Figure skater carves out national success


Courtesy Photo

Sophomore Benjamin Shou spends four hours a day, five to six days a week honing his skating skills. For Shou, balancing sport and school requires both discipline and passion.

Amy Liu and Megan Shen

Despite Houston’s fear of  fickle winter weather, sophomore Benjamin Shou spends more than 20 hours a week on the ice.

Shou, who began figure skating at age six, placed eighth in the Under-18 Intermediate Men category at the 2014 U.S. Prudential Figure Skating Championships in Boston. Held Jan. 5-12, the event featured the selection of the 2014 American team that will compete at the Sochi Olympic Games next month.

“Nationals is such a different experience from other competitions,” Shou said. “Especially this year with the Olympic team. Seeing them motivates you to be at your best.”

To prepare for Nationals and other competitions, Shou trains four hours a day, five or six days a week.

“The competition process has taught me to cope with more stress and pressure than I would have ever expected to be able to handle,” he said. “I think learning to cope with stress is essential in both skating and school.”

Last October, Shou competed at the Southwestern Regional Championships in Dallas and finished second with a personal best score, missing first place by only two points. The top four skaters of each category at Regionals move on to contend in three Sectional events. The top four from each sectional event then move on to Nationals.

“I went to Nationals twice in middle school when you only had to win in the region to earn direct qualification,” Shou said. “The Sectionals level was just added last year, making the championships more time consuming and competitive.”

Shou competed at the Midwestern Sectional Championships in East Lansing, Mich., Nov. 21-22. He earned a pewter medal for placing fourth.

“After I landed my second jump, the triple salchow, I felt really great because that jump hasn’t been very consistent for me in competition this year,” he said. “In the long program; however, I fell after my first jump. I knew then that I had to nail the rest of the routine.”

Figure skating is scored on both technical elements, such as jumps and spins, as well as program components, which include artistry and choreography.

“Skating’s unique in that it takes a lot of everything — you have to execute your techniques perfectly while presenting to the judges and the audience,” Shou said. “I like that it’s both a performance and a sport.”

Requiring both precision and composure, the sport also presents unique mental challenges.

“Because it’s such an individualized sport, you can’t over think it,” Shou said. “I think the key to success and being focused is just to trust in your training and not worry about beating someone else or scoring a certain place,” he said.

Despite the difficulties, Shou looks forward to continuing his ice skating career and hopes to eventually represent Team USA in international competition.

“Skating has taught me to persevere, especially when a competition doesn’t go as expected,” Shou said. “It helps you learn how to keep going forward and not lose faith in yourself.”