Raise a Champion: practical advice from the parents of a figure skating prodigy

Michael Kislyuk. Photo Credit: Julia Artiukhov
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Every parent knows how difficult it is to organize your child’s schedule. It’s a balancing act on a tightrope that has you holding your child’s school, homework, and extracurricular activities in one hand, and your own schedule in the other hand. If something is even a little bit off the whole act can go awry. However, the parents of Michael Kislyuk, two Russian-Jewish immigrants who raised a 12 year old charismatic figure skater, have not only figured out a way to create this perfect balance, but have made their son a champion out of it.

At such a young age, Michael Kislyuk is already a novice ice skating champion who has won numerous awards, teaches an ice skating class at the local South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena and is on his way to win the nationals. Not only this, but Michael excels in his studies and is known to be a straight A student.

“Even if a child is super talented, the talent will go to waste if you don’t work at it” Victoria Kislyuk

You might say that this boy is something of a wunderkind, that he is one of the few children that have mastered the balancing act that not every child can overcome, however, this is a flawed mentality. Every child can become a champion of sorts and the secret to this is simpler than you’d think – the secret is parent’s involvement.

Michael’s ice skating career did not begin effortlessly. The charismatic young boy began skating when he was just three years-old and surprisingly he hated it and couldn’t stand that the ice was so cold. Nevertheless, there was still a small part of him that was drawn to the ice and at the age of four, Michael flourished into his newly found passion. Michael’s parents jokingly say that they struck out of luck after he discovered his love for ice skating as, “now we can never pull him out of there. The ice rink is like his second house”.

For Michael, ice skating is his life, “I can do anything on ice”, he says. The young boy spends most of his free time in an ice area and his usual weekly schedule consists of spending six days a week at an ice skating arena and five to six hours stretching and being on ice, while also fitting in school work. Michael calls his biggest enemy homework, yet, he’s still a straight A student and has passed many of his classmates in science, math, English, and social studies.

Every child can become a champion of sorts and the secret to this is simpler than you’d think – the secret is parent’s involvement

To many children competition is something to be fearful of, yet competing is Michael’s favorite part of ice skating and because of this enthusiasm for competing he has won “too many awards to count”. Every year he actively competes with other children and every year he is considered to be the youngest ice skater competing in his rank. Nonetheless, this does not bother Michael, “I may be small, but I have a big personality”.

This young ice skater’s talent has definitely not gone unnoticed by the local surrounding area and at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena he even has his own wall of fame showcasing his pictures, trophies, and awards he has won over the years. Besides this, he also has his own ice skating class at this ice arena where he teaches five year old children to skate. His mother, Victoria Kislyuk, often recalls how before one of her son’s classes many of the children couldn’t even stand on ice and only after two lessons with Michael, some were already gliding, “He can show his passion to other kids. This makes me prouder of him than when he wins competitions”.

Although, Michael is considered something of a celebrity in South Lake Tahoe, he says he doesn’t like being called a “star” or “famous”. He just considers himself a normal kid with a passion for ice skating. Even with ice skating taking up a significant amount of his life, Michael still finds time to do everything else a regular kid should do. He even finds time for his hobbies, which include playing several different instruments and building drones from scratch. Michael has many plans for his future and some of his aspirations include becoming a mechanical engineer or pursuing a career in professional ice skating.  Later this year, Michael will be testing to become a novice ranked ice skater, which is only two levels below the last and final senior ranking in ice skating.

“I’m really thankful for my parents, my grandparents, and everyone who supports me.
I couldn’t have done it without them”
Michael Kislyuk

“Even if a child is super talented, the talent will go to waste if you don’t work at it”, says Victoria.  It is important to not push your kids to do something they don’t want, but rather push them in the direction of doing something they already enjoy and that will benefit them in the future. “Nothing is easy, but it builds their character. If they work hard on their passion, they’ll work hard in their lives”.

Michael could have never become an ice skating champion if his parents did not dedicate so much of their time, money, and most importantly their unwavering support. Michael’s parents are constantly with him and encouraging him while he is in the rink. Michael definitely understands this unwavering support and has said many times, “I’m really thankful for my parents, my grandparents, and everyone who supports me. I couldn’t have done it without them”.

…competing is Michael’s favorite part of ice skating and because of this enthusiasm for competing he has won “too many awards to count”

Everyone deserves a chance to be a champion and a lot of these grand achievements are at the cost of parent’s time. You are in charge of your child’s goals and as a parent, you have the power to set their kids’ goals higher. Whether it be setting up a poster board or timetable for them depicting a goal that your child would be interested in or even just supporting and listening to your child when they talk about something they love and explaining to them why they need to work hard to achieve their goals, every second of parent involvement is not only vital, but treasured by the whole family.

Michael may have never realized he had a passion for ice skating if it wasn’t for his parents. It is highly likely that you too could follow the example of Michael’s parents and unearth a passion in your child that you never even knew existed. Anyhow, does anyone know if the local ice skating arena is still open?

Michael Kislyuk. Photo Credit: Julia Artiukhov | JuliettPhotography.ocm

FACTS ABOUT ICE SKATING & FACTS ABOUT MICHAEL

  • The US Figure Skating (USFS) sports organization has created tests with different levels that allows athletes to take the test and compete with others that are around the same level or ice skating. The ranks are as follows
    • Intro
    • Pre-Prelim
    • Preliminary
    • Pre-Juvinile
    • Juvinile
    • Intermediate
    • Novice – Michael is here
    • Junior
    • Senior
  • Michael earlier in his ice-skating career was trained by Sergei Ponomarenko, three-time World Champion and 1992 Olympic Champion.
  • Michael has custom-made skates.
  • Michael attends two schools because he is so ahead of his classmates. He attends regular public school, and then takes online classes. He is in 6th grade, but is in 8th grade online with science and social studies.
  • Michael’s average professional ice skating lessons are around $100-$125/hour.

“I may be small, but I have a big personality” Michael Kislyuk

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Alessandra Ensch

Alessandra Ensch, also known as Sasha, is a San Francisco born writer, artist, and student with Russian, Luxembourgish, and Irish roots. With a passion for languages, Alessandra speaks Russian and English fluently and has expert knowledge in French and German languages. She has studied abroad in Luxembourg and has completed an AA degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Arts and Humanities. She is currently studying Journalism and Art locally at Sacramento State University and can be found traveling, painting, and doing photography in her free time.

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