SHAWNEE, Okla. – The first time four year-old Hannah Dowell watched Tara Lipinski skate in the Olympics, she knew skating was something she wanted to try. Eighteen years later, she is now a nationally ranked figure skater and still going strong.
"I saw Tara Lipinski win the Olympics and I asked my parents if I could go to an ice rink," Dowell said. "I just kind of got hooked after that."
Dowell began competing not long after getting into figure skating. She competed all through high school and asked if she could skate for Oklahoma Baptist. Although OBU does not have a figure skating team, Dowell said it is not uncommon to see girls in similar situations at competitions.
"Lots of girls do that," Dowell said. "So there are girls from little, tiny schools there and then there's lots of big ones."
When she's not skating for OBU, Dowell plays another sport for the university: lacrosse. Dowell got started playing after expressing her desire to her parents to try at least one other sport besides figure skating."I've been figure skating my whole life and I begged my parents just to let me try another sport and so they said, 'Fine. You can try lacrosse on the side just to see if you like it,'" she said.
Dowell began playing for her high school in Edmond, Oklahoma, and by her senior year had become the captain of the lacrosse team. Noticing Dowell's abilities as a player, the OBU lacrosse coach at the time offered her a scholarship. Because Oklahoma Baptist is only an hour or so from Edmond, Dowell said she felt comfortable with continuing to pursue both sports.
"She offered me a scholarship so I figured, 'It's close enough to the rink. I can still skate, and I can still play lacrosse,'" Dowell said.
In the summer, Dowell said she goes to the ice rink every day. During the school year, however, she said her time at the rink is limited due to a busy schedule.
"When I'm here at school I usually get to go to the rink about twice a week," she said. "So I try to go on Friday and maybe Saturday or Sunday, or Wednesday if I'm lucky."
Dowell trains under a coach who represented Bulgaria in the Olympics and another who is nationally ranked. Of all the moves she likes to do best, she said her favorite moves are the double axel and the donut spin. Because figure skating does involve knowing basic ballet and dance techniques, Dowell said she took classes as a kid.
"I took dance, you have a personal trainer, so every day you switch off," she said. "You skate, you go to dance."
Currently, Dowell ranks seventh nationally among figure skaters in the U.S., which includes some who have been to the Olympics.
"It's a nice feeling I guess," Dowell said.Although Dowell said she at one point considered trying out for the U.S. Figure Skating Team, she felt her life was going down a different path.
"If you're going to the Olympics you have to train every day," she said. "It's full-time, non-stop."
Instead, Dowell said, she is hoping to one day perform as a skater.
"I'm looking into going on tour with shows to travel with that," she said. "That's my goal now."
Dowell has performed in ice shows before and used to do one each year at her skating rink.
"We used to do one every single year and I just really enjoyed those, so that's what made me consider doing that," she said. "Lots of our coaches have travelled with shows before."
Dowell has been in Alice and Winter Wonderland, The Gift and a few other Christmas-themed productions. As Dowell continues her final year on Bison Hill, she will continue to work towards her dream as a figure skater. A dream that all began with the Olympics and Tara Lipinski.