When American figure skater Gracie Gold competes Wednesday and Thursday at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Erin Coyne, a 13-year-old spectator from Westminster with a special interest in the event, will be paying careful attention.
"I love watching it," she said. "Gracie Gold — all the front-runners," Erin added, going on to put Katrina Witt and Nancy Kerrigan on her list of favorite skaters.
While she enjoys watching the sport, Erin is much more familiar with the exhilarating feeling of performing on the ice, and the anxious feelings off the ice waiting for her scores. A figure skater herself, she has aspirations to compete at a high level, and is well on her way.
At her first regional competition in September in North Carolina, she had the pleasure of hearing over the loudspeaker, "Currently in first place — Erin Coyne."
That announcement came only because she was the first in her division to compete; she ended up finishing 14th out of 16 in the competition.
Still, she enjoyed the moment of competing and sitting on the "kiss or cry" couch awaiting the announcement of her results.
"It was the first competition that had that," she said of the couch. She had her mom take several photos of her while she sat on it. "It was the coolest thing."
Since she first put on skates at the age of 8 in Ocean City during a rainy vacation, Erin has been dedicated to becoming the best figure skater she can be.
It hasn't been easy.
"I was really bad. Worst one in my class," she said of her first lessons at the Reisterstown Sportsplex.
Even her mother, Jen, thought Erin would give it up.
"After her first session, I told the woman next to me, 'Thank God. She's horrible. I'll never have to sit on this cold bench again,'" Erin's mother said. "It clearly was the kiss of death."
After having dabbled in ballet, gymnastics, soccer and basketball, Erin found her calling on the ice.
"The classes slowly got smaller and smaller. I was the only one who stuck with it. Slow and steady," Erin said.
Her parents and three younger siblings supported her effort and determination.
"I think she's dedicated because she truly loves it," Jen Coyne said of her daughter.
The family support includes making sure their oldest child makes practice sessions around the metro area for an average of six to seven hours a week.
"My husband and I share duties," Jen Coyne said about their shared role as chauffeur.
Every week finds Erin traveling to ice rinks in Laurel, Baltimore, Reisterstown and Frederick to train at various times of day.
"She has to be on the ice by 6:45 a.m. at Frederick," Jen Coyne said, adding, "At Laurel, it's a little later, but she's late for school."
An eighth-grader at St. John Catholic School in Westminster, Erin is allowed to arrive late every Friday, as long as she maintains her workload and keeps up with her studies.
"Erin is a wonderful student. She's very mature and self-disciplined," Harriann Walker, principal of St. John, said. "She's been on the principal's high honors [list] throughout her entire time she's been in training."
"We encourage students' talents and interests," Walker said. "She comes in energized when she's been up very early practicing. She comes in and does what she does. Everything else, she still maintains."
For the younger students who share time with her on the ice at Reisterstown, Erin is a role model, according to Kirsten Di Fatta, skating director at the indoor sports facility off I-795 in Baltimore County.
"A lot of our younger students look up to her," Di Fatta said. "She's a great skater. We're pretty proud of her."
Erin, in turn, looks up to all the skaters at the Winter Olympics and is looking forward to seeing the 18-year-old Gold, a 2012 World Junior silver medalist, challenge South Korea's Kim Yu-na, Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia and Japan's Mao Asada.
Erin said she enjoys watching Olympic skating greats, past and present.
Kimmie Meissner, a 2006 U.S. Olympic figure skater from Bel Air, is one of Erin's all-time favorites, and the youth has been able to attend two ice skating camps with Meissner.
"She's the nicest person," Erin said of Meissner, now 24, who is working as a research analyst for NBC in Sochi. "She helped me a lot with my spins. It was so cool. It was awesome."
This September, Erin hopes to compete in regionals, again, this time in the intermediate level. A win there could lead to sectionals and from there, nationals.
Her long-term dream is to compete at the qualifying level for nationals, but she takes one day at a time.
"I'll just see where I end up," Erin said. "It gets easier every day."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun