By Mike Zummo
Jacob Sanchez was shocked when he received his pewter medal at the U.S. figure skating championships on Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.
Sanchez, an eighth grader at Valley Central Middle School placed fourth in the junior division when he scored a 177.55.
He wasn’t even hoping to medal. He went into the event looking to make two clean skates. He didn’t. He did what he called a “perfect, clean skate” in his first time on the ice and in the second, he fell three times, but was still happy with his performance.
“I was shocked,” Sanchez said. “I was watching the last guy skate, and everyone expected him to win, and I thought, maybe, there was hope. I got very excited when I heard the scores, and I was in disbelief.”
It was Sanchez’s third national medal. He won his first in 2018 when he won a silver at the juvenile level, and in 2019, he won a bronze in the intermediate men’s level.
He practices about six times per week at IceTime in the Town of Newburgh and is coached by 1984 Olympic bronze medalist pair skaters, Larisa Selezneva and her husband, Oleg Makarov. In addition to the Olympic bronze, Selezneva and Makarov also were 1988 World bronze medalists, and two-time European champions.
“I definitely feel very confident in what they’re teaching, and I trust them a lot because they have so much experience,” Sanchez said.
Selezneva wasn’t surprised by Sanchez’s accomplishment in Las Vegas.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know, and my husband knows, he can be successful,” she said. “It was a mental game. He has the whole package. He has a nice program. We were very proud of him.”
Sanchez has been coached by Selezneva and Makarov since he was 7 years old, but he started skating two years prior to that.
Initially, he wanted to play ice hockey.
He, and his mother, Johana, tried that, but he didn’t do very well on the hockey skates. Then someone recommended, figure skates, which have a toe pick on the front and a pick at the heel. They’re also longer than their hockey counterparts.
He found the figure skates to be more stable and Johana enrolled him in a “learn-to-skate” program, and it took off from there.
He said he has no regrets choosing figure skating over ice hockey.
“I like it because instead of expressing motions through words, I can do it through choreography on the ice,” Sanchez said. “I really like to perform, and I noticed over the years that my performance has definitely improved. I like doing high rotational jumps.”
Two of his highest jumps are a triple axel, which includes 3.5 revolutions and he’s working on a quad toe loop, which includes four revolutions in the air.
Sometimes the landings can be rough.
“There’s a lot of falling in this sport,” Sanchez said.
He’s driven to learn more and improve because he has both short- and long-term goals. In the short-term, he is focusing on making Team USA, and the U.S. International Skating Team. His long-term goal is to make it to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, Italy.
His coaches believe he can do it.
“He can achieve that because skating is a very mental sport,” Selezneva said. “He can achieve it if he can keep his mind right.”