, Ikaika Young?
Madeline: I like training with Ikaika because he’s a great skater himself! He always has new ideas and will show us how to do something if we aren’t doing it right. We all have fun, but at the same time we know when it is time for business. It’s hard to explain, it just works and I would not want it any other way.
Nathan: The best thing about Ikaika is that he is young so it’s easier to connect with him, and he has been a competitive ice dancer so he can connect with us as well.
IDC: Madeline, do you feel your pairs training helped you in your transition to dance? If so, how?
Madeline: Yes and no. Yes, because by doing all the pair lifts, I wasn’t fearful about doing the advanced lifts in ice dancing. Also, I had some partnering skills to bring to the table along with relationship management skills. No, because I had some bad habits that at first carried over to ice dancing, but with Nathan and Ikaika’s patience, they were broken.
IDC Tell us about your US Junior Nationals experience and your gold medal win.
Madeline: The experience at Junior Nationals was incredible! I had never been to Junior Nationals before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Nathan and I were exited, but a little bit nervous for our qualifying round. We skated 18th out 18, not our best, but we were happy with our performance. When heard our scores, we were exited because those scores were higher than our scores we had at sectionals. For our compulsory dances we placed fifth in Swing Dance and first in Fourteen Step, which brought us up to second overall going into our free dance. In the final round free dance, we skated great with a couple little bobbles. When we got off the ice, I was a little worried about how our scores were going to turn out. We sat and waited for our scores, a little nervous. And then they came, [and they were] the scores that we were hoping that we would get. We were so exited, but there were still three teams left to skate. So, Nathan, Ikaika, and I waited in the hallway, watching the other teams, anxiously waiting for their scores. Then the last team skated, we thought they skated great, but we were in shock as the announcement of final placement was made. What a moment, to be in such company of talented skaters and athletes just intensified all our emotions that we had to keep pinching ourselves! After that we went back to the rink to watch our friends compete in intermediate ice dance. Then there was the award ceremony, which was so overwhelming and exiting, and I was thinking to myself please don’t fall off the podium! I’m not always the most graceful off the ice. It was great to meet up with all the competitors at the party celebrating everyone’s achievements and making new friends. Then, upon our arrival at home, a few of our closest friends met us at the airport. What a surprise!
Nathan: When we had won the gold medal at the 2008 Junior National Championships, it didn’t really sink in until we were at the ceremony and up on that podium looking out in the audience, realizing that we had really done it. But [I] also [realized] that the next year at intermediate, we would really have to work hard to stay on top.
IDC: What are your non-skating goals?
Madeline: My non-skating goals would be to be the best student that I can be, get accepted into Northwestern University, go to medical school and become a Pediatric Nephrologist.
Nathan: Well my non-skating goals kind of revolve around my skating goals. I want to go to PSU and get my masters in sport science and then become a coach/choreographer.
IDC: What are your hobbies?
Madeline: I love reading, shopping, and anything to do with purses.
Nathan: I don’t really have a lot of hobbies. We skate in the mornings and then I go to work in the early afternoon and work late, but when I do have time I like to go to my friend’s house and play video games which is usually Rock Band and/or listen to loud music and just have some fun playing around. I also love to play the drums and piano, and during the week, when I have free time, I also practice martial arts.
IDC: Who are your role models away from skating?
Madeline: Definitely my family. They have given up so much for my skating. My mom gets up so early to take me skating when she really doesn’t have to, especially on little sleep. Until recently, my brother spent as much time at the rink as I did (with the exception of when I stayed in Eugene a couple days a week for pair training). My dad is the silent hero in all of this. My family doesn’t have to give up what they do for my skating, but they do. So I would say that my role models away from skating are my family.
Nathan: My mother and my father are definitely my role models because they have worked all their lives to support the family and both have thrown away their dreams to help me in my hopeful travel to the 2014 Olympics and I just hope that I can make them proud.
IDC: What is something that ice-dance.com readers may not know about you?
Madeline: Something that ice-dance.com readers may not know about me is that I was born with Vesicoureteral Reflux Disease, which means my urine backed up into my kidneys. Once diagnosed, I went on maintenance medicine with the hopes of growing out of it. I wasn’t so lucky. After two very serious back-to-back kidney infections, it was determined that surgery would be needed, because without it, a kidney transplant by the age of 12 was probable. So, at the age of 4, I had corrective surgery and a beautiful scar to go along. When I was 8, I had a relapse. I was always sick. After a year of medicine, testing and possible surgical intervention, my parents pulled me off the ice. A few months later when I went to see my urologist, I was fine. It just corrected itself, and my parents allowed me back on the ice.
Nathan: Well I love playing golf with my dad–even though we both need a lot of improvement–but its still a lot of fun. I also love to go and see movies at the cinema with friends and/or family.
IDC: What advice would you give other skaters your age who are thinking of switching to ice dance?
Madeline: I would say, “If it is something that you really want to do, then go for it. It can’t hurt you to have a couple of lessons or learn a dance. Keep an open mind going into everything you do. You never know what could happen.”
Nathan: Madeline and I have both learned it takes a lot of work to be successful at it, so prepare yourselves. However, I would say go for it because ice dancing doesn’t really grab you by the hand–it grabs you by the heart.