February 21, 2017
If the shoe fits, wear it, or in junior communication major Danny Neudecker’s case, the ice skate.
Neudecker started skating as a hobby 15 years ago after trying and dropping many other sports. Now, Neudecker is a U.S. Collegiate National Junior Men’s Champion, U.S. National Junior Pairs Champion and a Team USA member.
After winning at the junior level, Neudecker and his skating partner, 16-year-old Nica Digerness were selected to compete at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, which will be held March 13-19 in Taipei, Taiwan. They are one of two teams who were selected to represent the U.S. internationally.
But before his many accomplishments, Neudecker was ready to quit.
In 2015, he was prepared to test out of junior level skating and quit competing because he had never been able to qualify to compete at the national level.
Then, he was approached by pair skating coach Dalilah Sappenfield.
Through Sappenfield, he was introduced to Digerness, his current skating partner. The two hit it off right away, according to Neudecker.
“I decided that this was a new chapter in my skating career, and it has progressed really well,” he said.
Last year, Neudecker and Digerness medaled at every U.S. competition they entered. The duo recently returned from the National Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 14-22, where they won their event, becoming the 2017 U.S. National Junior Pairs Champions.
“We didn’t expect to win. When we were sitting and waiting for our scores, we figured we’d place second or third, maybe fourth,” said Neudecker.
The pair also competed in Dresden, Germany and in Saransk, Russia. Neudecker enjoyed his time in Russia, especially since he speaks the language.
At this point, Neudecker hopes to be able to take his skills to the Olympic level and continue with Digerness.
“We plan to compete to get into the next Olympic (games), but the 2022 Olympics might be a better option. At the same time, I’m just taking everything one step at a time,” he said. “It’s a long road, and I’m just enjoying the process.”
Neudecker has a demanding training schedule as he practices six days a week. This includes skating from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the World Arena Ice Hall, working with personal trainers, attending individual and team workouts every other day and ballet lessons.
Together, Neudecker and Digerness practice in front of mirrors to work on their lines, focus on flexibility and move together as a unit.
“The training is really tough, but being so relaxed at competitions because we’ve trained so hard is a good feeling. It’s really rigorous, but it’s worth it in the end,” said Neudecker.
Despite the time commitment, Neudecker has maintained a 4.0 GPA for the past three semesters and is on track to graduate in 2019.
“I manage my time pretty well, and I’m lucky to have a lot of support at home. But I have to categorize everything,” he said.
“When I’m at the ice rink, I focus on me and my partner and nothing else. When I get home, I do my work, and don’t think about skating, so I block everything else out.”