Arts / Athletics / Community

Tiffany Lau: a balancing act

Dancing with soft movement, drawing beautiful patterns with her skates, Tiffany Lau ’15 is in the middle of an ice rink creating art with her own body. The junior from Hong Kong came to Dana Hall in 2013 to pursue both her skating and academic goals in the United States.

Tiffany’s parents wanted her to try a range of activities when she was young, and when she tried skating, she fell in love with it. Tiffany started skating more seriously when her coach took a few skaters to a competition in Los Angeles. When she saw how good the competition was, Tiffany realized, “This sport makes people amazing – I need to be doing this.” That was seven or eight years ago, and she has been competing since.

Tiffany decided to pursue skating in the United States because there are no real ice rinks available in Hong Kong. They are all in shopping malls, half the standard size, and only have public sessions without space for serious training. As a result, Tiffany could only skate at night after the malls closed because that was the only time the rinks were open for professional skaters. Tiffany regularly travelled to Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong, for after-school practice four days a week, an exhausting schedule.

Due to this environment, Tiffany’s American coach in Hong Kong recommended a coach for her in Boston, a city with good schools and skating, and hopefully better balance between the two. As Tiffany laughs, her decision to relocate was “kind of impulsive, but why not?” and she soon found herself in Boston. Although she did not initially think about an all-girls schools, Tiffany has ended up liking Dana Hall. It is close to Boston and has the classes and sense of community she wants.

That emphasis on classes is typical of Tiffany, who says, “My coach here understands me because she knows the priority: school is more important.” She recalls a fifteen-year-old who skated for the United States at the recent Winter Olympics and comments that girls like her are often home schooled or do not even go to school. “I feel there is more to life than skating,” Tiffany said. Putting herself in that skater’s shoes, she asks rhetorically, “So you go to the Olympics when you’re eighteen, you retire, and then what? Cutting ice with butter knives nailed to your shoes is not a career.”

Tiffany makes a point of dispelling the rumor that there is a chance for her to go to the Olympics; she says it would never happen. Tiffany said, “I’m happy I’ve come this far, but the fact is that I am not good enough to make the Olympics.” She simply did not have a good enough environment during her formative years and feels unable to give the unmitigated commitment that it takes as she also wants to pursue education among other opportunities.

Because of the lack of resources in Hong Kong, Tiffany’s experience is not unusual for skaters there. At the last Hong Kong Championships before she moved to Boston, Tiffany was the only medalist who was actually currently in Hong Kong; everyone else lived in Los Angeles or mainland China and only came to Hong Kong to compete – “to win, basically,” according to Tiffany.

For Tiffany, skating is both hard work and, paradoxically, “freedom and emotional release.” Academics and skating are “very demanding, so I am spending my time doing something that makes me better,” Tiffany said. Leslie Laurie ’14, Tiffany’s close friend, said, “When people think of Tiffany Lau, they think of her passion for skating. She dedicates many hours of each day, her sleep and her energy towards skating because she has a passion for spinning, jumping and performing. I wish that I could have half as much passion and dedication for an art as she has for skating.” According to Leslie, Tiffany wakes up earlier than everyone else some days to go skating at Babson College and even in Boston because she is dedicated to perfecting her art. She continues to skate during school breaks when most Dana girls are relaxing in front of a television.

Tiffany laughs, “Skating is taking over my life, so I have no life, but that’s okay.” On February 3, her birthday, she woke up at 4:15 in order to skate. Tiffany said, “I like to challenge myself. I like to do as many as things I can.” She is also interested in reading, art, and dance. Tiffany learned a wide range of dance styles from ballet to Chinese dance to tango in order to help her skating, but as skating became more and more competitive for her, dance became less a part of training and more of an enjoyment and a time to let go. Tiffany says, “I love it – it keeps me sane. It helps me process emotion and stress in a way that skating can’t. There’s also the amazingly supportive dance family at Dana; dance helped a lot with my transition here.”

Because of intense training and Tiffany’s pursuit of academic perfection, she has to know how to use her limited time efficiently. At Dana, Tiffany cannot skate in the evening because she has to be on campus for study hall, but she appreciates having “a time fixed for homework.” She also sacrifices sleep in order to finish all her work and practice, and though some think she does not sleep enough, she feels she has a “balance between staying healthy and achieving what I want.” Tiffany’s AP U.S. teacher Nia Hays said: “It takes organization, dedication, and motivation to be able to handle a schedule like Tiffany’s. But she is a great example of committing oneself to a goal and pushing oneself to meet it. She has to be careful about how she uses her time and mindful of that schedule, but she does so with great success.”

Tiffany knows what she wants–excellence in both academics and skating–and is willing to do extra work to fight for her dreams. Let us wish Tiffany a bright future.

Photo credit: Quincy Fong.

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