Learn To Skate USA
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Learn To Skate USA

Determined to Skate: How Hicks Overcame Obstacles to Return to the Ice

Alexandra Hicks was 6 years old when she fell in love with ice skating. She was staying with her mother and father, whose job as an airline pilot brought them to a hotel in the Ivory Coast in Africa.

“It was raining, and when it rains in Africa, it pours,” Hicks said. “There was nothing to do, but there was an ice rink in the hotel, so my mom said, ‘let’s go skating.’”

Little did Hicks know at the time what started off as a rainy day activity turned into a lifelong love for the ice.

When Hicks returned to her home in France, her mother immediately enrolled her in regular lessons, and Hicks competed until she was about 16 years old.

“I was entering my last year of high school and my mom wanted me to really focus on graduating and getting into college,” Hicks said.

Though she stopped regularly competing, Hicks continued to skate and take lessons, fine-tuning her skills and soaking up every minute of her practice sessions. When she was 18, a phone call would change the course of her life.

“Disneyland Paris had opened and there was a rink, and they wanted skaters for their show,” she said. “So I auditioned, and I got the role of Mary Poppins.”

Hicks skated for Disneyland Paris for five seasons. When she turned 24, more news would shake her world again. Hicks was planning to immigrate to the United States, and with that she had to get a few medical screenings.

“And that’s how they found the cancer,” she said.

After moving to the United States, Hicks received surgery and started on chemotherapy pills to treat cervical cancer. Five years into remission, Hicks noticed random symptoms, including shooting pains and fainting. After eight years of no one being able to figure out what was wrong, she was finally diagnosed with three different autoimmune diseases: endometriosis, fibromyalgia and Sjogren’s syndrome. Today, Hicks deals with peripheral neuropathy, sensitivity to the cold and chronic fatigue on a nearly daily basis.

As for skating, she didn’t know when she would be back on the ice.

“I missed it so badly,” she said. “It was hard for me to watch the Olympics and World Championships. Skating was my life for such a long time.”

Returning to the ice was always a thought for Hicks, but she never acted on it, thinking she was too old to go back. One day, she came across a video of a 90-year-old ballerina who was still dancing and teaching. That was just the extra push she needed.

“She really inspired me because if she can do that, I can do this,” Hicks said.

Last year, Hicks laced up her skates again for the first time in 22 years.

“My first thought when I got back on the ice was that I feel so alive.”

Though she still has to deal with pain and tingling while skating, Hicks is determined to do what she loves.

“The overall sensation is so different — it’s tingling 90 percent of the time,” she said. “I really rely on my coaches, and when they’re not there I have to go back and look at videos because I can’t necessarily feel what I’m doing.”

Hicks does what she can to overcome her illnesses to continue skating, and even became a HotHands ambassador for the amount of HotHands she uses to combat the cold. The 45-year-old recently bought new skates and is planning on competing at the 2020 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships.

“Even if I don’t skate my greatest, at least I know I’ve overcome this,” she said. “I won.”

The ice is always calling, and it’s never too late to return to it. Learn to Skate USA, powered by Toyota, offers an adult skating curriculum for beginner to advanced skaters, whether you’re taking your first steps on the ice or returning after 22 years. Lace up your skates with Learn to Skate USA and find a program near you at learntoskateusa.com.

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