The easiest way to describe Christina Gao is to call her an Iron Butterfly. She is beautiful to watch with a sweet finesse that belies her unbelieveable strength and steely resolve.

This is a young woman who has come a long way in terms of her relationship to and with skating. It wasn’t that long ago when she wasn’t all that sure about why she was skating. That has all changed and she says candidly that she doesn’t want to ever leave the ice with anyone having worked harder than she has. That work ethic was clearly in evidence as I watched her recently on a practice session and she never stopped. She says: “I want to know that I have given it all. There is no holding back and no reserving energy.” She goes flat out each and every time.

That strategy seems to be working to her advantage. In Summer competitons in Detroit and in Thornhill where she competed as a Senior and Junior respectively she walked away with both the short and free programs each time. There is a definite buzz about this young skater.

Her coach Brian Orser said to me: “It’s interesting. It’s like she has been skating under the radar, but it doesn’t look as if she will be for much longer.” No kidding.

Christina says her goal would be to make the World team and to perform well as a Senior at Nationals and as a Junior on the Grand Prix circuit this Fall. So…how does she do it? I mean that has to be tough to train both as a Junior and a Senior at an elite level. In case you don’t know, the Senior free program is 30 seconds longer than the Junior program and the 2 shorts are the same length but differ in a couple of the elements. This year’s programs were choreographed by David Wilson. The short program is to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and the Free is to the Yellow River Concerto. She says: “the music is Chinese and I am Chinese and it’s really pretty.” (So is she!) The best part was that David is fun to work with. She says: “I love working with him. He feels the music like I do.”

Christina says that she focused on her Senior training before Detroit and has now switched gears and is working on her Junior programs in preparation of her Junior Grand prix event in Austria. If she does well there, her hope is that she will be sent to an additional event and hopefully qualify for the Junior GP Final in Beijing in December. It will only be at this point that she will re-focus her attention on the Senior event at US Nationals which will take place in January in North Carolina.

As you might imagine, having a skater at this level requires a tremendous amount of effort and sacrifice on the family’s part. The Gao family is no different in that Mr Gao has re-located to Toronto so that Chrisitina can train while her Mom and younger sister are still in Cincinnati. She says she misses them and the family does its’ best to visit back and forth as much as possible. Also on the Honourable Mention list for effort is Christina’s home school which has allowed her to do her schooling online. Her favourite subject is Math and she likes it because there are no gray areas: in math, it’s right or it’s wrong.

Aside from upping the technical ante this year with a solid triple filp/triple toe combo she has worked really hard on her presentation and connection to the audience. She wants to “look like a Senior”; like she belongs in “the final flight.” Believe me – she is already there.

“When I was a baby for some reason my dad said I would be a skater.” Sometimes as a parent you just know.

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