Viera’s Katie McGovern Nyman has performed in and coached figure skating shows around the world.
At just 18, she began choreographing music and designing costumes for skaters of all ages in professional performances and competition.
Shortly after immigrating to America from London in 2003, Nyman and her then three-year-old son, Tommy-Jo, headed up the coast to Brevard.
After landing the job as the director of the Theater on Ice Program in 2004 at the Rockledge venue, she has literally “hit the ice, running!” Her background, creativity and passion for the sport are what owner of the Space Coast Iceplex, Matt Smith, says makes her “the backbone of the rink.”
Now 52, Nyman still skates with the grace and skill set of those who are half her age. And her enthusiasm, both on and off the ice, is an inspiration to both her students and the area’s figure skating community.
“Sometimes my days are never ending. I’ve been known to find myself waking up in the middle of the night after thinking of an idea I could use for one of my teams’ performances.”
Her mornings on the ice start at 5:45 a.m.; yes, before sunrise! After private lessons, usually until around 10 a.m., she is on the phone or e-mail, networking with parents or students, or choreographing music for the shows. Then it’s back on the rink from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. for lessons, group classes and the Theater on Ice team practices.
Smith, who took over ownership of the Rockledge venue five years ago, said he is very fortunate to have Nyman at the helm of the figure skating programs here.
“She is by far the busiest coach we have. She encapsulates both the artistic and business side of the sport. Her hard work and never give-up attitude are second to none.”
Nyman, who grew up near London and began figure skating as a teen, said she was forced to become somewhat self-sufficient at an early age after losing her father.
Her first job, working as a bank teller, became a way for her to learn quickly the importance of saving money and hard work ethics.
“Thankfully, I gained support for my skating through many of my colleagues and bosses there. I was a fighter and determined not to give up my goals. The ice was kind of like a sanctuary where I could escape my fears and just do what I loved,” said Nyman.
After proving her worth on the Isle of Wight rink in England she became the director of the figure skating there.
Her experience and knowledge of the sport has been instrumental in leading the Space Coast Iceplex Theater on Ice skaters’ to wins at both national and international events.
In fact, the teams, known as the “Space Coast Frozen Hurricanes,,” have been the only teams from Florida who have attended the competition for the past 12 years since its inception.
A form of competitive figure skating popular in Europe and known as a ballet on ice, Theater on Ice merges technical jumps and spins with unique choreography. Participants are divided into teams based on skill level and age. At both national and international levels, they vie for titles in preliminary, intermediate, novice, junior, senior, open and adult level divisions.
“We’ve participated in every national championship, and have qualified to send teams to Nations Cup (world) competition at least four times,” she noted.
Last summer, the TOI Intermediate team took gold at the national competition in Alabama at the annual event. It was a back-to-back victory for skaters who began at the preliminary level in 2018.
With the help of Brielle Francis, one of the members of the first team that began in 2008 (then a senior division), Nyman has watched the members grow to more than 100 today.
As a single mom, Nyman has dealt with a lot of adversity having lost her father at a very young age.
But one of her brightest and best rewards has been raising and coaching her son, TJ. Now 19, a U.S. National team member and coach, he has been a member of the U.S. Olympic Training team for the past three years.
Nyman has coached him to several victories during his youth. After winning back-to-back national individual events in 2014 and 2015, he and pairs partner, Sarah Feng, won a bronze medal in pairs last year at the Junior Grand Prix series international figure skating competition.
“My Mom has always remained strong, no matter what. She has been my rock growing up and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for her. She has kept me involved in figure skating even when I was annoyed and frustrated. She continues to support me so much and I am grateful she always sees the best in me.”
“As a coach, teaching skating is not always about the initial skill level of the student, but their enthusiasm,” said Nyman. “Sure, the fundamentals of skating and connecting as a team are important; but having fun and smiling while performing is what ultimately can be the difference that can win the judges over. We try to make all Theater on Ice teams have an experience they can remember for the rest of their lives, whether pursuing figure skating as a pro or just for fun.”
For more information about programs at the Rockledge SpaceCoast Iceplex and upcoming Christmas show on December 14th and events, visit spacecoasticeplex.com or call 321-504-7500.