Nick Sinchak is a busy 18-year-old chasing an Olympic dream.
The Harwood resident skates with Samantha Tomarchio in ice dancing competitions, and the pair are slowly becoming among the country's best. Both said they would watch the Olympics when they begin next week in Italy, but the pair is hoping to be there to compete in the future.
They are moving up the ladder in the world of ice dancing. The pair recently took third place at U.S. nationals in St. Louis and is going to advance to the junior level - one below that of Olympic competitors. And with four years to get ready, they're hoping to have a real shot at the Games.
"We're looking at 2010 - and [maybe] even 2014," Tomarchio said with a smile.
Sinchak is the older of the two - Tomarchio is 15 and from Ellicott City. He's been ice dancing for eight years and skating for 10. Sinchak began heavy training about four years ago.
He started working with Tomarchio about two years ago. They previously had other partners, but this pair clicked almost from the start. The Sinchak/Tomarchio pair now has been placed in a national developmental program for up-and-coming ice dancers.
A key component in any type of pairs skating is how well the two skaters get along, and Tomarchio and Sinchak clearly communicate well with one another.
"Good communication is everything," he said. "We're trying to skate as one person, [but] we don't have a connected brain. We do fit personality-wise."
Tomarchio said she and Sinchak were ready for the nationals and hoping for success. But she also loved the perks that performers got during the competition. She said that she could get hair and makeup done and dresses altered at any time. Back at the hotel, massages were waiting along with free facials and chiropractor visits.
Sinchak also coaches skating and left to return to Harwood, in southern Anne Arundel, after five days at the nationals. Tomarchio stayed for nine days. He also teaches at Laurel and at Piney Orchard skating rinks. But both skaters still had fun at the nationals and came home with the bronze medal.
"It was just amazing," Tomarchio said. "The experience was [great]. We were just treated like royalty."
Getting to the nationals is a job in itself. Competitors must qualify by going through a sectional competition in late November and finishing in the top four. The Sinchak/Tomarchio duo came close last year, taking fifth. They finished second this year to earn their first trip to the nationals.
"We worked really hard," she said. "We worked as hard as we could, and we went in there feeling very prepared."
They go through a tough practice schedule at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. The pair skate twice a day Monday through Friday from September through mid-June. With a lunch break, they often are at the rink from about 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. They will then go to a gym for more work.
They keep working throughout the summer, but in a different way. They take part in ballet, Pilates and other types of workouts. They're hoping to get into ballroom dancing this summer.
The bottom line is they're both busy. Sinchak might be the busier of the two, however, as he combines teaching and practicing to be an Olympic ice dancer with being a part-time college student.
Sinchak, the younger of two boys, earned his General Educational Development diploma at age 16 and began college right after. He takes classes part time at Anne Arundel Community College, mostly at night to keep his days open for skating and teaching and other activities.
The drive from Harwood to Laurel is about 60 miles, and he drives on a daily basis - at least on weekdays and often more. His mother, Francine, is self-employed as a certified public accountant and his father, Anthony, is a construction project manager. They do whatever they can to help their son.
"It's a lot of work," Francine Sinchak said. "It's less hard now that he drives himself. It's financially a strain. ... Basically we take all the overtime we can. You have to make money and be 100 percent flexible with your time."
Sinchak is confident that he and Tomarchio have a realistic shot at the future Olympics.
"There's no reason why we can't," he said. "The talent we have takes us better places."