Mark Mitchell Interview

By Nat Lathy (NLathy@aol.com)


Note: this article was submitted to American Skating World in August 1996, but never published.


Like the Tom Petty song says, "The waiting is the hardest part." Mark Mitchell finds himself waiting to get back into top form, which allowed him to effectively challenge the top competitors in Olympic eligible and professional skating. Now, he finds himself gradually working his knee back to a level needed to jump with the stars.

Mitchell, 28, showed great promise during his first season of professional skating. In competitions, he finished ahead of skating legends including Kurt Browning and Viktor Petrenko. His professional competition high point took place at the 1994 Canadian Professional Championships. With a triple Axel in his arsenal, he finished ahead of Browning. Mitchell only finished behind superstar Scott Hamilton.

Shortly afterwards, a knee injury kept Mitchell off the ice for six months.

He came back last seasons with a knee allowing him to try only one triple Lutz jump a day. The triple Axel stayed on the shelf. Mitchell underwent surgery in May. He keeps his hopes alive he can get back to previous form.

Mitchell remains upbeat about his recovery.

"It's on the upswing," he said. "I'm just taking it a day at a time to see how it goes."

The days roll on, but the jumps are not pouring out. After a month layoff following the injury, Mitchell puts in one hour a day of training on the ice.

He finds the mental aspect particularly challenging.

"That's probably the hardest part of all," Mitchell said. "Towards the end I was just looking forward to having the surgery done. It was just a case of wanting to get through the rest of this stuff and hopefully make it better." Patience stands as the operative word for Mitchell.

"I'm not one of those people, who wants to light the world on fire--doing everything in two weeks," he said. "I don't think that's the wisest thing to do right now. I'm taking it easy, but I am on the ice every day."

Despite his limited opportunities to try the triple Lutz last season, he managed to land it at the 1995 Canadian Championship (He wound up fifth that time). Now Mitchell is not attempting the jump, but that does not mean he is ready to kiss it goodbye.

"I figure if I could do the jump on a knee that is in lousy shape, then on a knee that's in good shape I will be fine."

Mitchell looks forward to returning to the ice this season. However, he still needs to work out the details with his agent, Michael Rosenberg, to establish a competition schedule. Mitchell plans on unveiling new programs this season, but they are not completed. He refuses to get specific about these creations.

The skater is working on programs with choreographer Nathan Birch, instead of Jamie Isley, a mainstay for Mitchell in recent years. Mitchell insists this is not a shakeup situation. He also expects to work with Isley this season.

"We decided to try a couple of other things too, just to have a broad spectrum of things," Mitchell said.

Even with the injury, Mitchell still has enjoyed his time in the pro ranks. He said he finds it considerably more enjoyable than the pressure- packed Olympic eligible scene.

"I was really enjoying myself (before the injury)," he said. "I felt much more comfortable. There were so many competitions unlike amateur, where you have nationals and it's a one shot deal."

Mitchell also trains off ice along with devoting considerable time to coaching other skaters often in tandem with another coach in Boston. His skating schedule mainly involves competitions with little touring, so he can devote his afternoons to teaching.

"I'm fortunate to be able to work in Boston, where there are a lot of good skaters. It's definitely a challenge after having done it yourself to try and get others to do it, but challenges are good."

In his Olympic division career, Mitchell experienced moderate success. His best year, 1993, included a silver medal at US Nationals and a fourth place finish at the World Championships. Although, he went to the World Championships in 1992, his bronze-medal finish at US Nationals did not get him to the Olympics in Albertville.

Mitchell did not make it to Lillehammer in 1994 either. However, the Olympic void does not leave him longing for what might have been.

"Yes, it never happened," Mitchell said. "You have to be able to go on with life. That's the most important thing."

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