Being unable to skate in 2020 was a common occurrence for most skaters, but for Gabriella Izzo, her time off the ice started before the pandemic.
After making her senior U.S. Nationals debut in Greensboro, North Carolina, Izzo tore the labrum in her left shoulder which required surgery.
“I had to get surgery right after Nationals and then while I was in recovery, the pandemic hit and all the rinks closed. I was off the ice, probably from mid-January to June. In the beginning, I could go to PT and do everything I needed to do. But then as things got worse and everything was more restricted and there was the stay-at-home order, it became a lot harder.”
“There’s definitely that fear. Not so much that I would [injure myself] again – because the way the surgery and the surgeon fixed it, kind of made it more stable. But there’s that fear that you won’t be able to do what you did before or it won’t work the same way. Or you have to shift your technique or this and that. That’s a very real fear. And it’s not really eradicated or dealt with until you get back on the ice and you can finally start doing things again.”
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Born in California, Gabriella first began her skating journey when she was eight or nine, after spending a lot of time at the rink whilst her brother was playing hockey. Finding a love for skating quickly, she started taking private lessons where coaches realised her potential and Izzo decided to pursue it more seriously.
After moving to Massachusetts, she started rising through the domestic ranks and in 2019, became the U.S Junior National Champion. Recalling the experience she said, “It was very exciting. To be able to almost give back to everybody that sacrificed for me to get there and a token of appreciation, especially, to my family and my mother and to my coaches. But more than anything it is extremely satisfying and rewarding to have all of that hard work pay off.”
The following season Izzo split competitions between the junior and senior ranks, but said she didn’t really notice a difference in competing as a senior until her first senior Nationals. “When you get out there and there is a much bigger audience. Or sometimes that practice ice and warm up – it is people that you’ve looked up to for a while, and then you realise that you’re directly competing against them. It’s almost shocking in a way.”
“Training as a younger girl, you never really think you’ll get to that level. It’s kind of a far-off goal. But then all of a sudden, you’re there and you are side-by-side with these people and it’s all a level playing field. And it’s nerve wracking, but it’s also very, very exciting.”
After her post-Nationals surgery, Izzo also had to do a lot of the physical therapy by herself during lockdown, explaining, “It was like self therapy, a little bit, which was difficult or over zoom meeting with the physical therapist. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing hands on. So I couldn’t exactly do the same massage and the same muscle release techniques, I could do the exercises, but a lot of it in order to break up scar tissue needs to be hands on. So it probably took a little bit longer for my shoulder to heal. But with all the rinks closed, it didn’t impact it so much as it would have if all the rinks had been open.”
Your skating idol?
Yuna Kim, for sure. So consistent, so beautiful, so powerful. And just, in my opinion, like the epitome of figure skating.
This season Izzo made a coaching change from Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson to Aleksey Letov and Olga Ganicheva at the Skating Club of Boston.
“It’s actually been really smooth. I haven’t changed coaches a lot before this, I had only switched coaches once. So it was kind of a scary transition. But I felt really welcome. Everyone there was really welcoming. It was definitely different to get used to their style of training, but I think it works really well. And if you just go into it with an open mind and are willing to do everything they say and just go for it – then I think transition works.”
She worked with Adam Blake, who cut the music and choreographed her short program, an Edith Piaf medley. “I’ve always loved when Kaetlyn Osmond did Edith Piaf at the Olympics. When she did it, I was awestruck by it. And [my coaches asked] ‘Is there anything you would really like to do?’ And I said, ‘Well, I really love this piece of music.’”
Her free skate, With One Look from Sunset Boulevard, was originally made for last season but with only one competition Izzo decided to keep it for this year too. “We started [it] in the pandemic. So it was choreographed, over zoom for a little bit then [Jamie Isley] came in person, but it’s definitely developed since then.
“I just fell in love with [With One Look from Sunset Boulevard] because I thought it was so unique and I hadn’t heard of it before in skating. It was so dramatic and so powerful and I thought it was a really nice piece of music to skate to.”
When talking about her goals for the season, Izzo likes to play the long game. “People always like to say it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and I think that really applies. Every single time I get on the ice to compete or just to train, I try to take and see it as an opportunity for growth. Regardless of what happens this season, there are still more seasons to come after it. And I like to use each season as a stepping stone, and to bring my skating to another level.”
A fun fact no one knows about you?
I absolutely love romantic comedies, even if they’re trashy. I think they’re so cute and so funny to watch. Even if it’s such a predictable ending like those horrible Hallmark Christmas movies. I’ll always watch those. I think they’re so cute.
During the pandemic, Gabriella also began her studies at Harvard University where she plans to concentrate on Government with a secondary in Environmental Science and Public Policy.
“It was definitely weird to start [university] online, not the normal experience. And to meet people online, you don’t really meet people, it’s a little weird but I’m really excited to go on campus this year for classes.
“A lot of the classes that I was looking to seemed very, very interesting and I had taken a few pre-med courses, and I wasn’t finding it as stimulating or as interesting as I was hoping I would. At the end of the day, I just want to do something that I very much enjoy and find extremely dynamic and interesting. So it was the decision to start looking into other courses and then I kind of fell into this where I’m really interested in environmental science and public policy and law and stuff like that. So then I just kept running with it.”