Getting to travel with your partner is often a fun time. Getting to travel to compete in the Winter Olympics together is a little bit better than your average trip, though.
That’s exactly what Jerod and Elizabeth Swallow got to do during their ice skating career. Numerous times.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to have that experience with anyone else,” she said. “He was definitely a big sense of support for me and it was so unique that we were able to compete together in the only Olympic sport where men and women compete together.”
During their ice dancing career the duo – who have lived in Birmingham the last 20 years – competed together at two Winter Olympics, multiple World Championships, and won five U.S. Championships, including one in Detroit – a special moment for both of them.
Before they become that powerhouse skating team, though, they skated with different partners until one day they were paired up in a mock competition, where skaters were paired with different people so judges could practice judging.
“I don’t think we were thinking of partnership then but a few years later we skated together again,” Jerod said. “I think that’s when people started noticing how well-suited we were for one another, at least on the ice.”
They realized it too, and made it official.
Both commented that they thought they worked so well together for a few reasons. One, they had become friends first and two, they are both rather easygoing, a key to success in any sport with intense competition.
“You spend more time together as partners than a lot of married couples do,” he laughed. “So if you can get along and be an ice dancing couple you can probably be a good match for husband and wife.”
Turns out they were. The couple got married in 1993, and competed together for five more years. They ended their eligible career in 1998, and skated professionally for a few years after that.
That transition of going from competing to a more regular life was difficult for both of them. Luckily, they had someone going through the exact same thing right next to them.
Elizabeth said those last five years of skating were spent trying to prepare themselves for what was to come. What they didn’t know was that all of those big changes – leaving skating, going back to school, coaching, and starting a family – would happen at the same time.
“That was a big transition for us, and I feel like we finally got over the hump. I didn’t realize it would take 10 years to make that transition,” she laughed. "It hits you by surprise whether you are ready for it or not. It’s definitely a humbling experience and there’s no real road map.”
Both went on to coach at the rink they called their home ice for years, the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Township. While Elizabeth left in 2014 to pursue a career in interior design, Jerod stayed, now serving as their managing director. He’s getting the next generation ready, including those coming to compete at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships which will be held in Detroit. The Detroit Skating Club will host the novice, intermediate, and juvenile events during the competition.
Elizabeth has some advice for those upcoming skaters.
“Enjoy every moment of it because you really are competing for such a short time in your life and that is fleeting,” she said.
Photo: Laurie Tennent