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SJ figure skater on the rise, but Olympic dreams on hold

SJ figure skater on the rise, but Olympic dreams on hold

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At 14, South Jersey figure skater Isabeau Levito is too young to compete in next month’s Winter Olympics.

But this month, she set herself up to be the future of women’s skating by winning the bronze medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville.

Levito, who was born in Philadelphia, lives in Mount Holly, Burlington County, and trains at the Igloo Ice Rink in Mount Laurel, has powerful footwork, solid triple jumps and a soft, artistic style that most skaters don’t develop until years competing at the senior level — if ever. She was the junior national champion in 2021.

This season, she also won gold at the Junior Grand Prix competition in France and the bronze medal at another Junior Grand Prix, in Austria.

This month’s championships had a lot at stake for the older skaters, including spots on the Olympic and World teams. Throughout the week, skaters tested positive for COVID-19, suffered injuries, and gave in to nerves.

But Levito, whose mother once described her as “a ball of fire coated in ice,” had everything to win and little to lose. She likely will be named to the World Junior Figure Skating Championship, but that team won’t be announced until early next month.

“My goal was to skate well and, as you probably know, to medal, to be on the podium,” she said. “I believed I could do it. But more importantly, I was focused on skating well, because you’re not going to reach your goal if you don’t skate good.”

In her short program, a balletic skate to “The Swan,” by Joshua Bell, she performed one of the most difficult triple-triple jump combinations, the triple lutz-triple loop.,

The move to senior was an adjustment, she said. The competition had a large crowd, bright lights “and a lot of good energy around.”

Her long had a mistake in one combination jump, but she said she was happy with her delivery and how she felt while skating it.

“Just very light and comfortable, you know? That’s why I really liked it because I felt comfortable there on the ice, and I had a lot of fun, so I liked the program in general.”,

“At this competition, I was just really enjoying every moment here. So nerves weren’t my highest priority right now. It’s more important that I’m having fun here.”

Named for Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in one of her mother’s favorite movies, Ladyhawke,” Levito pronounces her name “ease-a-bow.”

At home in South Jersey, she spends about three hours a day at the rink and is working on jump combinations “and from there, obviously, triple axels and quads.” She is working on the quadruple toe loop on a harness with her coach, for protection and confidence.,

When she’s off the ice, she likes to cook, read, and play with her four cats.

After her likely trip to Junior Worlds, “I’ll probably sleep a little more, eat a little more, take a vacation.”

She speaks Italian at home with her mother, who is from Milan — site of the 2026 Winter Olympics, which Levito has her eyes set on. Her grandmother lives there, and an aunt, uncle and cousins live nearby.

She has picked up a good amount of Russian from her coaches: Yulia Kuznetsova, Otar Japaridze, Slava Kuznetsov, Zhanna Palagina and Evgeny Platov. This year she began actively learning Russian using some apps on her phone and consulting with her coaches when she is stumped.

That coaching team makes it possible for Levito to stay at home, while many other skaters move away to train. Along with skating, the team provides off-ice training and ballet.

“My coaches do an excellent job with me,” she said. “They get me where I need to be.”

They also tell her what to think about while she’s skating to get the best possible performance.

“At one point in my short program, I do my combination spin, and then I do little toepick steps. I have a cat named Lana, and I love her so much. So Yulia told me, ‘When you do these toepick steps, pretend Lana’s in the clouds there.’”

"At this competition, I was just really enjoying every moment here. So nerves weren't my highest priority right now. It's more important that I'm having fun here." Isabeau Levito, on her performance at last weekend's U.S. Championships  

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