Five favorite things with Tonia Kwiatkowski

Three-time U.S. medalist busy behind the mike, at the rink

Tonia Kwiatkowski has done commentary for since 2009.
Tonia Kwiatkowski has done commentary for since 2009. (courtesy of Tonia Kwiatkowski)


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(01/17/2013) - She may have just missed qualifying for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, but that hasn't stopped Tonia Kwiatkowski from being one of the busiest people in figure skating.

In a career spanning 13 U.S. championships, the Cleveland native has gone from three-time U.S. medalist to 1998 Olympic alternate to's leading lady, delivering commentary for broadcasts since the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in her hometown.

But that's just part of the story. Kwiatkowski is mom to a 7-year-old daughter, Madison, and works at two Ohio rinks: the Serpentini Arena (formerly Winterhurst Ice Rink), where she trained throughout her career under Carol Heiss Jenkins and Glyn Watts; and the Hoover Arena in Strongsville. She juggles her time coaching and is also part of the rinks' management team.

"I actually began with icenetwork when it was just getting started," Kwiatkowski said. "The junior nationals were in Cleveland, and I was asked to do commentary on the intermediate ladies free skating, and I loved it. That was how I got my start. And being a communications major in college, it was exciting to use my education." What's your favorite thing about doing icenetwork commentary?

Kwiatkowski: I don't know if I could pick one ... there are a few. Definitely being able to watch the skaters every year so closely, to see who is coming up and to cheer them on. I want all of the skaters to do well, because I remember what being a skater is like and how hard it is.

Another thing is to see so many friends I skated with for so many years at the U.S. championships and Skate America, being able to catch up with so many of my friends that I grew up with skating. What do you like most about coaching?

Kwiatkowski: I think it's really exciting when you coach so many different levels of students. Right now, I have quite a few who are in the Basic Skills Program, and they want to improve, so I also give them a lesson a week. I also had several students compete at the regional level, and I have some older girls who have graduated from college. Every lesson is so interesting because everyone is so different. What activities do you and Madison most enjoy?

I love doing anything with her that sparks excitement. She is very athletic: She plays a little tennis, she does gymnastics, and she skates a little; she is doing a Basic Skills competition in November. She ran cross country for her school, and I actually ran with them, and it was fun to be able to participate, although she was much faster than me. You competed at 13 U.S. championships and three world championships. What are some of your best memories?

Kwiatkowski: I would say the 1996 U.S. Championships in San Jose, where I got second, and Minneapolis (site of the 1998 World Championships). I couldn't have skated any better at either one of those championships.

To end my career at the world championships (in 1998, at age 27) and to have a standing ovation was just incredible. I am so blessed to have had that opportunity to go to worlds. Even though I didn't make the Olympic team, I went back to the rink as if I was training for worlds; I was the alternate, and I took it very seriously. Carol and Glyn said, 'You never know what is going to happen. You would be sick if you didn't train and then got the call to go to worlds.' So when I did get the call, it was a relaxed excitement because I knew I was trained. Once of your former coaches, Carol Heiss Jenkins, is such an icon. What is the most important thing she taught you?

To have a balance in life. It was not just about my skating, even though my skating was extremely important. Both Carol and my parents insisted I continue my education, and Carol continued her education when she was still training. I had good examples around me to help me get through that.

Going to college (Kwiatkowski graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1994 with a degree in communications and psychology) and competing at a high level is not easy. I look at Rachael Flatt and Christina Gao, and I look at other young adults doing it, and I would tell them it is difficult but so rewarding. It took me five years to get through college, but it turned out well, because I have the background to help me with my work for icenetwork.