Brian Boitano’s Early History

WHEN I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD, I was a daredevil roller skater on the sidewalks of Sunnyvale, California, where I grew up. I spent every waking moment on my roller skates.

Then my mom took me to see an ice show and I was hooked. I had never seen anything like that before; it was athletic and challenging and exciting and fast. Skating was just really cool. So after that, when I roller-skated, I’d pretend that our driveway was an ice surface. I’d draw chalk marks that were supposed to be the lines made by a blade on the ice. I’d put a blanket around my neck and pretend that it was a cape and that I was Rudolph Valentino, starring with Peggy Fleming.

I’d even make little billboards out of wood, announcing the show I was starring in:
PEGGY FLEMING, STARRING WITH RUDOLPH VALENTINO. I have no idea why I decided to take the name Rudolph Valentino!

When my roller skates got too small, I’d cut out the toes so that I could keep wearing them for months and months. My toes stuck out of the ends of the boots, but I kept skating. My mom remembers that when I wore hand-me-down skates that were too large, I’d put on sneakers and then put on my skates over them. Even as I was pretending to skate on ice, I was begging to try ice skating for real. My parents finally took me to an ice rink in Sunnyvale that was four minutes away from our house. I vividly remember my first private lesson with Linda Leaver. I remember that the rink was really crowded. And I remember the magical feeling when the rink lights changed colors.

I WAS EIGHT AND A HALF YEARS OLD when I entered my first competition in the Pixie Derby Boys division.

Before the competition started, I was waiting for Linda out in the parking lot with my skates already on. When she drove up in her car, I went over and said, “Linda, how will I know when it’s time to skate?” She said, “A man who’s a referee will come get you.” But I was just as detail-oriented then as I am now; I needed to know everything. So I kept saying, “But how will I know it’s my turn?” She kept repeating that the referee would tell me, that everything would be fine. And, of course, it was. I competed with one other skater. When I came off the ice, I told Linda that I didn’t even breathe when I was out there—that’s how excited I was. Competitions were fun because Linda would bring all her students. We’d stay in hotel rooms, jump on the beds, ride the elevators, and eat out together. It was a blast.

MY TRAINING REALLY BEGAN when I started taking private lessons.

When I was in elementary school, my mom would pick me up at 2:30 P.M., take me to the rink, and I’d skate until 8:00 RM. Then I’d go home, do homework, and go to bed. In high school, my schedule switched around. I’d get out of bed at 4:30 A.M. and I’d be at the rink at 5:30 A.M. I’d skate until 10:00 A.M. and then go to school. I missed the first two periods, but that was okay because they were physical education and a free period, and I received P.E. credit for skating. I was lucky, because my teachers and principal supported my skating and helped me organize my schedule. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had enough practice time.