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Middlebury College figure skater competes in World University Games

Ting Cui, of the United States, skates during the women's short program at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer
Associated Press File
Ting Cui is a Middlebury College student athlete competing in the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games. She's seen here skating during the women's short program at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in 2019,

The 2023 FISU World University Games draw athletic talent from around the globe in what is considered the largest winter multi-sport collegiate athletic event on the planet.

And the event is happening this week at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center. Several Vermonters are competing in the Games, which are considered for some to be a springboard to the Winter Olympic Games.

Athletes ages 17 to 25 compete in sports including alpine and cross-country skiing, ice hockey, snowboarding, ski jumping and figure skating.

Middlebury College student Ting Cui, 20, will be one of them. She has high hopes for this year’s Games.

Vermont Public’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Ting Cui. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mitch Wertlieb: First, tell me what this competition means to you, especially since you're coming off a fairly serious injury.

Ting Cui: Yeah, I was sidelined and trying to get back on my feet and back into competitive mode for around two years. And I finally worked my way back up to a good competitive form this season. When I started the season, I had set this out as one of my goals, that I really wanted to qualify for the World University Games. And for the first time in a really long time, I was able to meet one of my season's goals, which was very exciting. And it makes it even better that I am now a college student, a college athlete at Middlebury College, and then I'll be able to represent them as well at the Games.

What was the injury that you suffered a couple of years ago that you're recovering from?

I had two ankle injuries all within the same year, the first one I was able to recover from in about six months. And then the second one was like a real injury of the same ligaments and bones. And so that took me out for quite a while, and then COVID hit, so the rinks closed down. I remember my first day back on the ice, I was so excited to be there. And then the very next day, I got the call that they closed down all the rinks, and so then I couldn't skate for quite a little bit again.

You must be so eager to compete now. Did you get the ankle injury, which obviously as a figure skater is going to be pretty serious, did that happen during practicing? Was it related to skating that you had that initial injury?

Yeah, the first time was on the ice. I was working on a really hard jump. And I rolled my ankle. I landed the wrong way. And then like completely rolled my ankle to the outside. And then the second time was off the ice, so without the protection of the boot. And I was doing rotational jumps, I was trying to go for a little bit more rotation. And I guess I just had a little bit less awareness on that landing. So instead of landing on the bottom of my foot, like how you normally would, I landed on top of it and like did a little swirl of my ankle. Super not fun.

"And I think what I love most is super basic, actually just the feeling of gliding on the ice, and like being able to turn so fluidly. You just can't really get that anywhere else, and I love the fluidity of movements on the ice. "
Ting Cui, Middlebury College student athlete

And I understand that you're working in some interesting ways of training that sometimes have you training virtually.

Yeah, that's right. So I've been able to commute back and forth quite a bit between my home base at Middlebury College this semester. But while I'm at Middlebury and training, I'm on the Chip Kenyon Arena. And I work with my coach virtually a lot. So I'll have a little setup going, I have my laptop like balanced on the boards. And then that way my phone is free to connect to Bluetooth and play my program music. And so it's been a work-in-progress, trying to figure out all of that. But it's worked pretty well.

It's been nice, having my coach there to also just oversee things and help motivate me, because it is a lot harder to train while I'm at school, because I have classes. And then after I finish my classes, I'm mentally tired already, before I head to the rink. And so it's been nice having him there to just push me.

Tell me about the events that you're going to be competing in at the FISU Games. What are some of the events that you'll specifically be doing as a figure skater? And what are you hoping to achieve at these Games?

I'll be in the women's figure skating event. So that involves a short program, a long program. And then at the end, there's an exhibition gala, where we perform a show program. And that one is not scored. It's just kind of a showing.

I'm just really hoping to put out performances I can be proud of. I don't really have any results-based goals right now. But just going into this, I've had like, a couple of small obstacles with preparation, but I'm just hoping to be there and to show my best, whatever that looks like currently.

What do you love most about figure skating? How long have you been doing this?

Yeah, I've been doing this for 13 years now, since I was 7. And I think what I love most is super basic, actually just the feeling of gliding on the ice, and like being able to turn so fluidly. You just can't really get that anywhere else, and I love the fluidity of movements on the ice. It's way different. So I'm really into ballet, as I started doing ballet before I started skating. And so I'm classically trained in the grace and elegance, I guess. And it's just like a whole different shape when you move on the ice, which I think is pretty cool.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Karen is Vermont Public's Director of Radio Programming, serving Vermonters by overseeing the sound of Vermont Public's radio broadcast service. Karen has a long history with public radio, beginning in the early 2000's with the launch of the weekly classical music program, Sunday Bach. Karen's undergraduate degree is in Broadcast Journalism, and she has worked for public radio in Vermont and St. Louis, MO, in areas of production, programming, traffic, operations and news. She has produced many projects for broadcast over the years, including the Vermont Public Choral Hour, with host Linda Radtke, and interviews with local newsmakers with Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb. In 2021 Karen worked with co-producer Betty Smith on a national collaboration with StoryCorps One Small Step, connecting Vermonters one conversation at a time.
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