Columbia's Mead figures to be skating showstopper

September 04, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Maybe Tiffany Mead should just skip the amateur skating career and go straight to the ice shows.

The Owen Brown seventh-grader already knows how to play to an audience. Turn up the music, turn on the cameras and Mead turns in her best performances. She can nail every double jump in the book and glide fluidly between them with a smooth artistic polish.

And she has that little extra something. Call it personality. Call it charisma. Her parents call it sparkle.

On the ice, Mead never feels jittery.

"I get nervous after I skate. When I'm out there, it's up to me. When I'm finished, it's up to the judges. That's the hard part," she said because judges often take more than 30 minutes to post scores at local events.

So far, she has been a big hit with judges. In four years, Mead has earned a medal in 17 of 19 competitions and won nine -- often edging out girls three or four years older.

Although Mead seems remarkably poised for her age, her coaches, Robert and Joan Ogilvie, say she is right where she ought to be for a 12-year-old plotting a course toward the senior national championships.

"Tiffany has a tremendous amount of talent, especially artistically," said Robert Ogilvie. "She has a natural feeling for movement, which is very, very helpful. She is athletic, she is creative and she has a lot of potential."

For the past 18 months, Mead has worked at the Northwest Ice Rink in Baltimore with the Ogilvies, former pairs skaters who were reserves for the 1948 British Olympic team. This fall, she will compete for the first time at the juvenile level, the lowest rung of national competition.

If she can win a gold or silver medal at the South Atlantic regional qualifier in Wilmington, Del., in November, she could skate at the national championships in February in Providence, R.I.

"I just want to go to nationals," Mead said. "Senior level, junior level, juvenile level -- it doesn't matter. If I go to the Olympics someday, great, but I really want to skate at nationals, turn pro for a couple years, then be a coach and choreographer."

Mead already has a solid foundation to build her dream on, and she works diligently for at least seven hours a week to get better.

"Once you have started landing these doubles, it just doesn't end there," said Ogilvie. "Eventually, as a skater grows, the jumps become higher, more powerful and more consistent. To )) do a clean program is extremely difficult. By clean that would mean 4 1/2 minutes with no mistakes, with no flaws."

The rest of the Meads -- parents Tom and Susan and 9-year-old Jason -- realized they were in for the long haul four years ago when Tiffany won her second competition at Skate Wilmington.

Tom Mead remembers that day well, "I said to the coach, 'That minute and a half just cost me $10,000.' Tiffany was totally pulled in by that point."

Although his financial estimate was low, Mead's assessment was right. Tiffany never can wait to get back on the ice. All he

and his wife had to do was come up with the cash.

Tom Mead estimates the annual cost of keeping his daughter on the ice at nearly $8,000. A two-week summer camp with some of the nation's top coaches at the Ice Castles International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., cost $1,000 alone.

Just as important as the money is transportation to local rinks where ice time is at a premium. Three years ago, Tom Mead traded his career in telecommunications for a shift supervisor position at the Northwest Rink. Now he can chauffeur his daughter to the ice and help his wife run a day-care operation from their home.

But all of the Meads agree that the sacrifices that affect even Jason, a budding golfer, are worth it.

"I didn't want Tiffany to look at us at age 20 and say, 'You didn't give me the chance,' " said Tom Mead. "You don't know what's going to happen, but you can't start this with skating at 14 or 15 -- that's too late. We've got to give her the chance now."

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