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Interview With Suna Murray

Photograph of American figure skater Suna Murray

Born in Tallahassee, Florida, Suna Murray's story has a fascinating connection to right here in Nova Scotia. Her father Dr. Stewart Murray grew up and played hockey here in the province. Suna started her skating career young, passing her preliminary figures test at the age of five, and through the tutelage of great coaches like Hans Gerschwiler, Peter Burrows and Louis Stong, quickly moved up the skating ranks. Splitting her training between New Jersey and Canada, Murray went to her first U.S. Nationals at the age of fifteen, earned a standing ovation and won the bronze medal, going on to represent the U.S. at the 1971 World Figure Skating Championships. She returned to the podium the following year and achieved every skater's dream: a trip to the Winter Olympic Games, handily outranking skating legend and soon-to-be 1976 Olympic Gold Medallist Dorothy Hamill in the process. Now a Harvard University graduate, mother and coach, Murray took the time from her busy life to talk about her skating career, experience at the Sochi Winter Olympics, coaching and much more in this lovely interview:

Q: You ended your eligible career and such a young age to pursue an education at Harvard University. Did you ever regret not continuing on and trying to make a second Olympic team or was your decision something you were at peace with?

A: I never regretted my decision to attend Harvard. The friends I made there have been life long friends. I have been to all my reunions and volunteer as a mentor for undergraduates.

Q: During your career, you competed against some of skating's biggest legends including Janet Lynn and Dorothy Hamill. What  was your relationship with the skaters you competed against like - were the rivalries as 'bitter' back in those days?

A: Janet Lynn was my idol. When I was twelve, Janet competed in the 1968 Olympics. I loved the way she moved across the ice. I have a funny memory. I was fifteen at my first World Championships. Janet sent her boots to the Skating Club Of New York to be sharpened. I remember touching her boots for good luck when they were sitting in the skate shop and remember Peter Burrows chiding me that she was now my competitor.

Q: Your daughter Kylie Gleason is a former Eastern Ladies Champion and U.S. competitor that you yourself coached for a time. How hard was coaching your own daughter?

A: It was not hard coaching my daughter. She loved to skate and was extremely self motivated. I was more concerned about school. Having gone to the Olympics myself, I knew what a small chance she had. She graduated from Harvard two years ago and now works in New York City as a Consultant for Bain & Co.

Q: You recently attended the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. What were the high points of your trip?

A: My favourite part was the Opening Ceremonies. My Olympic team in 1972 was so small: no ice dance, women's hockey or biathlon, short track speed skating or any of the crazy skiing events they have now. The Opening Ceremonies consisted of the Parade Of Athletes, a few speeches and a Japanese skater lighting the torch. The Opening Ceremonies in Sochi were incredible. There is no way that television could convey how moving they were.

Q: What were your thoughts on the Sochi figure skating events? Do you think that the current judging system is helping or hurting figure skating?

A: I was in Sochi through the men's event. I did not see the ladies. There is too much being made of the Russian judge hugging Adelina. I am sure the American judge hugged Evan after he won. As for IJS, it is what it is. We have to work within that system. I don't feel that it is hurting figure skating. The sport is getting more difficult every year. Now, you have to be an incredible athlete to accomplish what is necessary. Some skaters will never be able to accomplish the technical difficulty required.

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A: Something people don't know about me... I tutor reading in Dorchester, Massachusetts (a poor Boston neighborhood) on Monday mornings. This is my third year with the same two little girls. They are now in fifth grade, almost reading at their grade level.

Q: What has kept you involved with the sport and loving it all of these years?

A: I love my job, I love skating and hope that I can give that joy to my students.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":