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A Story Of The Boston Marathon Bombing, As Told On Skates

Ross Miner skates during the men's short program at the 2013 Skate Canada International last year. He hopes to qualify for the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Dave Sandford
Getty Images
Ross Miner skates during the men's short program at the 2013 Skate Canada International last year. He hopes to qualify for the upcoming Winter Olympics.
A Story Of The Boston Marathon Bombing, As Told On Skates

Ross Miner is among those competing for a spot on the U.S. Men's figure skating team Friday night in Boston. He is a hometown favorite who is bringing some local flavor to his performance — he's going to tell the story of last year's Boston Marathon bombing.

Miner won the silver medal at last year's U.S. championships, but he's had his challenges this year: pushing through an ankle injury to keep up his 60-hour-a week training, all in hopes of realizing his Olympic dream.

In some ways, he says, tonight is easy.

'You Can Feel His Joy Of Skating'

"I'm glad it's finally here," Miner says "The waiting I think is the hardest part. And once you get into the swing of it, 'OK, we're at competition now. This is normal. This is what we do.' "

Practicing this week, Miner sailed his way through a kind of ode to a childhood spent skating. Watching from the side, his mother, Gloria Miner, clenches her fist against her mouth at his every trick and tuck, while Ross just smiles his way through.

"Yes, that's Ross Miner," says coach Mark Mitchell. "That's how he is on [an] everyday basis. You can feel his joy of skating, and his joy of life."

Mitchell says Miner has always been both a determined athlete, and what his mother calls a "hambone," someone who loves the spotlight. But Mitchell says this year, Miner is showing off something different.

Ross Miner Stars As Himself

"He's always portrayed some kind of character: He's Humphrey Bogart or he did a surfing number," Mitchell says. "This year we said he's portraying Ross Miner — he's being himself."

Miner's long 4 1/2-minute routine tells his story of being traumatized, then buoyed by the Boston bombing, through moves and music.

It starts with patriotic music — the running of the marathon itself. Then, two discordant crashes come out of nowhere.

"And then, there's a section which is to me the immediate aftermath," Miner says. The music slows. "It's sort of like you're watching it in slow motion, and 'Oh my God, I can't believe this happened.' 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.' "

That part hits hard for Miner, who was locked down at home in Watertown, where the suspects were on the loose.

"It was crazy," Miner says "There're armored vehicles driving down my street. I could hear the flash-bangs going off and the helicopters were flying overhead. So it was surreal."

"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."

He says having such a heavy story underlie his performance is calming, in an odd way.

"This year's been a little bit up and down, and there were times when skating felt very big, and I was kind of under the weight of it," Miner says. "When I get on the ice to do this program, it takes almost a little bit of the pressure off. It's like, 'OK, it's figure skating.' "

"As stressed as I am, you know, I keep in mind all these people who have gone through so much," he says, "it keeps it in perspective."

Miner never set out to be a figure skater. He first hit the ice as a kid, playing hockey.

"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!' "

Miner saw the figure skaters at the rink, and became hooked, though as his mother says — as with many boys in figure skating — there have been obstacles.

"Sometimes at school, they would get things like 'this isn't a sport — because you have sequins!' " Gloria Miner says. "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 because it's not a sport."

Back on the ice, Miner does a triple flip and his mother claps.

"He can do it a little better but it was good," she says.

Because of his injuries, Ross Miner says he'll only do a triple jump, not a quad in Boston. That'll change if he moves on to the Winter Games at Sochi, but in the meantime, even with the stakes so high, he glides through his routines looking confident and calm.

"We work on looking calm, you know," Miner says, laughing. "I wouldn't say I'm calm, but I'm focused and ready to do my job."

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Tovia Smith
Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.