Anthony DeLuca rolls out of bed around 2:30 most mornings. Though it's still dark when he steps through his front doors by 3:15, DeLuca can look to his left and still see his family's emus, cows, horses and chickens as he walks down a rocky driveway to his car.
About 15 hours later, DeLuca will return to his Keymar home, about 10 miles north of Frederick, to care for those animals. For now, he's off to Laurel Roller Skating Center to start his day with a two-hour training session that begins at 4:30 a.m.
DeLuca's morning routine is atypical for the average American 23-year old — but most 23-year-olds don't have a shot to become a world champion figure roller skater like DeLuca does.
Early mornings aren't the only sacrifice DeLuca, who grew up in Baltimore, makes in pursuit of his dream. He hopes to place well in the World Roller Figure Skating Championships in Taipei City, China, but he doesn't make money skating and needs a job to afford the travel expenses.
So between his two-hour workout and time spent caring for the animals on his farm, DeLuca works about 10 hours a day at a CVS pharmacy.
"There's not very many people out there that would do what he does," DeLuca's mother, Marie DeLuca, said. "He's very dedicated and very driven."
DeLuca said he might get one day off each week at CVS. Skating practice, however, is every day.
"Obviously, it's a schedule that creates long days and lots of hard work, but it's worth it," DeLuca said. "I get a chance to compete and do what I want to do."
There are small technical differences, but figure roller skating is similar to figure ice skating: Competitors perform a routine and are awarded points by a panel of judges for technique and skill. DeLuca said there are about 300 competitive artistic roller skaters in the United States.
DeLuca competes in solo competitions but also competes with a partner, Jessica Gaudy, who lives in Kissimmee, Fla. Every other weekend, DeLuca flies out to meet Gaudy in Florida, and the pair practices their routines at Gaudy's family's rink.
"It's great that he's able to come train so often," Gaudy said. "It's really a big commitment for both of us, but it's something you have to do to reach this level."
Though DeLuca doesn't take a break from roller skating, he said he's not at risk of getting burnt out, considering he's done it his entire life.
Marie DeLuca, came from a family of artistic roller skaters and competed in the sport herself. By the time Anthony DeLuca was 3 years old, his mother had already helped him strap on skates and was taking him to the rink.
DeLuca quickly took to the sport and spent much of his childhood on skates, coached by his mother at first, though she ultimately yielded that job to others.
"It's kind of like teaching your kid to drive a car," Marie DeLuca said. "Eventually, it helped him more to be with other coaches."
DeLuca now trains with Ron Fitzgerald, a member of the USA Roller Sports Competitive Coaches Roller Skating Hall of Fame.
Only once, when DeLuca was about 13 years old, did he decide he needed a break. He even considered giving up the sport entirely.
He still had fun roller skating, but he felt he needed to focus on schoolwork and wanted to try his hand at other sports — DeLuca also played baseball and fenced as a teenager.
"I just devoted so much of my life to roller skating and I had always been doing it," DeLuca said. "I thought I wanted to have more free time to do some other things."
So DeLuca took time off from skating to focus on playing baseball and hanging out with friends, but he couldn't stay away from the rink for long. About a year after giving up competitive artistic roller skating, DeLuca realized he didn't have the same drive and passion for other things.
He wasn't able to immerse himself in baseball or fencing, or anything else for that matter, in quite the same manner he could with roller skating.
"I got back in the rink, and I've been training ever since," DeLuca said.
His renewed dedication has led to some lofty achievements. DeLuca has placed as high as seventh in international competitions around the world. DeLuca has traveled to Argentina, Portugal and New Zealand.
But DeLuca, both as a solo skater and when partnered with Gaudy, has struggled to break into the top three in world competitions.
Both skaters say international judges focus more on entertainment and expect different techniques than American judges. That discrepancy, combined with the heightened competition, makes the world championships exceptionally challenging for DeLuca and Gaudy.
"The Worlds are hard because of the competition," Gaudy said. "I think a top-three finish is something we could shoot for."
For DeLuca, there's plenty of incentive to place well. Sure, it would be gratifying and would make all those long days pay off, but it also could help him accomplish the next goal in his life.
"I want to go to another country and be a coach, be able to teach and spread the sport," DeLuca said. "Maybe somewhere where the sport is bigger. If I place well in a world competition, I'd have more options."
If DeLuca ever does get a chance to live out his dream job, Marie DeLuca said he would certainly be dedicated to it. He does, after all, spend his nights lugging around food for the emus and horses after a 17-hour day.
So why couldn't he be the hardest-working roller skating coach around?
"He throws himself into skating and works to accomplish everything he has," Marie DeLuca said. "That's what he wants to do, and I think he'd be an excellent coach."
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