Arts & Entertainment

Steenberg Gathers Steam

Annandale's Steenberg takes off. (Photo: Leah Adams)

On the eve of his 18th birthday, figure skater Tommy Steenberg of Annandale is feeling focused and confident. Already this skating season he’s won two events on the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix circuit, in Romania and Czech Republic. At the latter event, he managed to remain calm despite the fact that the suitcase containing his skates was lost and did not arrive until a few hours before he was scheduled to skate his short program.

“He went out on the ice for the first time in the competition rink when they called his name to do the warm-up for the short program,” noted coach Audrey Weisiger, who had packed a spare pair of skates in her suitcase, which was also lost. “I said, ‘Have faith. Your skates will arrive and everything will be fine. In the mean time, go in the building, listen to the music and think about where you see elements happening.’ At practice, they played his music and he did a walk-through of the short program on the floor in his sneakers. People were applauding him.”

Steenberg said, “I figured there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so being calm was the best thing.” He made no major mistakes and landed the triple axel, which is new to his free skate this season. He also received personal best scores under Code of Points, the judging system implemented over the past few years, where a skater can improve his or her point total from competition to competition.

This is Steenberg’s fourth year on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit, and he feels the experience of competing internationally has strengthened his competitive edge and prepared him for the future. “Traveling, dealing with being tired, going to different countries and having the pressure has been really helpful to me and I’ve enjoyed it too,” he said. “I always look forward to the international competitions.”

Next on his schedule is the Junior Grand Prix Final in Sofia, Bulgaria from Dec. 7-9. “I want to improve my components (the marks that reflect choreography and musicality). I’m going to work on my spins a bit too, try to get all the points I can,” Steenberg said. “I’m going to keep working on quads. It would be great if I could get a quad in the program at some point this year.”

Weisiger said she’s proud of how Steenberg is maturing. She’s worked with him since his family moved to the Fairfax area in 1999. As she had significant responsibilities for many years with Michael Weiss and then from late 2004 to January 2006 with Timothy Goebel, Steenberg has also worked with other coaches at the Fairfax Ice Arena (which just reopened after a three-month-long renovation), such as Ross Lansel and Nick Perna. Although Weisiger is now making her family the number one priority in her life, she said she would continue to coach Steenberg for as long as he wishes to compete.

This season, Pasquale Camerlango and Debbie Street did his choreography, and Weisiger said Steenberg deserves to be listed as one of the choreographers for his short program, set to music from the film Drumline. “This year, I’ve been able to use a lot of my own ideas in my short program,” Steenberg said. “It’s all drums the whole time. It’s very rhythmic. Some of the moves are kind of hip-hop. I think it’s something really different for skating.

“It’s good to branch out and do different things, because different styles help you improve,” he added. His free skate is set to various pieces of tango music. “It’s great to get comments from people like, ‘That was really cool.’”

A senior at W.T. Woodson High School, Steenberg, who turns 18 on Nov. 23, said college is definitely in his future plans. He’s seriously considering George Mason, so he can stay local. He’ll begin 2007 with the U.S. Championships in Spokane, Washington, where he will compete in the senior men’s division for the second time (he was 13th in 2006). He hopes to be named to the U.S. team for the World Junior Championships that take place Feb. 26 to March 4 in Oberstdorf, Germany. He is age-eligible to compete at junior internationals for one more year, but if he wins a medal at World Juniors, he hopes to be considered for senior internationals.

Steenberg said he doesn’t have goals in terms of placements, but he is decisive in terms of performance. “I want to be proud of how I handle this year and how I compete.”