Just a couple years after learning how to roller skate backwards, Livonia’s Amanda Smyser is skating circles around many of the top competitors in her sport.
A senior-to-be at Livonia Franklin High School, Smyser returned from last month’s USA Rollersports Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. with three medals – one gold and two bronze – that reflect a diligent work ethic and deep love of the challenging activity.
“I’m not exactly sure why, but I have a deep passion for artistic roller-skating,” the personable 17-year-old said, minutes before a three-hour practice session with hall-of-fame coach Vickie Hudson was about to begin at Canton’s Skatin’ Station II. “I want to do this for the rest of my life. After I’m done competing, I’d like to coach.”
Smyser’s golden performance at last month’s national event came in the no-room-for-error figures competition, which requires participants to meticulously skate around a circle with three incredibly-observant judges eye-balling your every move.
“Figures is all about edge quality, posture and how you look,” said Hudson, a longtime coach who lives in South Lyon. “If you go off the line even a little, you’re out of the game. There were six figures Amanda had to do and she won them all.”
Smyser outshined approximately 35 competitors from across the United States. All of the participants at the national competition were required to qualify at one of nine regional events.
“The only thing that is really hard for me when it comes to roller-skating are the nerves I get before I compete,” Smyser admitted. “It can be super nerve-racking, but I take a few deep breathes before I go out there and I focus on what I have to do.”
Smyser practices up to four hours every day – a regimen Hudson said is instrumental in her success.
“She wants to be a world-class skater some day, so she does what it takes to get there,” Hudson said. “Plus, she is lucky enough to have a mom (Brenda) who is 100 percent behind her.
“To be good in this sport, you have to practice enough so that as nervous as you get, your practice habits take over, and Amanda definitely puts in the time it takes to achieve this.”
Smyser started skating recreationally at the age of 13 at Riverside Arena in Livonia.
“A couple years ago I took lessons to learn how to skate backwards and it went from there,” she said, discussing her introduction to the competitive roller-skating. “Somebody told me about artistic roller-skating and I thought it sounded like fun.”
Smyser’s path to multiple medals hasn’t always been easy. She thrives despite dealing with the effects of epilepsy – she suffered a seizure just two days before her gold medal-winning effort – and Chiari malformation, a rare neurological condition that required Smyser to undergo brain surgery in 2009.
“Neither her neurologist nor her neurosurgeon like her to skate, and it has been suggested more than once that she quit,” said Brenda Smyser. “This just makes her more determined to show them otherwise.
“She is my hero.”