With schoolwork, team practices and intense competition, college can be rough for student athletes. Sure, we get the football jocks and Lax Bros. yet somehow Travis Mager and James Morgan don’t fit into this sporty stigma. They’ve got the trophies and abs to show for their athleticism, but these boys don’t just pass a ball back forth. They’re male figure skaters.
Mager is an art history major at University of Pennsylvania planning on following up with a law or medical degree. If that’s not resume fodder enough, he is also a national ice dancing champion and a two-time national silver medalist. He’s even competed on the international circuit for three seasons representing Team USA in eight different countries, and has represented the United States at two Junior World Championships.
Mager is an ice dancer, which he explained is, “Athletically driven, but puts a greater emphasis on musicality, performance, and intricacy of movements between the partners without overhead lifts or jumps and throws.” Basically it’s like ballroom dancing on ice.
Morgan is currently at Boston University studying computer science. Unlike Mager, Morgan does pairs figure skating which, “focuses on high energy lifts and throws,” he told me. “I’ve tried ice dancing… but it’s hard to not want to lift a girl over your head and chuck her as far as you can!” Morgan and his partner are the current Novice Pairs National Bronze Medalists and the Novice Pairs Eastern Sectional Champions.
I’ve always wondered how guys get into figure skating. You don’t hear about parents driving their soccer-mom vans to take their son to the rink. Mager got his start in grade school where his headmaster Ken Smith took him under his wing. From then on, he’s been inspired by his award winning coaches like Natalya Linichuk and Gennadiy Karponosov to keep going.
As for Morgan, he started out playing hockey, “But I quit because my feet were getting too cold” he said, tongue-in-cheek. But when he was introduced to hockey’s artsy cousin, figure skating, he was fascinated. “When my friend suggested that I go [skating] with her one day, I couldn’t refuse. My first day, I was hooked and haven’t stopped since.”
Skaters don’t spend all their time on the ice. A lot of the training takes place in dance studios working out choreography and lifts. This especially comes into play in pairs skating. Morgan spends a crazy amount of time at the gym strength training in order to lift girls over his head. He has a strict routine that involves creating a season schedule to plan out time for classes, practice and, of course, performances. Mager actually spent his first two years at the University of Maryland until he took two years off to hone in on his skating abilities.
So what’s in the future for these two star skaters? Naturally I asked about the Olympics to which Mager replied, “making it to the Olympics would be an incredible achievement and I probably wouldn't be able to comprehend the magnitude of that success, but I believe that a skating career isn't defined by which competitions you make it to or necessarily which colors the medals are that you have won.” This is pretty humble considering he was in Germany traveling with Team USA when he was 19. “I do have big dreams for this sport,” Mager admitted. “The Olympics are definitely in my sights. It is probably unrealistic to think that we [he and his partner Alexandria Shaughnessy] will be ready for the 2014 Olympics in Russia. However, who knows where we’ll be for the 2018 Olympics. All we can do now is keep practicing and having fun, because that’s why we started to the sport in the first place.”