Young You (KOR) competes during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing (CHN). @GettyImages
The dream to compete at the Olympic Winter Games came true for 214 Skaters from 32 countries in Beijing (CHN) last February. It takes a lot of effort and resources to become an Olympian and not all Skaters and their Federations have the possibility to invest enough into the sport. This is where the ISU Junior Skater Scholarship comes in and it has proven to be successful over the years. Among the Figure Skaters at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, 17 have benefitted from the ISU Scholarship in the past.
Daniel Grassl (ITA) with his coaches reacts to his scores during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing (CHN). @GettyImages
Among them were well-known athletes such as 2020 ISU Four Continents silver medalist Young You (KOR), 2022 European silver medalist Daniel Grassl (ITA), 2022 European bronze medalist Deniss Vasilijevs (LAT), 2019 European bronze medalist Matteo Rizzo (ITA) as well as 2019 ISU World Junior Ice Dance Champions Majorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN), Austrian Champion Olga Mikutina (AUT) and Lindsay van Zundert (NED), the first Dutch Figure Skater to compete at the Olympic Games since 1976.
Lindsay van Zundert (NED) competes during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing (CHN). @GettyImages
“It meant a lot to me to receive the ISU Scholarship. It gave me a lot of motivation”, said Grassl (ITA), who was selected for the funding in 2019. “I felt really honored to be one of these athletes that got the scholarship.”
Daniel Grassl (ITA) competes during the 2022 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier (FRA). @ISU
Rizzo (ITA), who benefitted from the Program in 2017, agreed. “It was important for me and for my family. And it helped me not only in sport but in my school carrier,” he noted.
As for Olga Mikutina (AUT), she pointed out that: “For sure it contributed to my further progress and led to the result that we see now.”
Only Junior Skaters are eligible for the scholarship (see Communication 2461 for all application details). Their Federations can apply directly (application form) or the ISU Development Commission or Technical Committees can suggest Skaters for the funding. The amount varies between US$ 500 and US$ 6’000 per individual Skater or between US$ 2’000 and US$ 7’200 per Pair/Couple. The number of ISU Scholarship Awards is limited to the available budget, as decided by the ISU Council.
Matteo Rizzo (ITA) competes during the 2022 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier (FRA). @ISU
“Figure Skating is a very expensive sport, therefore any financial help does not hurt,” stated Mikutina, who received the scholarship in 2019 and 2020. “The funding by the ISU gave me a lot of advantages. First of all, we were able to pay for a summer training camp. There, I was able to prepare intensively and productively for the new season,” the two-time Austrian Champion explained.
Olga Mikutina (AUT) competes during the 2022 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier (FRA). @ISU
She felt that being selected was like a reward for the work she had put into her career – and a new motivation. “It was an additional motivation for me to train and to improve, to reach new heights.” She used the second scholarship for getting new programs and for private practice sessions to improve her jumping ability. Mikutina placed in the top ten at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in 2021, which was the best result for an Austrian Figure Skater in 24 years.
Daniel Grassl emphasized how the scholarship helped him achieve greater technical and mental development: “I used this money for my training, some private lessons and camps. With the help of private lessons and more training I was able to improve. It helped me a lot also mentally and in my development to be able to work more,” he observed.
Daniel Grassl (ITA) skates in the Men's Single Skating Short Program Team Event during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China. @ Getty Images
His teammate Rizzo, on the other hand, used the scholarship mainly for school. “I had to go to a private school because of practices and it was expensive for my family. But I used it also for summer camps in Figure Skating,” he shared. The funding made it possible for him to try new ice rinks and collaborate with different people during the summer.
Grassl and Rizzo also had the opportunity to participate in a seminar supported by the ISU Development Program named “The Art of Components” taking place in Italy in 2019. This seminar aimed at developing the performance, interpretation and components aspects of Figure Skating programs, and included contributions from well-known choreographers, ballet dancers, a composer as well as a fashion stylist to help Skaters understand what a fully well-rounded program is. “The seminar was really good. It helped us athletes a lot to understand what the judges expect to see. We knew what we really have to work on to improve in the Components. I thought it was really interesting,” Grassl shared.
The ISU Scholarship helps young Skaters to make their dreams come true and to develop further in their respective ice skating disciplines. While the spectators around the world celebrating the stars of today, the stars of tomorrow are growing.
“I want to thank the ISU for supporting young athletes at the beginning of their path and to help them to reach their potential,” Mikutina noted. “It is very important that not only experienced and decorated athletes receive financial help, but also the one that are just at the start of their career.”