Figure skater heads to nationals
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org December 15, 2013 5:30PM
Paige Rydberg of Plainfield surveys the ice at the Darien Sportsplex. | Tina Akouris~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 17, 2014 6:18AM
Plainfield resident Theresa Koris isn’t like most parents who have children involved in sports. When you ask her if people understand what she has to go through, she has a quick answer.
“No, most average people don’t have a clue,” she said. “I’m a single mom, and I have to work 12 hours a day.”
Koris’ daughter, Paige Rydberg, is a figure skater — a really good one.
There are at least three choreographers that Paige works with along with a head coach, strength coaches and an Olympic-level coach who comes to town a few times a year. There’s also skates, skate blades, specially designed costumes that run from $800 to $1,500 apiece, travel expenses, coach’s fees, ice time and ballet and other dance lessons.
“She’s just too good,” Koris said. “It’s all worth it, but I never thought it would go this far.”
How far is Paige’s career going? The 14-year old is headed to the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships Jan. 5-12 in Boston. She will be skating in the novice division at nationals for the second consecutive year against 11 other skaters.
“There’s a lot of pressure, and it can get nerve-wracking,” Paige said.
She advanced to nationals after placing third and winning a bronze medal at the Midwest Sectionals in East Lansing, Mich., in November. Paige is also a two-time regional champion at the novice and intermediate levels.
After nationals, Paige’s season is over. But during the offseason, she and her coach, Mary Alice Antensteiner, will really get to work.
Next season Paige moves up to the junior division, one step away from senior ladies, and she and Antensteiner will work on completely new long and short programs and a whole new level of intense competition.
“She is very humble and isn’t a bragger,” Antensteiner said. “If her mother hadn’t called the school (about the sectional result) most people wouldn’t know she’s a skater.”
A demanding schedule, lifestyle
Paige is an eighth-grader at John J. Lukancic Middle School in Romeoville. On average, Paige misses about 30 days of school per year for figure skating competitions during the fall and winter.
“My school works with me, and I take one class online,” she said. “I only miss gym and lunch.”
“And she eats her lunch in the car on the way to the rink,” Antensteiner laughed.
But as she moves up the figure skating mountain, Paige is going to have a decision to make. Antensteiner said she’s trying to keep Paige in school as much as possible, but Paige may have to be home-schooled. The goal is to skate in the senior ladies’ division alongside skaters such as reigning U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Japan’s Mao Asada. Senior ladies skaters are eligible for the Olympics.
Paige’s skating life is busy and overwhelming enough now as it is. She trains six days a week for three hours a day at the Darien Sportsplex. If she advances in skating competition, Paige may not be able to attend Romeoville High School.
“It’s like you’re climbing a mountain, and you want to get to the top,” Antensteiner said. “Our goal is to get to the top, and Paige has all the qualities to do that. She has two to four more years of hard work. So she’s three-quarters of the way there.”
Antensteiner said the goal is to get Paige to the Olympics in either 2018 or 2022. Even though Paige will be 18 for the 2018 Games in South Korea, Antensteiner thinks a more realistic goal would be the 2022 Games when she’s 22.
And part of getting to that goal is facing more expenses. There are sponsorships to get from local businesses that help defray some of the cost, and Paige belongs to the Northern Ice Skating Club in Naperville. Koris said she has sponsorships from five local businesses but is always looking for more.
Hoping to remain in Chicago area
When Paige skates, she doesn’t look like a novice or even a junior skater, the next level she hopes to reach. Paige’s jumps and spins look effortless, as if she has been skating for most of her life, and her technique leaves Antensteiner almost speechless.
But there was an interruption in Paige’s skating career, which didn’t seem to slow her down any. She started skating at age 3 and stopped when she was 6. She resumed at 8 when she started working with Antensteiner.
“I live in Romeoville, and it just happened that we live in the same area,” Antensteiner said. “She’s gone from a basic skater to an elite one in (five years). And she has had to endure a lot.”
Antensteiner coaches 22 skaters and runs the M.A. Figure Skating Academy in Romeoville. She said Paige is her top skater, which comes with the heavy price tag and a burden to be the best and do whatever it takes to get to the mountaintop.
Because Antensteiner is based in the Chicago area, she wants to do everything she can to keep Paige in the area. Giving Paige a sense of normalcy amid the whirlwind 24/7 ice skating lifestyle is paramount for Antensteiner.
There was a time when a top figure skater had no choice but to leave home at a young age to find the best coaches, but luckily those days are almost over.
“Skaters can go all over,” Antensteiner said. “Colorado is known for (where) boys (skaters go to train), pairs and dance are in Detroit and some top girls are in California. But I’ve done a lot of planning.”
So much so that she introduced Paige to Audrey Weisiger, a coach who has worked with two-time Olympic men’s skater Michael Weiss and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist Tim Goebel.
Before Paige and Antensteiner leave for Boston, there’s still the matter of working on the long and short programs for nationals. The short program for novice ladies is two minutes, 30 seconds and the long program is three minutes, 10 seconds. Paige’s most difficult jumps are the triple toe loop and triple salchow.
“We are tweaking and perfecting and making some slight changes,” Antensteiner said. “Around here, she’s a slam dunk winner. But (at nationals) everyone is very equal in their skill set.”
For more information on fundraising for Paige, visit www.gofundme.com/PaigePaige or www.paigePaige.com