A cross-country move to Newport Beach in 2007 turned out to be a life-changing experience for Daria Gordeeva-Grinkova.
Before, she seemed destined to become a figure skater, following in the footsteps of her renowned parents, Katia Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkova. But when Daria came from Connecticut to Newport Beach two weeks before her freshman year at Sage Hill School, she hung up the skates and took up lacrosse.
The life of a competitive ice skater is behind her. Daria’s life has changed.
Of course, the 16-year-old is no stranger to change. When she was 3 her father died suddenly of a heart attack while practicing for a show in Lake Placid, N.Y. Nov. 20, 1995. He was 28. Life could never be the same after that.
Still, Daria seemed in line to become a great ice skater, too. Her mother and father won Olympic gold medals for Russia in 1988 and 1994.
But Daria realized the sport wasn’t for her, a brave choice considering ice skating was all around her. Her mother remarried in 2002 and Daria’s stepfather is Ilia Kulik, an Olympic champion (1998) for Russia. Her younger sister, Liza, 7, is also heavy into the sport.
However, Daria is happy, at peace with lacrosse. She plays with the Lightning today against Newport Harbor. In the fall, she plays volleyball.
Right now it’s all about lacrosse and school at Sage Hill. That’s been a change for the better for Daria.
She took time out to talk to the Daily Pilot on Tuesday.
Question: How did you get into lacrosse?
Answer: In my freshman year I was really good friends with this one girl who played lacrosse and she convinced me to play, so I just did. I wasn’t figure skating at the time.
Q: Why did you stop skating?
A: Because I moved and my coach stayed there. It’s hard to find a good coach. I was already getting older and I was over it. I just decided I wanted to try something new. I always wanted to try volleyball. I tried volleyball during the fall and lacrosse during the spring. I did frosh-soph volleyball.
Q: Is lacrosse now your sport?
A: I don’t know if it’s my sport but I like to play it a lot. It’s fun. Last year I was captain. I was one of the three captains and it was really fun. I just never expected myself to play lacrosse. It’s such a random sport and I thought I would never play it. But I like it. I’m happy with it. I come to practice every day feeling good about it.
Q: Do you see yourself ever going back into figure skating?
A: I don’t think so because to me I feel figure skating is something you need to do since you were 4. So I support my sister [Liza] a lot. She’s figure skating right now. She’s 7. She’s really good. I’m proud of her for doing what she wants to do. I don’t think it’s anything I will ever compete in again. It’s something I did when I was younger.
Q: Would you ever do figure skating for show?
A: I did that a couple times during the year, last year. With my mom we had a friends and family show and I was there. I can skate still. I just can’t compete. I guess if it’s ever needed I’ll do it. It’s fine.
Q: What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
A: I want to go to college in a city. I want to major in graphics design or something to do with journalism. I want to go to an art school somewhere in New York or Chicago ... I want to get out of suburbia. I lived in suburbia my whole life and it’s not something I like. I want to get out and not have to drive everywhere. I just like the city and I love Russia. I might go there. I go back every winter and summer.
Q: Was it hard for you to stop ice skating?
A: I loved it, but it was never exactly what I wanted to do. I always felt pushed — my mom never pushed me to figure skate — it was everyone around and they were like, “Oh, you’re going to be just like your mom. Oh, you’re going to win the Olympics just like your mom.” I never really wanted that that much so I never pushed hard enough to achieve something like that. It wasn’t hard for me to stop, but I was really scared that my mom wasn’t going to approve of it and that she was going to get mad at me or upset or disappointed. I didn’t want that at all. But I realized that she would be even more disappointed if I spent my time doing something that I didn’t want to do instead of doing something I wanted to do.
Q: You probably had a lot of pressure in figure skating, right?
A: I did. That’s something else that turned me against [skating] because everyone expected me to do so well. It’s hard when everyone has so many expectations for you and you’re just like, “I don’t know. I don’t know how to handle this.”
From when I was 7 till the time I was 15, and that’s the time you’re growing the most, it was hard when everyone is like, “You have to be an amazing figure skater and you have to do this and do that.”
And, it was just like, “Oh my God, I can’t even handle this.”
Q: What advice do you give to your little sister?
A: My little sister loves it though. She really has heart for it. She’s like the hardest worker ever. She’s really stubborn with coaches and stuff, but she’s a really hard worker. She’s 7 right now and she’s doing better than what I did at 10. I’m really proud of her. I hope if she loves it, I hope she does it. But if she doesn’t then I hope she makes a decision about it before it’s too late.
Q: Do you feel like a rebel in your family now that you’re not skating?
A: No. I feel typical. Everyone in my house is like super extraordinary. I’m like, “I go to high school. I do my homework. I don’t figure skate anymore.” I feel normal, I guess, which is nice.
Q: Do you have any memories of your father?
A: I do. Photographs. I have those. And what everyone tells me. They tell me that I’m identical to him and I do everything that he did and talk like he did and smile like him and just look like him. Photographs of him make me remember.
Q: When did people tell you that your father died?
A: I don’t remember that much. I was 3. I was taken to a psychologist and the psychologist explained to me what happened. I was in Russia when he died and I just stayed there. They came back and the funeral was in Russia. This is all what I was told, but I really don’t remember because I was 3.
Q: Growing up were there periods of sadness?
A: I neve been the type of person to be sad about it because that’s not just my personality. I handle things pretty well. But obviously it’s sad and obviously I didn’t get the childhood that other people did. Obviously I’m disappointed in that but it’s nothing I can change so I don’t like to dwell on sadness, especially if it’s something I can’t change.
Q: What else are you into aside from lacrosse?
A: I like creating things. I’m a horrible artist, but I have good ideas that I want to put on paper. I want to take a ceramics class. I’m taking visual art right now. I’m just trying different things right now. Since I moved here it’s been all about trying new things and discovering what I like to do. Before it was school, figure skating, home, sleep. Every single day it was the same thing over and over again. I got the chance to start over and start something new and try new things, which is really cool. That’s the reason I stuck with quitting because I could’ve easily picked it up again. But I was happy that I got to start new things.
Q: So no regrets?
A: Well sometimes I think about it and I think I wish I knew what I would be like right now if I still figure skated. I wish I knew if I would be good or if I would quit later on or if I would’ve had an injury. It’s always something that’s going to be in the back of your head: Is that a bad decision that I made. But you can’t dwell on the past you just have to go forward and hope that everything is going to be better and fight for it.
Q: Do you get along with your mom pretty well?
A: Yes. Really well, especially lately. Me and my mom have built a really good relationship. We both understand each other really well. I’m lucky she’s so young  because she actually understands what I’m going through. We never had a oh-you’re-grounded type of relationship. It’s always been like, “Why did you do that. Figure out what you’re doing.” She never really gets angry at me. She takes a life perspective on it, which makes it a lot better.
Q: Is it fair to say that she’s a role model for you?
A: My mom has been through a ridiculous amount of stuff in her life. I do respect her a lot. She’s been through a lot. She was basically put in to ice skating really intensely at age 11. Her life has been different from anyone else’s. I respect her a lot for just sticking with it. She still skates now and she’s 38. She could be doing anything right now. She’s really hardworking. She knows what she wants.
I am proud to say that my mom is my mom.
Q: Do you like Sage Hill?
A: I love it. I had my moments of not liking it. I realized that you can’t always try to make everyone happy. You have to make yourself happy first and that’s what I’m working on right now. That’s my motivation now. To find good people and make myself happy.
Q: Your coach says you always speak your mind. Is that true?
A: I do. I’m not very close mouthed. It’s always been like that. If I have something to say I’ll say it. I feel like you shouldn’t waste what you have to say. But I’m not disrespectful at all. I don’t disrespect my coaches but if I have something to say I’m not going to hide it.
STEVE VIRGEN may be reached at (714) 966-4616 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.