Minnesota Figure Skater Stars on Ice, Silver Screen

Brenda Olson reached down and hugged her daughter Kirsten Olson moments after the Novice Ladies Long Program final scores were posted Friday.

After watching Kirsten skate her program to near perfection, it was disappointing for Brenda to see her daughter’s name in second place. Even though it wasn’t the way the Olsons wanted to see their Midwest Sectional Figure Skating Championships end, they were happy with the results.

“There’s so much competition here,” Brenda said. “Our goal was to be in the top four.”

Kirsten, a 13-year-old from Savage, Minn., saw her second-place finish as a great ticket to the U.S. Championships, considering the exhausting road she took to sectionals. While other figure skaters were going to camps and taking vacations over the summer, Kirsten was training in a different way.

Early this spring, Kirsten had answered an open casting call for the upcoming Disney movie “Ice Princess,” after seeing a poster at her rink in Bloomington.

Kirsten, along with more than 1,300 girls in the United States and Canada, auditioned for one of three parts.

“They were looking for smaller skaters who could do triples,” Brenda said.

Luckily for the 4-foot-9 seventh-grader, triple axels are her strongest attribute.

Kirsten caught the eyes of casting directors, who later told the Olsons that Kirsten received a part to play one of the movies’ main characters.

It meant Kirsten and Brenda would have to move to Toronto for more than four months of filming.

“It’s quite an experience there,” Kirsten said. “They told us it’s just like New York City, only cleaner.”

Even though Kirsten’s part required hours of figure skating on set, she still needed to practice her routines.

So, the Olsons hired threetime Canadian men’s figure skating champion Don Knight as a personal coach.

Knight worked with Kirsten when her demanding acting and tutoring schedule allowed it.

Some days, spare time was all Kirsten had.

Even though she was hired to work and skate up to nine hours a day, she had plenty of down time.

“There was a lot of sitting around. Joan Cusack came up to me and said, ‘(Movies are) not as glamourous as they make it out to be,’” said Kirsten, referring to the “School of Rock” actress who stars in the movie.

The lag time helped Kirsten squeeze in everything she needed.

Her mother said she saw it as a testament to all figure skaters, who learn to manage their schedules from an early age.

“It teaches them life-long skills on time management,” Brenda said.

With the movie in post-production, the Olsons are eagerly awaiting its March 2005 release.

Kirsten is excited about seeing herself on the big screen for the first time.

She plays the figure skater “Nikki,” a part that required plenty of acting for Kirsten, whose modesty is a strong contrast of her movie character.

“She’s a very competitive person,” Kirsten said, referring to her character. “It was kind of fun to act in an opposite way that I do.”

Now that she’s back to her normal life in the Twin Cities, Kirsten is preparing for the U.S. Championships in January in Portland, Ore.

“I want to get some other triples put in and have the program be as good as it can be,” Kirsten said.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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