Meet Courtney Hicks
Coffee, nature, photography, figure skating, her faith, and oh yeah, more coffee: these are a few of USA singles skater Courtney Hicks' favorite things. She's persevered through setbacks and injuries, but she always wins over the crowd with her positive attitude and true passion for the sport. Whether you see her at the rink or on a mountain, Courtney is always smiling and living life to the fullest. It was such a pleasure to speak with this inspiring young woman! Read on to get to know Miss Courtney Hicks and learn about her skating goals, off-ice interests, and how she deals with the pressures of being an elite athlete.
Birthday: December 15th, 1995 (23 years old)
Born: Placentia, California, USA
Hometown: Chino Hills, California, USA
Currently: Monument, Colorado, USA
Country Represented: USA
Skating Club: All Year FSC
Discipline: Ladies' Singles
Training Location: 7K Skating Academy @ Monument Ice Rink in Monument, Colorado, USA
Coach: Kori Ade
Boots: Jackson Ultima
Blades: John Wilson
Q: First things first: how did you get your start in figure skating? And did your Russian heritage have anything to do with it?
A: So I got started in skating because I saw it in a community magazine, and for some reason, I was drawn to it. My mom actually tried really hard to dissuade me and had me try a bunch of different sports and activities, but I kept going back to skating, so she finally gave up and took me to a class, and I was absolutely hooked!
#throwback to young Courtney as a little girl after a skating competition and as a novice skater
(right photo by Robert A. Walker)
Q: I'm so happy to talk with a fellow Southern California gal! Even though you live and train in Colorado now (with coach Kori Ade), you were born and raised in Chino Hills. What do you love and miss most about California, and what do you love about your new mountainous home?
A: I actually really miss the view that I had from my house! I live on the edge of the hills, and I had a full view of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pomona Valley, Mount Baldy, and Mount San Jacinto. The sunrise over the mountains was so pretty! (I also, of course, miss my family.) I do also love the mountains here! They're closer to me than the ones in California, and they have such defined and recognizable silhouettes. It's so nice that it's so easy to find hiking and outdoor activities here.
Q: In addition to being a true coffee connoisseur, you also work part-time at a coffee shop in Colorado Springs - is it difficult balancing work and skating? And can you share some insider coffee tips and tricks with us?
A: I do absolutely love coffee!! I've been really lucky with this job and the hours that they offer, and I usually start at 3 pm and work until they close at 9. So far it hasn't been too difficult to work in with skating!
And also, instead of paying more for a caramel macchiato, just get a caramel latte and ask for the shots on top!
Q: In October 2011, a leg injury sustained at your second ever Junior Grand Prix event (in Milan, Italy) led to surgery and you having to sit out the rest of the season. Do you think it was harder to recover physically or mentally, and did the injury change the way you skate or approach training?
A: I have to say it was definitely more difficult mentally! I actually recovered physically really fast, but it took me a few months to get back to being confident enough in my leg and my technique to really get my jumps back again. I had to really focus on the mental aspect of skating, and I had to severely limit the amount of attempts I had for each jump. That has carried through into now and how I still train.
Q: After finishing sixth at US Nationals in 2014, you were named as an alternate to the Sochi Olympic team - what was that experience like, and what does being an Olympic figure skating alternate actually entail?
A: That experience was actually really bittersweet for me. As neat as it is to be able to say that I was an Olympic alternate, it also was really dad for me because I was painfully close to actually going to the Olympics. And being an alternate basically just means that you have to be ready in case someone ends up having to withdraw.
Q: I remember seeing you compete at the US Classic this past September in Salt Lake City and being in awe of both the opening jump combo in your Nutcracker free skate and your pretty dress! How have your programs this season (with "I Found" by Amber Run for the short program) evolved, and how did you come up with the music initially?
A: My programs have really gotten much more expressive and detailed over the season. The short started out with Jordan Moeller and I really liking the song and both wanting to use it for a program. I ended up using it for the Peggy Fleming Trophy, and Jordan choreographed the program for me. After the competition, I still really liked the program and wanted to use it for a short, and eventually, Jordan and I managed to convince Kori to let me. It's one of my favorite programs that I've had and I enjoy performing it SO much!
My free skate this year actually started off as a tango, and I had that for about two months. Eventually, though, Kori and I realized that it wasn't really working as well as we wanted it to, but I was a week and a half away from my first competition of the year, so we had to change it fast. Basically, she asked what music I really wanted to skate, and I had been wanting to us the Nutcracker's "Pas de Deux" for a couple of years, and she loved the idea. I ran my full long with all the choreography to "Pas de Deux", and it all fit the phrasing perfectly. So we went with it and hardly had to change anything! Now the choreography is even more grand and elegant, but still powerful and strong, and I think it plays to my strengths really well.
Courtney and her camera at Valley Forge National Park
Q: I also love your nature photography Instagram - so many beautiful shots showcasing our beautiful earth. I heard it's your goal to one day have your work published in National Geographic? Tell us all about your passion for photography!
A: I've loved photography since I was a kid. I think the first time I realized I liked taking pictures was in 2008 at Junior Nationals in Lake Placid when I kept asking my uncle to use his camera, pretty much every two seconds the entire trip. That Christmas my family got me a little point-and-shoot camera, and I used it obsessively. Eventually, I got a much nicer point-and-shoot and started to get more serious about how I was taking pictures and how I was setting them up, and then a few years ago I realized that photography was a bit of a passion and that it was something I would actually want to invest in.
So I got a Sony a7R II and a couple of lenses, and it comes with me everywhere I go. I so enjoy just walking around anywhere remotely outdoorsy and just snapping pictures; it's cathartic and calming for me. I also just really love finding beautiful scenes and capturing them. It's so exciting when you get the focus just right, or the lighting of the clouds is just perfect in that moment, and you manage to get it on camera.
Some of Courtney's beautiful shots of nature from around the world
Q: Your faith is obviously very important to you - how does it help you stay positive during the ups and downs of being an elite athlete? What advice do you have for young people trying to find their way in religion or spirituality?
A: My faith is really a rock that helps me stay grounded in the fact that it's not all about me. It helps me remember that everything happens for a reason, and that every down leads to an up. There is a plan for me behind everything that happens, even if I don't understand it at the moment. For other young people trying to find their way, I'd just say this: faith and trust are absolutely crucial, but you also can't be afraid to go out and work for what you want. Trust in the process and path that God has for you, and do things to make it happen.
Q: In November, you skated in the Scott Hamilton & Friends benefit show down in Nashville. How did that opportunity come about, and what were some highlights of that whirlwind weekend?
A: So basically I got the opportunity to do the show because Katia Gordeeva couldn't, and Scott is good friends with Kori, and she recommended me. It was so fun getting to see people that I haven't seen in a long time, and it was great getting to know other people better. I'm also a fan of country music, so of course, getting to meet Florida Georgia Line and The Brothers Osborne was really, really cool! We also raised a good amount of money for cancer research, and that's honestly the best part!
Q: Looking forward to Nationals this week and the rest of the season, what are some of your goals both on and off the ice?
A: This whole year has really been about showing quality and consistency. The past month-and-a-half has been kind of rough for me physically, but the past two weeks have been great for recovery and progression, and my biggest goal is to just go and show that I belong amongst the best ladies in the country. I want to continue seeing how my technique has progressed this year, and I want to skate for myself, without worrying about results.
Middle photo by Flavio Valle, right photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty
Favorite kind of coffee?
If you could only paint your nails one color for the rest of your life, what color would you choose?
Favorite jump and spin to do?
Jump: triple flip
If you were a dessert, which one would you be?
Top 3 fave Bible verses?
Movie that never fails to make you laugh?
Biggest role model?
There are so many different people I look up to for so many different reasons that I can't really pick one!
What's the most annoying noise?
There is one particular sound that my friends like to make to annoy me and it's kind of like when a baby bird is asking for food, and it's THE ABSOLUTE WORST.
Last thing you Googled?
Best way to decalcify an espresso machine
Quote to live by?
A quitter never wins and a winner never quits!
KEEP UP WITH COURTNEY
Photography Instagram: @courtneyhicksphotography
Photography Facebook: Courtney Hicks Photography
Good luck at Nationals this week, Courtney, we're all rooting for you! The ladies' short program takes place on Thursday, January 24th, at 7:54 pm EST, and the ladies' free skate takes place on Friday, January 25th, at 6:30 pm EST, both at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Watch online with the NBC Sports Gold Figure Skating Pass (and there might also be some fan streams of it, so check Twitter)!
All other photos courtesy of Courtney Hicks