WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Van Pierson started figure skating at a young age.
“I think I was around 6 years old and I think I went up to my mom one morning and I was just like. 'you know what Mom, I want to start ice skating;" Pierson said. "And she was like, ‘Alright, I’ll sign you up for hockey.’ And then I was like no I want to figure skate. She didn’t question it and she was like alright, I’ll sign you up for the weekly classes they have here.”
The news came as quite a shock to Van’s parents.
“When he wanted to take skating lessons, I assumed he wanted to take hockey lessons to learn how to play hockey,” said Margaret Pierson, Van’s mom. “So I said I would take him and sign him up for hockey and he said no I want to learn how to skate, figure skate, so I said OK lets sign up for ice skating, nope figure skating.”
So Van started with beginner figure skating classes at The Wilmington Ice House.
“He just never wanted to stop after each session. He just wanted to sign up again every time, so he just loved it.”
Van quickly grew out of the group lessons and started private coaching lessons with nationally known figure skater Kathie Kader.
He worked with Kader from ages 5-13.
Van’s mom remembers getting nervous about the thought of him moving away.
“When he started getting more serious, she would tell him stories of how she went away at age 14 to train in Colorado,” she said. "I remember thinking there’s no way you are going anywhere, don’t even think about it, that’s ridiculous, you know. Maybe when you’re in high school when you’re a junior or senior we could get somewhere big.”
When Kader decided to retire, she suggested sending Van to train with two professional coaches at MJM in Boston.
Van left home in April.
“I was so ready to move on with my skating career. All of my friends and my family were supportive of me and that energy has really kept me going through it,” said Van.
Once again Van’s mom got nervous.
“I was worried he would get homesick, of course, because he’s young," she said. "And he’s hasn’t been homesick at all. He just misses our dogs.”
Now Van skates for hours everyday.
“On a typical day I will skate 3 hours and I will do three hours of off ice training so six hour of training a day and I’ll get an hour break in between," he said. "So I’m at the rink for a total of about seven hours a day. I’ll go to the rink, I’ll skate, I’ll do my stuff and then I’ll come home around 4:30 p.m. and then from then on it’s just school work until I go to bed. I don’t really have a lot of free time.”
Van takes classes online but hopes to eventually enroll in a high school in Boston. Van calls his parents all the time and still finds time to hang out with friends.
Van recently finished third in a regional competition.
“Third place out of pretty much all of the boys in my level on the East Coast. That was the first time I had qualified for that competition and it was really nice to come out with a medal and advance to nationals.”
Teens Van’s age no longer get to compete in nationals, which will be held in January in Greensboro, but they do get to watch and attend national high development team camp in Charlotte.
“The camp is when they decide like who they want to send to like upper level competitions like international competitions. They’re called challenge skates. Basically, they determine your opportunities that they want to give you for the year,” said Van.
For now, Van just wants to continue figure skating and become the best he can be.
“I just want to keep skating, keep competing and take everything as it comes and get as good as I possibly can and get my name out there and just see what happens.”