Young stars on the ice have Olympic dreams

Ice dancers Nastia Efimova and Jonathan Zhao. (WNCN)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It sounds pretty simple.

“You have to look up and smile,” said 9-year-old Nastia Efimova when explaining what it takes to ice dance.

But in reality there is much more to the rapidly growing sport. Nastia and her partner, 13-year-old Jonathan Zhao, practice five days a week. The two-hour sessions help perfect their routine in a sport where precision is everything.

“If one of us makes a mistake, it messes the whole thing up,” explained Jonathan.

The two have been a pair for two years. Ideally they will stay together with an eye toward the 2024 Olympics.

“This is what you want to do,” said the duo’s coach Nathan Truesdell. “You want to start them young so they have a long time to really get in synch so that when they’re ready for the Olympics they’re moving as one basically and thinking as one.”

Nastia and Jonathan will compete in the Figure Skating National Championships beginning this weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota.  In the Junior Division a top four finish for the team would be a very good showing.

But they’re thinking bigger.

“I think we can win,” said Nastia.

And when that moment comes, when it’s time to put all those hours of hard work to the test, you can bet their hearts will be thumping fast.

“Standing right before you’re getting on the ice to perform I get excited, tense,” admitted Jonathan.

The Nationals are where Olympians are made. Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi among others all shined at this event.  Nastia and Jonathan hope to do the same.

“My ultimate dream is to go to the Olympics,” said Nastia.

And even though that dream won’t happen this year, the seeds for the  future are being planted now.

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