Kristina Struthwolf-Leato, 35-year-old Stansbury resident, took first place at the U.S Adult Figure Skating Championships last month in Salt Lake City. This was her third, first-place win. She said she plans to continue skating forever.
The U.S Adult Figure Skating Championship took place on April 15.
During the competition, participants showed off their technical skating skills including jumping passes, spins, step sequences, and overall skating skills, with harder skills being worth more points.
They also skated to win performance points. Struthwolf-Leato scored very well both technically and for her performance, but she is known for being proficient at performing.
“The performance aspect comes down to the choreography, how you interpret the music, how you express the music, and how it comes across to the audience and the judges,” Struthwolf-Leato said. “I’m really good at relating to the music and being able to make people relate to my skating. This is my strongest point with scoring.”
Putting both technique and performance together feels amazing, Struthwolf-Leato said.
“I was able to focus on what I needed to do and I skated really well,” she said.
Struthwolf-Leato skated against over 500 other skaters at the championships this year.
Her favorite part was having her friends and family in the audience.
“It was special to me to have all of our family here in the audience and people who don’t always get to see me skate,” she said. “That was one of the highlights of being able to perform.”
She has also skated at the championships two other times. In 2019, during her first time at the event, she not only won first place, but she set the world record for the highest score for a female at the competition.
“I didn’t even know what the numbers were, but it was neat when I found out I had set that record,” she said.
Struthwolf-Leato returned again in 2022 after taking off a year for the pandemic and year to have her second child. There she won again, so naturally, she knew she had to return this year.
“It was nice to defend the title,” she said.
In order to qualify for the championships, Struthwolf-Leato had to participate in the sectional championships in March in Las Vegas, which included skaters from the western third of the United States. There, she took first place, which allowed her to qualify for nationals.
Struthwolf-Leato has worked her whole life to get to this point. Although Struthwolf-Leato began skating when she was six years old, her passion began when she was only four.
“I watched Kristi Yamaguchi compete in the 1992 Olympics and I loved watching it,” she said. “My mom said I would go over to the TV and flip through channels because I wanted to watch more skaters.”
When Struthwolf-Leato was six, her parents took her to a skating rink at Cyprus High School to take group lessons
“Ever since day one, I’ve loved being on the ice,” she said. “The first day I was there, I wanted to skate more, and more, and more.”
For Struthwolf-Leato’s seventh birthday, her family sent money so she could continue her skating with private lessons. From there, she hasn’t stopped skating. Shortly after, she began competing.
Struthwolf-Leato has competed both nationally and internationally. When she was 16, she began competing in the highest level a skater can compete in: the senior level. Very few skaters make it to this level.
“The senior level is the stuff you see on TV, like the national championships and the Olympics,” Struthwolf-Leato explained.
From around 2004 to 2016, she was ranked in the top 36 skaters in the United States, sometimes being in the top 18. She has also trained in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center.
“I wanted to be around some of the best skaters in the world,” Struthwolf-Leato said. “I went to train there to help become a better skater overall.”
Although Struthwolf-Leato was never able to attend the Olympics, she was close.
“You have to make it to the senior level and you have to be ranked in the top two or three in the nation in a year that the Olympics are happening,” she explained. “I was very close. There were so many skaters I competed with that did go to the Olympics … I was never that far out, but also getting into the top two or three skaters in the nation is extremely competitive and it’s also luck that you happened to compete during an Olympic year.”
During her career, Struthwolf-Leato has had to overcome many obstacles, but she isn’t letting that stop her.
“One of the hardest things about skating is dealing with all the injuries that come along with it,” she said. “If it allowed me to be able to skate, I would take all of the injuries.”
Struthwolf-Leato also struggled to get back to the same level of skill she previously had before she had kids.
“I welcomed the challenge and I was okay with it,” she said. “I’m always up for a challenge. Getting back on the ice wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy getting that endurance and stamina back. I had to be patient with my body recovering.”
Traditionally, skater’s careers are over at 18, but Struthwolf-Leato has helped break that stigma by continuing to skate after having children and being in her mid-30s.
“It’s neat to know that I’m making an impact on other people,” she said.
Struthwolf-Leato’s favorite place in the world is on the ice.
“I love the feeling of being on the ice and being able to move,” she said. “There’s nothing else that feels like it. I love being able to express myself to the music … It’s just kind of addicting.”
She also loves the feeling of accomplishment she gets after learning a new skill or technique, the feelings of motivation she has, the life lessons she has learned, and traveling.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years and I still get sad if there’s a day I can’t go to the ice,” she said.
Struthwolf-Leato plans to skate forever.
“I want to continue to skate at as high of a level as I can for as long as I can,” she said.
“If there had never been any medals, camera flashes, or audiences involved, you’d still find me on the ice somewhere,” she continued paraphrasing a quote she loves.
“It’s very important for our kids to see their mom continue skating as they grow up,” Struthwolf-Leato’s husband, Kyle said. “That shows them that the only limitations are the ones they put on themselves.”
Along with skating herself, Struthwolf-Leato coaches young, aspiring figure skaters, judges skating competitions, and works in sports psychology consulting.
“I’m a mental performance coach,” she explained. “I got into this when I was younger, because there were a few mental aspects of skating that I had to work through myself. It was enough that it made a very big impact on me and my own skating career. I attribute a lot of the reason why I still skate today back to when I worked with a sports psychology consultant myself. I thought it was super intriguing … I knew I wanted to be a coach and I wanted to be able to help my own skaters with that as well, so I went to the University of Utah and I got my master’s degree in psychosocial aspects of sports.”
Now, Struthwolf-Leato works at Headstrong Consulting, a company based out of South Jordan, with other skaters, gymnasts, golfers, equestrian performers, and even musicians helping them overcome their mental challenges. She also applies her training to her own career.
“My training helps me work through things in a very rational, realistic, and controlled way,” she said.
When Struthwolf-Leato isn’t skating, coaching, judging, or working, she enjoys spending time with her two children, Luca and Sophia, and her husband at home.
She also enjoys golfing and listening to music.