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Ice Dreams

Christina Gao started ice skating at the age of 7 because a neighbor in Sycamore Township was a skater, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. Now Gao is a favorite to make the Olympic figure-skating team competing in Sochi, Russia, in February. She spoke from Boston, where she attends Harvard in her spare time.

On high school: “I was not a normal student at Sycamore. I wasn’t there physically at school all the time. I took a lot of online classes junior and senior year. I never had lunch at school. I definitely struggled with the feeling of being not normal.”

On being a performer or an athlete: “You have to be both. You have to be a tough athlete but make it seem not as hard. You have to have the pretty dress. You have to have your hair up nicely, and you have to wear makeup. It’s performance-based for sure, but it’s a sport. I think most of the time I feel more like an athlete because the training days get long. I get really tired. You’re always sore.”

On coming home: “I want to see my family and my cat first. Then I would get a huge pizza and salad from LaRosa’s, because I love LaRosa’s and it’s not in Boston. Then black raspberry chip ice cream from Graeter’s. And then Kenwood mall. That would be my plan.”

On doing the “death drop.” “It’s hard to describe. Basically you almost do an aerial, but you’re not completely upside down, and you kick your leg behind you and you land in a spin. I learned that when I was really young. I like that spin a lot. It’s fun. It’s cool.”

Originally published in the January 2014 issue