Local figure skater on path for U.S. competition

Timothy Zupanc has been passionate about skating since childhood and is now headed to sectionals



Timothy Zupanc said a handful of skaters from this competition in Dallas will be chosen by the US Figure Skating Committee to compete for Team USA.

This weekend in Dallas, a UW-Eau Claire figure skater said he’s following his childhood passion to the Midwestern Sectional Championships.

Timothy Zupanc, a fourth-year organizational communications student, said a handful of skaters from this competition in Dallas will be chosen by the US Figure Skating Committee to compete for Team USA.

Zupanc said he would not have even competed in the regional competition two weeks ago in St. Paul if it weren’t for the encouragement of his coach, Taylor Galarnyk.

“I just wanted to focus on testing and synchro and stuff,” Zupanc said. “But my coach pushed me to do it. He said, ‘No, you have the skill set, you should compete in regionals and sectionals,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it for my senior year!’”

Galarnyk said he has been coaching Zupanc since the summer of 2017 and that he’s never had a student make it this far in competitions.

“Timmy is very driven and passionate about skating,” Galarnyk said. “When he sets his mind to something, he accomplishes it.”

Zupanc said the competition is scored based on a short program, about two and a half minutes and a long program, about four minutes.

He said he choreographed his short program himself, as he loves to use skating as a creative outlet.

“I love to choreograph my programs,” Zupanc said. “And I love to be artistic and relate to people, to an audience. I also like the athletic side. I like them both equally which is good because they both complete your scores.”

He said his goal for the season was to make sectionals, so he is focused on trying his best now that he’s made it that far.

“I’m excited to meet other competitors and just skating my best,” Zupanc said. “I don’t want to think about placement too much at this point because everyone there is gonna be the top twenty skaters in like eighteen states. I just want to think, ‘I’m so happy to be here.’”

He said he’s been skating since he was eight years old, after becoming inspired by the movie Ice Princess (2005), which is about a competitive skater.

“I told my mom I wanted to try skating,” Zupanc said. “We bought some skates from like a garage sale and went out on a pond, and my mom was like, ‘oh, you’re not that bad!’ So she put me in lessons and it skyrocketed from there.”

He said figure skating started off as something fun to “do on the weekends,” but it was around middle and high school that he realized he wanted to take it more seriously.

Zupanc said he began developing his skills and adopted a more competitive edge, coupled with hard work and dedication.

“I became a student of the sport,” Zupanc said. “I watched the Olympics, I watched the World Championships … I would watch professional figure skaters and try to copy what they were doing.”

He said he would study the way professionals perfected their spins and jumps, and how they moved their bodies, in order to pick up techniques for himself.

“The reason they’re at that high of a level is because they’ve been trained by really amazing coaches,” Zupanc said. “So I’ve tried to take pieces of their skating and apply it to my own.”

He said he had skated individually up until college, when he joined the UW-Eau Claire Synchronized Skating Team and had to learn how to skate with other athletes.

“It’s a group of eight to sixteen skaters and you’re all on the ice,” Zupanc said. “You have to all move together to create formations on the ice.”

He said he practices the “two disciplines” of skating, as he competes both individually as well as with his Synchronized Skating Team.

Zupanc said, all things considered, artistic expression is his favorite aspect of figure skating.

“I like reaching out and connecting with the audience,” Zupanc said. “Becoming a storyteller, trying to evoke emotion.”

However, Zupanc said he doesn’t discount the athletic demand of figure skating even a little bit.

He said over the years, he’s dealt with broken ankles, constant shin splints and many other injuries.

Zupanc said the hardest part of skating is jumping.

“I love jumping,” Zupanc said. “But it definitely takes a toll on your body. I’m 22, but in skating years I’m like a grandpa.”

He said that because it’s such a physically demanding sport, figure skaters have the shortest “shelf life” of any Olympic sports.

Zupanc said he isn’t counting on competing at the Olympic level, so he hopes to be able to skate for several years longer.

Zupanc and Galarnyk leave for Dallas on Thursday, Nov. 14 and he competes with his short program that night. He said he’ll compete with his long program on Saturday, the day of the final ceremonies and be back in time for classes Monday morning.

Lopez can be reached at [email protected]