By Sue DeWerff
From the time he took his first steps on the ice at just eight months old, Viera’s Tommy-Jo Nyman was destined to be a figure skater. Both his parents are former professional skaters and currently work as instructors in the industry.
His great-grandmother was a ballerina and several other relatives were musicians and actors, so it could be the teen has inherited these talents.
But for 14-year-old TJ, as he is known by both his immediate family, friends and those at Rockledge’s Space Coast Iceplex, the combination of hard work, dedication and believing in himself, something his coaches continue to stress, is what he knows will be key for him to reach his goal of becoming an Olympic figure skater.
As last year’s gold medal winner in the boy’s juvenile division at the U.S. Figure Skating Nationals, the victory was not only his first step towards this goal, but a first for any skater hailing from the local rink.
This year, he is on track for a repeat performance after a free skate victory in the Intermediate division at the Eastern Sectional Figure Skating Championships. He is now on his way to winning his second national title.
At last October’s regional qualifying event, his 113 total point victory was more than 12 points more than his closest competitor.
“TJ is well beyond his years when it comes to his technique and artistry,” said Natalia Smith, co-owner of the Space Coast Iceplex. “He is extremely focused and eager to learn, something key to advancement in these competitions.”
A team of coaches including Natalia, his mom who is the current director of the Theater on Ice Program, former Olympian Soviet Union ice dancer Ilona Melnichenko, and two-time junior world champion Artem Torgashev of Coral Springs, are currently collaborating as his instructors. All admit they are impressed not only with his athletic abilities, but his energy and contagious smile.
Even though practicing almost five hours a day, six days a week is now part of his daily routine, as well as being a new freshman at Viera High School, TJ admits he enjoys it all.
“I love skating to programs with jaunty, upbeat and interesting choreography,” said TJ. “My goal is to always try to get the audiences and judges to smile. This is a big part of the competition.”
Fortunately, his mother, Katie, has been helpful with the choreography, as well as his costume design. As a “Theatre on Ice” program director for the past six years, she has been instrumental in co-organizing and overseeing many events at the Iceplex that allow skaters of all ages and skill sets to enjoy and learn figure skating.
For the past three years, TJ has been one of the stand-outs as a participant in the annual holiday on ice event. He has also led the junior skating teams to several past titles in both regional and state competitions.
He has become a role model for many of the younger children, as well.
For TJ, the combination of having a good attitude, great coaches and just having fun on the ice is what he believes it will ultimately take for him to continue working his way to becoming a professional in the sport.
This article appears in the January 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Living.
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