Emma Dickau has always been one for an audience, even at her birth.
She was just 4 pounds at birth and spent a long time in the NICU, said Heather Dickau, her mother.
“She was born in front of teams of doctors,” Heather said. “I say she was meant to be in front of people.”
It is fitting, then, that this Friday 10-year-old Emma will compete in the Juvenile girls free skate in the 2019 GEICO U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, perhaps her biggest audience yet.
“I’m more excited than nervous because I really want to do my best,” Emma said. “It’s a big thing.”
Indeed it is. U.S. Figure Skating is a long system, Heather said, but participation in this event could, eventually, lead her to represent Team USA as she gets older. This event is the farthest along she could go in the Juvenile classification, and she will be the youngest of the 12 participants.
Emma started figure skating five years ago and quickly became fanatical about it, so much so that the Dickau family – Dan, her father, is the former Gonzaga basketball player and TV commentator – opted to homeschool her so her schedule could be more flexible.
“It is the thing that she literally has to do,” Heather said. “She’s stir crazy without skating.”
Because of that, Heather and Dan are willing to get up at 4:45 in the morning so she can have the Eagles Ice Arena to herself, and they are willing to drive her back in the afternoon so she can continue to train.
That requires particular sacrifice in a family with six children, ranging in age from 14 years to 4 months.
“She’s such an athlete and so committed, it makes it so easy for us to say, I’ll get up early. We’ll do whatever it takes for her because she is willing to put in the work,” Heather said. “It’s a huge family commitment to have a high-level athlete.”
The Dickaus certainly would know. Heather is an accomplished dancer, and Dan starred at Gonzaga before playing eight seasons in the NBA. He travels a lot now for work, but he’ll be able to fly from San Diego to join the family in Detroit this weekend.
“It’s gonna be pretty cool. I’ve been able to have success in the sport that I loved growing up, and to see her put in all the hard work, and to have success at this level, and to qualify for such a high-caliber competition, is awesome,” Dan said. “At the end of the day you want your kids to find something that they want to do and be as good as they possibly can at it.”
To reach nationals, Emma placed third in the Pacific Coast Sectional in November in Salt Lake City. Scoring is split into two categories, executed elements – the lutzes, the axels, the flips – and factored program components, which relates to skating skills, performance and interpretation of the music.
Emma had the highest score in the program components.
“Going down to sectionals, we knew maybe we had a shot, but it was gonna be very, very tough,” said Randy Clark, her coach at the Lilac City FSC. “She skated really well. They just loved her skating.”
Clark has been coaching figure skaters for 35 years and has had a number go on to nationals. Emma’s self-motivation stands out to him.
“She’s probably one of the most driven, and for me, at a young age, one of the most talented to do what she’s done at such an early age,” Clark said.
When they get to Detroit, Emma will have a couple days to practice before the competition on Friday.
“For every skater, for every parent of a skater, you just want them to skate their best,” Heather said of her expectations. “For her to just get off the ice and pretty much be proud of what she’s done, that’s the biggest thing.”
Emma said she is excited for the chance to skate at the highest level she can.
“I like skating because I can do a bunch of things that not a lot of people can do,” Emma said. “When I step on the ice, I feel like I can do anything.”
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