Figure skater Rachael Flatt, touring with Stars on Ice, also taking time to breathe
Having time to herself has been a foreign concept to figure skater Rachael Flatt of Del Mar. She won the U.S. title in January, finished seventh at the Vancouver Olympics and ninth at the world championships, all while balancing four Advanced Placement classes and finishing her senior year at Cheyenne Mountain High in Colorado Springs, her training base.
She was accepted to attend Stanford in September but deferred enrollment for a year, giving her time to further her training and simply to breathe.
“These last couple of years have been quite a journey but they’ve also been really hectic so I wanted a little bit of a break between school and skating,” she said by phone Monday.
“I thought it would be a great time to really commit to just skating for this year. It will be nice to have a little bit of free time, and there will be opportunities for me to do more off-ice classes. It will be a wonderful opportunity for me.”
Flatt’s classes are done, so she’s performing this week with the Stars on Ice tour, which will stop Thursday at Staples Center and Friday at Anaheim. But she’ll miss the following show, at San Diego, because of a scheduling conflict -- her high school graduation, to be held Sunday. “I wouldn’t miss that for anything,” she said, laughing.
Flatt, who will be 18 in July, manages to squeeze a lot into each day. By studying in every spare moment she maintained a perfect 4.0 grade- point average — though she said she hadn’t seen her final semester’s grades. Her dedication to her studies makes it likely that her grades stayed up, even in a year that included the Olympics and world championships.
“It was difficult at times but it was definitely worth the sacrifice of sleep,” she said. “It was taxing to basically have a nonexistent social life for about a year while I committed myself entirely to school and skating, just to get the job done.
“Four AP classes is demanding, but training for the Olympics is also incredibly demanding so putting those two together is pretty crazy. But it was definitely worth it. It was so much fun.”
Flatt said she’s torn between majoring in chemical engineering or biomechanics when she reaches Stanford. In either case, she figures to have a difficult academic schedule that wouldn’t easily mesh with elite-level training. But it’s not impossible, and the 2014 Sochi Games are on her radar, though that would mean she would have to find a coach and training site near Stanford.
“I’m just taking it day by day and year by year,” she said. “I’m still planning on training for Sochi but I might end up having to decrease my class load at Stanford from a full-time load to part-time just to make sure that happens.”
In the meantime, she’s enjoying her Stars on Ice experience because her routines afford a break from figure skating’s strict Code of Points.
“It’s a lot more fun. It’s a good way to relax on the ice but still stay in shape because we still have to do programs,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and other skaters who are planning on competing the next couple of years. It’s fun to skate and not have to worry about the judging system. It’s not near as tense.”
It’s so relaxed, she said she and her principal competitive rival, Mirai Nagasu of Arcadia, can be friends.
“We just goof around. We have a good time,” Flatt said. “It’s much easier to be friendly with your competitors rather than making it tense. I like being in a very relaxed environment so it’s nice to just kind of hang out and have fun.”
Flatt said she expects to see quite a few friends, neighbors from San Diego and former skaters in the audience Thursday and Friday. “I’m really looking forward to that,” she said. “I’m really excited to see them.”
Photo: Rachael Flatt performs her short program during the world championships in 2009 at Staples Center. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times