Luo figure skates beyond south’s walls

Anika Thota and Annie Rogula

Two years ago, junior Rachel Luo was skating by another teammate when she lost her balance and collapsed, leaving her with bloody fingers and a white scar she’ll have for the rest of her life. Rachel is a member of a highly competitive team called “The Starlights,” who will be traveling to compete in Berlin and France this year.

Luo’s sister, Isabella Luo, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, introduced her to skating.

“My sister and I have a pretty strong bond,” Rachel said. “Every sport that she did, I did. So [when] she [started] skating, I started skating.”

Throughout the eleven years Rachel has been skating, Sheng Luo, Rachel’s mother, has been a huge supporter of her career. From the beginning, Sheng has encouraged Rachel every step of the way.

“As parents, we want to support what she loves to do,” Sheng said. “We want her to understand, as soon as she’s determined, she can’t give up. She has to put 100 percent effort in. Nothing comes easy. Every success requires persistence and hard work.”

According to Rachel, she takes honors and AP courses in addition to skating a minimum of twelve and a half hours per week. Rachel says there are times when the amount of skating she and her team endure takes a great toll on them.

“There is a point where we break, and every season it happens, but our coach will realize we can’t work as hard as we used to and she’ll tell us ‘The hardest practices are the ones where you learn and grow the most,’” Rachel said.

According to Rachel, breaking down is often the result of stress. It is hard to overcome, but Rachel says once it’s done, it makes the transition to move on and work hard much easier.

“It makes me feel emotional when I do skating because no other aspect of my life is [like that]. At skating, everything that happens is a big deal,” Rachel said. “It’s cool because it seems unique to what everybody else does.”

Although Rachel may struggle sometimes with stress, Heather Paige, head coach for the Starlights synchronized skating teams, says her natural grace and ability to show beautiful lines throughout her movements gives her the potential to become a well accomplished skater.

“No one takes direction and coaching better than Rachel,” Paige said. “It is the sign of a true competitor. She is the most resilient skater I have ever met. Injuries do not phase her at all. I’ve never in my life seen a skater receive so many stitches [at a competition] and not shed one tear.”

Despite “The Starlight’s” seasonal mental fatigues, they have proven that hard work does pay off, and  as a result, are now representing Team USA for this year’s international competitions in Berlin and France.

“When we found out that we were going to France and Berlin, it was a relief that we finally knew where we were going and [that] we were going to good competitions,” Rachel said.

Throughout Rachel’s career, she has encountered many ups and downs. Although she has had the support from family, coaches and friends, Paige states that it took Rachel’s resilient heart to get where she is now. Being an skater, Rachel shares advice for high schoolers who are passionate about the sport:

“Hard work is so much more important than talent, especially in skating because you can improve a lot if you listen to what your coaches tell you,” Rachel said. “It doesn’t matter if you start at a young or old age, you can still get to where you want to be if you put in the work.”