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NJ skater knows athletes have taken their toll

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Like millions of others, Stephanie Roth watched the Tokyo Olympics and followed the debate on Withdrawal of Simone Biles from gymnastics team competition for mental health reasons.

Unlike almost everyone, the Neptune City resident got it deep inside himself.

In June, at age 38, Roth completed a world-class figure skating career by winning a gold medal at the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships. It was a triumphant coda on a roller coaster ride.

Roth was the 2006 National Collegiate Figure Skating Champion while at Brookdale Community College, represented the United States at the 2007 World University Games, and in 2019 became the oldest American woman to score a ” triple toe loop “- a jump with a high degree of difficulty – at the American Championships.

Stephanie Roth performs in the Garden State Skating Club's 4th Annual Vacation Show at Wall Sports Arena in 2006

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She also battled bipolar depression, overcame eating disorders, and had two major back surgeries.

“I’ve never been at (Biles’) level and I’ve had moves that are named after me, but I definitely felt pressure that I can’t control,” Roth said. “I went through years in my young career where I couldn’t handle the pressure, and I wasn’t in the limelight in which she is. So there is something to be said for taking care of your mental health. Mental health and physical health are one and the same.

Stephanie Roth unlaces her skates after training at Wall Sports Arena in 2006

Tattoos and a final title

Roth, who grew up in Wall, started skating at the age of 4. She qualified for the US Championships seven times, finishing 16th. In 2008, she retired from the top tier tour and turned pro, performing in shows for Royal Caribbean Cruises and in theme parks. She returned to Jersey Shore and began coaching in 2013, but the itch of competition was not quite scratched.

“I was like, ‘I can still do this,'” she said. “I had too many tattoos to come back to shows. It was a bit of a problem with the costumes.

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During her championship days, Roth had five tattoos, “and even that was considered to be pushing the limits, which I always did,” she said. “I’ve always skated to loud music (like the theme of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’) and described myself as who I was off the ice.”

Now tattoos cover his arms and chest. She has 38 in total.

“As I got older, it was a way of expressing myself; I love artwork – it makes me happy, ”she said. “But in shows, you need to be able to cover them up for consistency and appearance, so that it doesn’t distract from the costumes.”

Stephanie Roth competing at the US Adult Figure Skating Championships in June

In recent years, she has competed in dresses with long sleeves.

“People ask me why I don’t show them,” she said of the tattoos. “It’s not about what’s on my skin. These are my skills. I want my skills to speak for themselves.

This skill earned him two appearances at the Adult Nationals before the decisive June victory in Rochester, Mich., Where Roth won the Championship Masters Junior-Senior Ladies title with a score of 74.47. This marked a personal best and an event record. She came out on top.

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“All athletes have bad days”

Roth’s retirement from competition leaves him more time for his other passion: mentoring. She is a personal trainer and coaches the Jersey Shore Arena skaters in Wall.

“Mental wellness and attention to good nutrition are two things I have at the forefront of my brain when developing young skaters,” she said. “Depression, I know what it feels like. But I tell students all the time, “I can’t read your mind. You have to communicate what you are feeling.

Stephanie Roth skating at Asbury Park in 2017.

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Talking about such things goes against the widely projected image, the expectation really, that our best athletes are steadfast winning machines with perfect attitudes.

“It’s not honest,” said Roth. “All athletes have bad days. They have nerves. They turn in on themselves.

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“No one,” said Roth, “is made of steel.”

Jerry Carino is a community columnist for Asbury Park Press, focusing on the interesting people of the Jersey Shore, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at jcarino@gannettnj.com.


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