Figure skater Madellena Conte Thornton thriving out of her comfort zone

Cindy Chew/Special to The ExaminerMadellena Conte Thornton's coach has gone from calling her "Baby Giraffe" to "Gazelle" after taking on a new style this season.

Cindy Chew/Special to The ExaminerMadellena Conte Thornton's coach has gone from calling her "Baby Giraffe" to "Gazelle" after taking on a new style this season.

This year’s figure skating season was a breakout one for 16-year-old San Franciscan Madellena Conte Thornton.

Rather than give up the sport — her passion since the age of 8 — after a frustrating 2010 season that left Thornton questioning her skating future, she upped her commitment, increasing the physical, emotional and financial investment.

One decision that paid high dividends was promoting Don Corbiell from secondary to head coach. Corbiell instituted a training program that included a personal trainer, nutritionist and Pilates instructor.

The coach’s skating program for Thornton’s season included Broadway show tune “Le Jazz Hot,” a “sexy and sassy” piece that she initially resisted.

“It was one thing stepping out of my comfort zone to become a classical, graceful skater,” Thornton said. “But this one topped it, because I had to be a performer. I wasn’t just skating my jumps and spins.”

Thornton came to embrace the new program. Coach Corbiell’s nickname for his “exquisite” skater changed from “Baby Giraffe” to “Gazelle.” She had become an entertainer, as well as an athlete.

“It was an amazing transformation to watch,” Corbiell said. “When she fully invested herself in it, it was like watching a flower bloom.”

Thornton’s performance at the Intermediate Ladies Regional Championships in Santa Rosa earned the skater a step up from the intermediate to novice skill divisions for the 2012 season.

“She improved with every single competition,” Corbiell said. “Regionals was her personal best, her best skate and her highest score of the year.”

Thornton doesn’t stray far from the ice rink, even in the offseason. Her family’s downtown San Francisco home is walking distance from the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center, where she’s on the ice most days by 6 a.m. After school, the junior at San Francisco International School returns to the rink for another 90-120 minutes, practicing her
double lutzes and flips.

“We’re working on a bunch of harder elements that are very new to me,” Thornton said. “Soon, we’ll be choosing my program for next year, perhaps a tango piece that will push me even farther out of my comfort zone.”

Thornton hit the ice during Thanksgiving vacation as she and her family flew to New York, where she could perform her rendition of the Broadway show tune for her grandfather. “Pappy” became a figure skater at 65, and he cajoled young Maddy to take a lesson. She was immediately hooked, and the two have spent nearly every summer since skating together at Lake Placid. 

On Friday and Saturday, Thornton will be entertaining local skating fans in what may be her final performance of “Le Jazz Hot” at the Center’s annual holiday show.

 

Showtime on Ice

WHERE: Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center, 750 Folsom St, San Francisco

WHEN: Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m. both nights

SKATERS: Various styles and abilities, from beginning to expert

INFO: www.skatebowl.com, (415) 820-3521

Madellena Conte ThorntonOther SportsPersonal Bestsports

Just Posted

Niners defensive lineman Joey Bosa played a major role in stopping the Eagles in a Week 2 San Francisco victory. (Courtesy San Francisco 49ers)
What we learned from Niners beating the Eagles

By Mychael Urban Special to The Examiner Is your glass half-empty? Niners… Continue reading

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Artist Agnieszka Pilat, pictured with Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Robotics, has a gallery show opening at Modernism. (Courtesy Agnieszka Pilat)
Screenshots of VCs, Kanye and tech parties by the Bay

In this week’s roundup, Ben Horowitz’s surprising hip-hop knowledge and the chic tech crowd at Shack15

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, pictured in July at Oracle Park, says team members simultaneously can be “measured and calm” and “looking to push the accelerator.” (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants’ success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

Firefighters extinguish burning material near Lake Tahoe on Sept. 3 in the wake of the Caldor Fire; environmental scientists say the huge fire is bringing to light deficiencies in forest management. <ins>(Max Whittaker/New York Times)</ins>
Cal Fire, timber industry must face an inconvenient truth

We are logging further into the wildfire and climate crisis

Most Read