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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
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And I'm Robert Siegel. The final competition to determine the U.S. men's figure skating team in next month's Olympics begins tonight in Boston. And one hopeful for the Sochi games is hometown favorite, 22-year-old Ross Miner. His performance is meant to tell the story and convey the emotion of last year's Boston Marathon bombing. NPR's Tovia Smith has this profile.
TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Miner's had his challenges this year, pushing through an ankle injury to keep up his training, some 60 hours a week, all in hopes of realizing his Olympic dream. In some ways, he says, tonight is easy.
ROSS MINER: I'm glad it's finally here. The waiting I think is the hardest part. And once you get into the swing of it, it's like, okay, we're at competition now. This is normal. This is what we do.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Skating the short program, Ross Miner.
SMITH: Practicing this week, Miner sailed his way through a kind of ode to a childhood spent skating. Watching from the side, his mom, Gloria Miner, clenches her fist against her mouth at his every trick and tuck, while Ross just smiles his way through.
GLORIA MINER: He does look like he's having more fun, doesn't he?
MARK MITCHELL: Yes, that's Ross Miner. That's how he is on everyday basis.
MINER: His coach, Mark Mitchell, says Miner has always been both a determined athlete and what his mom calls a hambone, but Mitchell says this year, Miner is showing off something different.
MITCHELL: He's always portrayed some kind of character. He's Humphrey Bogart or he did a surfing number. And, you know, this year we said, you know, he's portraying Ross Miner, he's being himself.
SMITH: His long 4 1/2-minute routine tells his story through moves and music of being traumatized, then buoyed by the Boston bombing.
MINER: The opening is the running of the marathon itself. It's very patriotic. And then, all of sudden, there are these two discordant crashes that sort of just came out of nowhere. And then, there's a section which is to me the immediate aftermath. It's sort of like you're watching it in slow motion and, oh my God, I can't believe this happened, 'cause, I mean, I think that was everyone's emotion at time.
And then there's this very sharp immediate music, which we always talk about as like the manhunt.
SMITH: That part hits hard for Miner, who was locked down at home in Watertown, where the suspects were on the loose.
MINER: It was crazy. There were armored vehicles driving down my street. I could hear the flash-bangs going off and the helicopters were flying overhead. So it was surreal. And then, really uplifting, proud, glorious music comes in and to me that was, you know, the pride and the relief of knowing that we got the people who did this to us and of being safe.
SMITH: In an odd way, Miner says, having such a heavy story underlie his performance is calming.
MINER: This year's been a little bit up and down, and there were times where skating felt very big and I was kind of under the weight of it. And then, when I get on the ice to do this program, it takes almost a little bit of the pressure off. 'Cause it's like, okay, it's figure skating. You know, as stressed as I am, you know, I keep in mind all these people who have gone through so much and it keeps it in perspective.
SMITH: Miner never set out to be a figure skater. He first hit the ice as a kid playing hockey.
MINER: My mom was like, you've gotta get out of the house. I was 3 or something. And she was like, you're driving me nuts, go burn some energy.
SMITH: Miner saw the figure skaters at the rink and became hooked, though as his mom says, as with many boys in figure skating, there have been obstacles.
MINER: Sometimes, like, in school, they would get things like this isn't a sport because you have sequins, or whatever, you know, because it is also theater. And it is somewhat more difficult to understand for people, because of the scoring system perhaps. Boys have said they've gotten teased in school that it's not a sport. Triple flip. Yeah. He can do it a little better, but it was good.
SMITH: Because of his injuries, Miner says, in Boston, he'll only do a triple jump, not a quad. That'll change, he says, if he moves on to Sochi, but meantime, even with the stakes so high, Miner glides through his routines looking confident and calm.
MINER: We work on looking calm, you know. I wouldn't say I'm calm, but I'm focused and ready to do my job.
SMITH: And hopefully, Miner says, one more job in Sochi after this. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.
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