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Behind the scenes of figure skating - March 20

Danielle Hartsell Minnis: Welcome to Mommyhood

Danielle Hartsell Minnis, with her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Olivia.
Danielle Hartsell Minnis, with her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Olivia. (courtesy Minnis family )

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/20/2008) - Life has definitely changed for 1999 U.S. pairs champion and 1997 world junior champion Danielle Hartsell Minnis since she ended her competitive skating career in 2002. Of course, she's still close with her pairs partner, her brother Steve, and she's still connected to the sport. But these days, life revolves around daughter, Olivia Renee, who she and husband, Chris Minnis, welcomed into the world on May 6, 2007.

"I can't believe how big she's getting," says Hartsell Minnis, 27, who lives in Richmond, Va., where she coaches two mornings and two afternoons a week. She also continues her involvement with U.S. Figure Skating as a member of various committees. She previously served on the executive committee and the board of directors, but her last official day on the board was the day Olivia was born. Don't worry though, she decided it wasn't a good idea to attend Governing Council, but her husband did reach her brother Steve, who was at the meeting, to say that Danielle was in labor.

She chaired the Athletes Advisory Committee and currently serves on the International Committee, which brought her to the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minn., where Olivia made her official debut into the skating world.

"She didn't watch much skating, because she was being passed around by everyone," Hartsell Minnis says. "I told her maybe one of these days she'll be out there skating."

Steve has already brought Olivia onto the ice with him.

"My brother is dying for her to skate," she says. "She's going to have to be an ice dancer, because she's been very tall and very skinny since she was born. I keep telling him, she's going to be too tall for pairs. I promised Steve, as soon as she is steady on her feet, he can take her out [on skates]. Steve is already prepping her for ice dancing [career] by taking ballroom dancing lessons."

At some point, Hartsell Minnis plans to stop coaching and go into judging. That will likely happen when she completes her nursing degree.

Hartsell Minnis met her husband (they were married in September 2003), when she and her brother decided to go on vacation in Jamaica after 2001 nationals. It was a vacation so the duo could regroup after not making the world team.

"It's funny how things happen like that," she notes.

After a year and a half of long-distance dating, she moved to Richmond in 2002, where Chris works for Sigma Phi Epsilon as director of operations, and is working on his MBA at the University of Richmond. She grew up in Detroit, and he was raised in Kansas City, and they both love the mild winters of their new hometown.

"We're trying to convince our families to move where it's warmer," she says.

The Hartsells visit often. "My mom doesn't want to miss out on Olivia being little," Hartsell Minnis says. "It's fun to have a girl in the family, because we have so many boys in our family [referring to cousins]. We haven't had a baby girl born in my family in like 20 years. With my ultrasound, when they said, it's a girl, I said, 'You better look again.'"

Accustomed to years of skating costumes, Hartsell Minnis loves to dress up her daughter. Check out her MySpace page and you'll find Olivia decked out for Halloween, Christmas and other occasions. "She has a Michigan cheerleader outfit," she says. "For the Super Bowl, she had a Patriots outfit, because Tom Brady played college ball at Michigan."

Her current project for U.S. Figure Skating is developing the athlete alumni group, which is comprised of anyone who medaled at the senior level at nationals. "We're trying to bring past skaters back into the sport in various ways," she says. The last three years the group has had a reception during nationals, hosted by Brian Boitano, who's helping to start a mentoring program for younger skaters.

Hartsell Minnis welcomes any senior national medalists to email her at drminnis@comcast.net.