2020 Canadian National Silver Medalist
Story by Michael Seguin / Photography by Danielle Earl
When asked to describe the sensation of figure skating, Alison Schumacher sparkles. “It’s indescribable,” Alison admits. “Gliding on freshly Zamboni-ed ice. It’s freeing, never static. It’s moving! A form of expression. You’re just flowing with energy.”
Alison is Windsor’s own prodigious 17 year old Canadian ladies’ singles figure skater of national and international acclaim. And, as of this year, she is a 2020 Canadian national silver medalist.
Born in Zhuzhou, China, Alison Schumacher was adopted by Jen and Albert Schumacher. Alison grew up in Tecumseh and has a difficult time remembering life before taking to the ice. “My Mom and Dad put me in skating lessons when I was four,” Alison recalls. “That’s basically how it started. I guess people thought I was good!”
Alison’s first coaches were Stacie Diemer and Jen Jackson at the Riverside Skating Club. From an early age, Alison exceled, periodically performing at ice shows. “The ice shows were hosted to raise money,” Alison states. “They were always fun. They brought a lot of energy to the arena. I always enjoyed that, the social aspect of skating.”
However, early on, Alison was had mixed feelings about the competitions. “I wasn’t a fan of training for the competitions,” Alison admits. “The multiple run-throughs. The expectations, the pressure. I wasn’t a big performer. That wasn’t my thing when I was younger.”
Ironically, despite being lukewarm about competing, Alison continuously did well. “I did pretty well, in my early days,” Alison states. “Pre-Juvenile is when I started doing a lot better in the competitions. And in Pre-Novice I really surprised myself. I came in third at Challenge, Skate Canada’s national competition. That was a big step for me, because when you advance a level it’s hard to know where you’re going to end up. So that was definitely one of my highlights. I saw a lot of improvement in those years.”
As Alison began ranking higher and higher, her long-dormant competitive side began to ferociously reveal itself. “Expectations kept rising, but I kept meeting them,” Alison laughs. “I started to enjoy skating a lot more. With more success, I started developing more confidence. And when you become more successful, the social aspect becomes more important, too. You keep meeting new people at new competitions. I really liked that.”
During her time in the Novice league, Alison experienced some difficulty with ranking. However, during her first Junior year, she moved east to train at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club. She later went on to place third at the Junior Canadians. “That was a big confidence-booster for me,” Alison states. “A breakthrough.”
The following year, Alison received two international Junior Grand Prix assignments. “That was my first time competing internationally against people from different countries,” Alison states. “It was really cool. You’re with a Canadian team with people from different disciplines, from all over the country. You really get to know them when you’re abroad. We all travel together and face things as a team.”
Additionally, while skating solo at the international level, that season Alison shared the ice with her first and only partner at the national level. “I skated with Zachary Daleman,” Alison reports. “It’s very different. You always have to be aware of your partner. But at the same time, you need to focus on your job and what you need to do. It’s definitely a team effort. You need to work together in order to be successful.”
Alison has since performed at many different competitions, at higher and higher levels. Her most recent competition at the 2019 World Junior Championships remains her proudest moment. “I placed 10th at my most recent competition,” Alison states. “Which was unexpected.”
As a result, Alison was given two assignments for the Junior Grand Prix. She then went on to place 18th at the JGP France and 7th at JGP Croatia.
For a figure skater to crack the top 10 on their first international competition is a major breakthrough.
And, after years of meeting expectations, Alison continued to surpass them. In January, Alison placed second at the 2020 Canadian Championships. “Winning silver was very satisfying after how hard I trained,” Alison states.
And Alison’s training regimen is not for the faint of heart. On a typical day, Alison skates for two to three hour long sessions. Alison will arrive at the rink for seven in the morning, perfecting her jumps and technical work until eight. Then, Alison goes off to school, only to return to the club before noon for an hour and fifteen minutes of program training. After a short break, Alison will then train the second program. Every day involves off-ice work as well, such as Pilates, cardio or psychotherapy. And all this must be managed around Alison’s schoolwork.
“The most demanding part of figure skating is how mentally tough you have to be,” Alison states. “You have to put yourself on the line on competitions and for those long hours of training. It’s a big workload—every day. It’s very mentally challenging.”
Alison credits her psychologist for helping her work through the struggle. “I work with a psychologist,” Alison explains. “I have mental techniques to help manage stress.”
Fittingly, Alison plans on pursuing the Social Sciences after university. “I’ve applied to university,” Alison states. “I want to get a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology.”
Alison currently lives in Toronto, to train with her coach, 1988 Olympic bronze medalist Tracy Wilson.
There’s never a dull moment for Alison Schumacher. Last month Alison travelled to Seoul, South Korea to compete at the 2020 Four Continents. The competition marked Alison’s first time representing Canada internationally, with a national team. Alison placed 14th in the competition.
This month, Alison will be also be heading to Tallinn Estonia to compete in the World Junior Figure Skating Championships.
While the future is always uncertain, we’re confident that Alison Schumacher will remain in her element—weightless on freshly Zamboni-ed ice.