Local Figure Skater Chases Her Dream
Lake Forest ice dancer Tory Patsis makes life altering decisions to pursue possible Olympic glory.
Ice dancer Tory Patsis may be a few years from joining the ranks of Matt Grevers and Jillian Schwartz as Lake Forest High School Olympians, but when her sophomore year came to an end last June, she jumped at the chance for an opportunity.
The journey that took her from her Lake Forest home after two years in high school to living with a host family in Colorado Springs so she could train at the highest level with her partner, Joseph Johnson of Ft. Collins, CO, is a unique one.
Patsis began skating at 10 and Johnson at 8—he is now 18—as they evolved through different aspects of the sport to ice dancing.
Technology helped make them a team. “It’s like a dating service for skaters,” Johnson said of the search for a pairs or ice dance partner. “You put in your skills, your age, your goals. It’s like E-harmony.”
Yet the pairing of Johnson and Patsis was as much chance as technology. She entered her information in the computer and was invited to Colorado Springs for a tryout. Johnson was not the one who asked her.
“I was out here trying out for two others but Joe was the one who called me back,” Patsis said.
“We saw her skating and liked what we saw,” Johnson added.
After Patsis got the call she started her plan to transition from classes at Lake Forest High School to an online program through Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs. She found a host family and by June was living more than 1,000 miles from home growing up fast.
“I was not used to doing all the things my mom used to do for me like cooking and laundry,” Patsis said. “It was an adjustment but I feel like I am much more responsible. It’s a good feeling.”
The next step training with Coach Patti Gottwein and choreographer Trina Pratt is stepping up from the novice division where they were to the junior Team USA.
They hope to do well enough in events to represent the Americans in international competition, eventually reaching the senior level and an Olympic berth. “We’re shooting for the Olympics in 2018,” Johnson said.
They have charted a lengthy course they see as realistic. Ice dancers are able to compete at a world-class level longer than other skaters. “We have a longer shelf life,” Johnson said. “You can do well in your 30’s.”
Both skaters started out in figure skating but came to like ice dancing best. Patsis began as an individual competitor, did some pairs and eventually came to prefer ice dancing two years ago. “I decided jumping was not for me,” she said.
Done right, an ice dance routine will hold the audience’s attention throughout rather than just during athletic moves. “It’s less acrobatic,” Johnson said. “It’s really artistic what we do.”
The artistic nature of their sport is what makes Pratt and her choreography so important. “We couldn’t do any of this without her,” Patsis said.