Skating lessons: you don’t have to be the best to be successful.


By Lindsay Steele

In the summer, I like to follow professional golf. In the fall and winter, I watch figure skating. It isn’t the popular sport it was in the Michelle Kwan era and usually only a few performances from select events are shown on TV. Usually the competition has ended long before the broadcast. To get up-to-date scores and see all performances, I rely on Twitter, bloggers and YouTube.


One of my favorite blogs, The Skating Lesson, recently did an in-depth interview with Carly Gold, twin sister of national champion and Olympic bronze medalist Gracie Gold. The story really touched my heart. The two 20-year-olds began skating at about the same age, but it was clear early on that Gracie was more athletically gifted. Carly accepted this and continued skating anyway, but the focus was almost always on Gracie, with Carly playing more of a supportive role.

She has handled her role with grace and humility – the girls are inseparable best friends — but it’s tough when people come up to her and see her only as Gracie’s sister, not as Carly.


Over the summer, The Skating Lesson interviewers asked Carly about her goals. While Gracie’s goal is to win the world championships this year, Carly’s goal was much less lofty but just as personally challenging. She wanted to qualify for the national championships. It’s something she’d attempted several times without success.

Her story resonated with a lot of people. Most, like me, related to being in someone’s shadow or not being the best at something. She could have given up, realizing that she could never achieve Gracie’s success. Instead, she chose to define success as achieving a personal best.

I wasn’t the only one who stayed up late last month following Twitter to see how Carly’s qualification performances would go.

In looking at the scores for her short and long programs, they were significantly lower than what Gracie would have been able to earn. But Carly worked very hard and gave some of her best performances. Her face turned to pure bliss in the waiting area when she realized she’d qualified for nationals. Her coach Frank Carroll, who has coached Olympic champions and rarely shows emotion publicly, seemed equally touched by the moment. He kissed Carly’s forehead as a proud grandfather might have done.

Later, Carly said it was the best day of her life. Gracie couldn’t have been prouder of her twin and they are thrilled that they will finally be able to compete at nationals together.

The role religion plays in the sisters’ lives is unclear, as they’ve never spoken about it publicly. However, I think Carly’s story offers perspective for all of us on gifts, accomplishments, humility and gratitude. We’re all going to feel jealous of others at some point, but God urges us to love and support others, instead. Every person has a gift to share, and while some people might seem more naturally “gifted” than others, God teaches us that all of our contributions are equally important.

If you’ve ever been afraid to try a new skill, take on a service project or get more involved in a parish ministry out of fear that you might not be the best at it, I encourage you to go for it anyway. Maybe take part in a Called and Gifted program to find out more about your gifts and how you might be able to use them. We can’t all be Gracies; most of us are Carlys, and that’s great. What we choose to do is not about perfection. As in Carly Gold’s case, it’s about doing our best with the skills we have.

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)

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