Balancing the demands of school and the rigor of training to be a world-class athlete comeS naturally for Broadmoor Spires resident Danny Neudecker. He’s done it as long as he can remember.
The 20-year-old earned a 4.0 grade point average during his last three semesters of college and snagged his most recent gold medal during the 2017 U.S. National Junior Pairs Champion. Neudecker and his skating partner, Nica Digerness, won the competition in January in Kansas City.
Neudecker began skating at age 5 in Seattle. His mother, Tammie, said finding an activity for her son was essential because he kept jumping on and off the furniture. There were karate lessons and other classes, but Neudecker displayed such a talent for skating that he began competing — and winning — at 6.
Winning men’s singles competitions continued until 2014 when Danny represented the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in the U.S. Collegiate Junior Men’s Championship and took the men’s national title.When it became apparent that Danny would not likely be a senior level national or international competitor in men’s singles, he adopted the philosophy that if something isn’t working, try something else.
One of his teachers at Cheyenne Mountain High School isn’t surprised that Neudecker adapted.
“Danny was a student who would take on any type of problem and he would do it with a smile,” said Jeff O’Brien, who inspired Danny’s love of digital film. “He was enjoyable to teach and he loved to create effects for his videos. He created ‘Don’t use Phones’ for the Indie Spirit Film Festival. His film showed before every film that was played. He was a joy to be around.”
A little more than a year ago, pairs coach Dalilah Sappenfield introduced Danny to Digerness.
“I thought it would be difficult to stop competing in men’s singles,” Danny said. “But pair skating actually renewed my interest in skating. Some people think it’s easier to skate pairs, but it’s actually just as hard.”
The two had an instant connection when they met and Digerness, 16, eventually moved to Colorado Springs from Greeley with her mom so they could spend less time traveling.
“She’s the perfect height and we get along extremely well,” Danny said.Danny trains six days a week, three or four sessions a day on the ice, then ballet or a workout with a personal trainer. He’s taking three classes at UCCS and studying communication. When he does find himself with precious spare time, he enjoys video games. His love for learning languages has inspired him to become proficient in Russian and he wants to learn Dutch.
“Right now, long term, I think I would like to eventually be a translator,” he said.
It’s obvious Danny translated his men’s singles skills to the pairs competitions, and he and Digerness have been selected to compete at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships March 13-19, in Chinese Taipei. Since they have been skating together, they have medaled at every national skating competition they entered, were selected for Team USA, and competed in Russia and Germany.
They have also earned the nickname “Team Digerdecker.”
Their upcoming competition at the world championships might be among their last as junior division competitors as Danny inches closer to age 21 and the pair moves up to the senior level competition.
“The quality of skating improves and is different at the senior level,” Danny said. “Although it would be great to make the Olympic team in 2018, it’s more realistic for us to focus on 2022.”
Danny’s language interests have already been useful when the team competed in Russia, but it was his family’s commitment to helping other aspiring skaters that enriched his life at home.
Tammie was an elementary teacher in Seattle. When the family moved to Colorado Springs, she devoted her time to getting Danny to all the training and skating activities. So, she found another way to nurture young people.
The family has hosted about a dozen skaters and sometimes their coaches.Hosting other skaters means that the conversation in the Neudecker home is always about skating.
“The banter is always skating talk,” Tammie said. “Talking about skills, having others to bounce whatever they are going through off of.”
Tammie said she gets very nervous when watching the skating competitions.“You have no control over what goes on.” she said.
Danny said his most pressing challenge is to not focus on what might be the outcome of all the hard work and the competitions.
“I have to stay in the mindset of what we are doing in the moment,” he said. “That’s the most difficult part, trusting the process, developing your skills, not being focused on the outcome.
“I have had so much support from my family,” he added. “They never give up on me.”