Patrick Blackwell first stepped onto the ice at the age of two. His mother, formerly a senior-level figure skater in her native Germany, had decided to introduce both her children to the sport early, “because if you decide to pursue it; you need all that time to achieve the expectations of skating today,” says Annette Blackwell. “But will they like it? That’s up to them.”
By all measures, skating would go on to become an abiding passion for Patrick, whose talent and drive has elevated him to the top ranks of his age group. Today he is the 2020 juvenile New England champion and a recent juvenile bronze medalist at the Eastern Sectionals, earning a coveted spot on the U.S. Figure Skating High Performance Development Pool (AHPDP).
“What is most satisfying is the reward when you try, try, and then — oh my gosh – almost!” says the thoughtful 12-year-old. “The feeling of frustration in attempting and then getting it – it just feels great. And finally after a while you practice it, you grasp it.”
Patrick’s passion for skating started out at a Warwick, Rhode Island, rink. His drive and natural ability led Annette to book a lesson with The Skating Club of Boston’s Adam Blake, artistic director of the Theatre On Ice program.
“We took some lessons with him,” she recalls. “We also saw Garret [Lucash] working with skaters on the ice – and I thought that’s what Patrick needs: those basics, those skilled techniques.” They joined the Club in 2018 when Patrick was 10, and his current coaches are Suna Murray and Jun-Hong Chen.
“What excites me about the Club is the excellence and dedication of the coaches and atmosphere,” says Annette. “It’s the high-caliber environment I really want him to be in.”
“Yes, that is where I want to be!” chimes in Patrick.
He is absorbing not only what his coaches bring to training, but what he observes by watching the world’s finest skaters; he’s looking forward, he says, to learning a lot from the 2022 Winter Olympics. His inspirations right now include Jason Brown for his skill and musicality and Nathan Chen for “consistently landing his jumps.”
Jumps, in fact, are a big reason that Patrick loves to skate. He thrives on their ongoing challenge. “I can’t imagine a year or two ago how I couldn’t land this double toe,” he says. “Now I do the double every day and I’m trying for the triple.”
“You can see the happiness on his face, you can see victory, when he lands it,” says Annette. “But as a parent, it is not that you landed the jump that’s important, but that you had the consistency, through so many falls, to stay with it until you master it. I think that is why I like skating – it teaches you so many life skills.”
Patrick has charted where he wants to go from here. Now 12, he has moved to the intermediate level and is planning on making it to the High Performance Team again “and to land all my triples,” he says. A big goal as a future novice “will be to stabilize my triples and move on to junior competitions, and that will hopefully get me international assignments.”
As for the long term, “I have calculated two possible choices for the Olympics: 2026 and 2030, which I am hoping to do.”
Both Annette and Patrick see the new facility in Norwood as buttressing those high aspirations. The new performance center will be an exciting venue to see world-class skaters, but Patrick is also pleased by the breadth of off-ice amenities, including designated spaces for strengthening and stretching and for studying, which will allow him to keep up with homeschooling. “You can spend a whole day there,” he says, “using everything that’s available.”
Annette also appreciates the forward-looking vision of the new facility as it prepares young skaters for promising futures. “Today skaters need to be well rounded – you need fitness, dance, ballet – you need everything,” she says, “so to have everything under one roof is very appealing. It’s not only more efficient – but it’s more effective. We both have high hopes it will be the place that makes Patrick’s dreams, and those of so many others, come true.”