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The Indiana Daily Student

campus student life

IU figure skater Andy Deng breathes life into Bloomington skating community


Figure skaters don’t care much for the cold, IU freshman and national junior figure skating medalist Andy Deng said. 

“I don’t know why we put ourselves through it,” he said with a smile. “Most of us are just cold all the time.” 

From the day he first picked up the skates in Fort Wayne, IN, to his Pewter Medal finish in the National Figure Skating Championships last month, Deng still gets cold. 

You wouldn’t know it from his presence on the ice. At practice Sunday, he’s clad in light track pants and a hoodie that soon gives way to a t-shirt as he glides across the ice. His movements are fluid, cutting through the frigid air with a learned ease.  

He’s skating across Frank Southern Ice Rink, the only rink in Bloomington. He often tags along with the Bloomington Figure Skating Club, which reserves the rink four days a week.  

There aren’t many members in the club, but the range in age and experience is enormous. Children as young as five years old and 76-year-old Carol Hall, who started figure skating when she was 30, share the rink on any given Sunday. 

Hall commutes all the way from Indianapolis to Frank Southern once a week. It’s not convenience that draws her, she said, but the people.  

“I just love the community that we have here,” she said. 

For Deng, skating with the club is his best option to practice during a normal week. He doesn’t get as much practice time as some of his competitors, he said, but still puts in enough time at Frank Southern to stay sharp. 

When he’s on the ice, it’s hard to look away. 

He plants a foot with focused precision, then steps gracefully into a double flip. While Deng’s movements may not show it, every maneuver takes extraordinary body control. Judges are can be strict, he said — one blade at the wrong angle, or a couple degrees short of a turn, can result in point deductions.  

Without blinking, he sticks the landing. It looks almost effortless. 

Deng’s close friend and former competitive skater Ryan Xie, also a freshman at IU, said effortless is the last word he would use to describe Deng’s skating. 

“It’s really inspiring to see him still be able to skate, because I know how busy he is outside of the rink,” Xie said. “I understand his work ethic and what he’s able to do.” 

Deng’s grit was put to the test after he suffered a torn meniscus while practicing in November, an injury that could have taken anywhere between three and six months to heal. He was back to skating after two.  

Deng and his skating partner of only a few months, Adele Zheng, took home the Pewter Medal at the US Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 24. 11 days later, he was in Oberstdorf, Germany, securing a fifth place finish at the Bavarian Open. 

His trophy cabinet is well-decorated from years past of winning bronze, silver, and gold medals at different levels of international competition. But Deng is not too taken with his own accomplishments.  

“I don't really care about the placement as much,” he said. “I mean, it's cool to get some hardware, but I know it's not a huge thing.” 

More valuable to him than any medal are the connections he’s formed traveling all over the world. He met Xie at a competition in California in 2018, before they both ended up at IU by chance.  

Deng sees international tournaments as more of a social event than a competition. When his opponents are his friends, competing feels more like showing off how much he’s learned since the last time they saw each other. 

His love for community has coincided well with a timely resurgence of IU figure skating. While a strong force not too long ago, IU’s Figure Skating Club was shredded by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The rink was closed down during the pandemic, so there was nowhere to practice for most.  

Now a group of IU figure skaters is headed to Wisconsin on Sunday to compete against other schools for the first time in at least two years. 

Sophomore Laurel Knight, first-year transfer Emi Worstell, and junior Mia Domino are among the eight IU figure skaters competing this weekend. The three also skate with the Bloomington Figure Skating Club, often coaching the younger skaters in the club. 

Deng’s presence alone has been a benefit for the younger and older members of the club alike. It’s not often that anyone gets a private showing from one of the most accomplished junior skaters in the country.  

“Honestly, it’s just helpful to see someone with that level of technique,” Knight said. “Even just doing the single or double version of his triple jumps — it’s really helpful to see how he goes into it.” 

Up next for Deng are the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Taipei, Taiwan, beginning Feb. 28. The week-long competition will feature familiar faces from across the world. Deng is always up for the challenge. 

“I feel like it’s built me as a person, just to kind of push through everything,” he said. “Even if you don’t feel great, you gotta do it anyway.” 

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