NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk figure skater Kirstyn Nanista thought her competitive career had ended on a bitter note. But a boyfriend’s prodding, a chance development with an Olympian and her own inner strength pushed her back on the ice to find the ending she craved — and deserved.
- Who : Kirstyn Nanista, Norwalk figure skater
- What : 3rd place finisher at New England Regional Championships in Senior Ladies
- Up next: Sectional championships this weekend in North Carolina
- On a brief retirement: “I didn’t have the same passion for it. I was ready to move on with my life and open up a new chapter. I wanted to focus on school rather than a sport I wasn’t in love with.”
Nanista, a Trinity Catholic graduate and a freshman at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, finished third last month in the Senior Division of the New England Regional Championships. In doing so, she qualified to compete in the Sectional Championships, which will be held this weekend in North Carolina, as part of the road to the national championships.
Remarkably, Nanista posted the best score of her long figure skating career at the regional competition after nearly a one-year retirement. She stopped skating competitively last year after injuries, time constraints and lack of motivation.
“I had a nice long run,’’ said Nanista, who started skating at age 2 under the tutelage of her mother, Rosemary, at Terry Conners Rink in Stamford. “I didn’t have the same passion for it. I was ready to move on with my life and open up a new chapter. I wanted to focus on school rather than a sport I wasn’t in love with.”
Nanista saw success early in her career, qualifying for the U.S. Junior Championships in 2010 and 2011. She fractured her back as an eighth-grader, however, and her scores started to slide. “It was a huge catch-up game after that,’’ she said. “It took a huge toll on my skating career.”
She figured she had hung up her skates for good last year after passing her Senior Level freestyle test. Earlier this year, she competed at an event in Lake Placid without little training or desire. Her performance reflected it. “It was a wakeup call,’’ Kirstyn said. “I thought if I’m going to do this, I need to commit everything to it.”
After she graduated from Trinity and headed to college, Nanista seemed comfortable staying retired. But when she learned the Regional competition would be held in Burlington, Vt., it piqued her interest. “They’re usually in Buffalo, and this year they were only two hours from school,’’ Nanista said. “It was something that crossed my mind.”
Her boyfriend, Mitchell Foster, a Texas native and defenseman on the Norwalk Oilers, asked Nanista to consider competing. “He thought it would be better if I left skating with a good taste in my mouth, rather than quitting when I was on the bottom,'' she said. "I thought about giving it one last shot, doing the best I can and leaving figure skating on a good note.”
Nanista returned to the ice for a short time before starting school. When she got to college, she learned that Elene Gedevanishvili, a former training partner from New Jersey and a three-time Olympian from Georgia, was also attending Plymouth State. Nanista asked her for help. “It was stressful,’’ she said. “I wasn’t sure this was a good idea.”
Nanista discovered, however, she still had her skating skills, and Gedevanishvili helped her stay mentally focused. “It was important that I skated as hard as I could and give it my all one last time,’’ Nanista said. “Elene helped me make sure that my head was in the right place.”
Without pressure and expectations, Nanista finished third at Regionals. Her score of 110.54 was the highest of her career, and she finished second in the free skate. “I wasn’t expecting to come in third place,’’ Nanista said. “That was unexpected. It was unreal.”
The performance gave Nanista the closure she was seeking to her skating career. She will compete at the Sectionals, but with the simple goal to enjoy herself. “The Regionals gave me the one final moment that I wish I had last year,’’ she said. “It was nice to qualify for Sectionals, but it doesn’t matter as much to me. I got that one last moment.”
When Nanista reflects, she sees a career filled with highs, lows, injuries, achievements and fulfillment. She is going out on her terms and without the regret that could have haunted her if she had not pushed herself for one final heartfelt performance.
“Skating taught me everything,’’ Nanista said. “It taught me perseverance, not to let life knock you down. I don’t regret anything that happened in skating. It was a great experience and journey for me. I have a lot of people to thank that. It made me the person I am.”
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