On 10 December 2020, two-time Irish senior champion Sam McAllister received word he had been chosen to represent Ireland at the 2021 European Figure Skating Championships. However, later that same day the International Skating Union (ISU) announced the competition had been cancelled due to the worsening situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In the week when he should have been making his Europeans debut, the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) talked briefly with McAllister about how he has kept his motivation despite all the setbacks he has faced this season.
For McAllister, the day he was chosen for the European Championships is a bittersweet memory, although he can still look on the bright side of it.
“It was a very proud moment for me when I received the email from the ISAI telling me I had been selected for the 2021 European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia,” he recalled. “For a few hours I was planning that journey and floating on cloud nine. Unfortunately, just four hours later, the ISU made the understandable and, in my view, the correct decision to cancel the championships due to the pandemic. But being selected has helped me stay positive in these strange times.”
In addition to the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, this season also presented McAllister with other obstacles. After winning the Irish Championships in February 2020, he was looking forward to finally competing again at the Budapest Trophy, an ISU Challenger Series event held in mid-October 2020, when disaster struck.
“I was involved in a serious car accident at the end of September, just two weeks before the international in Hungary,” he explained. “I feel extremely lucky to have walked away from this accident in one piece. My physio was very surprised that I hadn’t broken anything and sustained more serious injuries. He put it down to my body strength and fitness from figure skating. I couldn’t compete in the competition but threw myself into the rehab set by my physio team.”
With this season’s Irish Championships and other competitions falling by the wayside, McAllister has had to adapt and take things as they come.
“In this ever-changing world right now, I try not to plan too far ahead, but work in small steps, and so, for the rest of this season, I will just be getting ready for whatever may come my way.”
As this challenging season winds further down, McAllister has his eyes firmly on the future and is keeping himself in a positive frame of mind.
“I am really looking forward to the 2021/22 season. Hopefully, the world of skating will return to normal, and we can all continue to do what we love, skating.”
McAllister finished up with words of encouragement for those who may be struggling with their motivation in the sport during these tough weeks and months.
“Can I take this time to say to all our young skaters? I know it is a really difficult time, being off the ice, but your dream is still there waiting for you. The path is just winding slightly during these challenging times. I have changed my focus to concentrate on off-ice skills, jump rotation, flexibility etc. during each lockdown. This will improve my overall skating when I get back on the ice. Remember, we are living through a piece of skating history, something we will tell future generations about.”
You can continue to follow McAllister’s journey here on the ISAI website and social media accounts.