Aimee Buchanan of Israel skating at a competition in Salt Lake City in 2016. Aimee Buchanan of Israel skating at a competition in Salt Lake City in 2016. Aimee Buchanan of Israel skating at a competition in Salt Lake City in 2016. (Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr. / Getty Images)

Figure skater still pinching herself that Olympic dream coming true

In South Korea, Aimee Buchanan will be the top-ranked ladies’ singles skater from Israel.

Only 10 countries are invited to participate in the figure skating team competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea – including Canada, Russia, the United States and Israel. Aimee Buchanan, a 23-year-old who is relatively new to the international stage, will make her Olympic debut in the team competition. She joins veteran skater Alexey Bychenko, the pairs team of Paige Conners and Evgeni Krasnopolski and ice dancers Adel Tankova and Ronald Zilberberg. This winter, Israel will send its largest-ever Olympic delegation to Pyeongchang.

PHOTOS: Israel at the Winter Olympics

Buchanan has been skating since she was 4, but only took up figure skating seriously at 19. “I wanted to be serious throughout high school, but my parents wanted me to be a well-rounded kid, so they had me playing a bunch of different sports – soccer, softball, gymnastics and dance. You name it, I did it. But I always wanted to be competitive in skating,” she said from her home outside of Boston.

Growing up in Massachusetts, she competed in regional and sectional events. “When I was a little kid, I said I wanted to go to the Olympics, but that’s what every little kid says when they start a sport,” she laughed. When it became clear that international competition was on the horizon, she made the decision very quickly to exercise her Israeli citizenship and compete for Israel.

“Before I started skating for Israel, I never thought I was going to be skating for a country. I thought, ‘I’ll just do the best I can and see what happens.’” What came next is the stuff of dreams.

She is the top-ranked ladies’ singles skater from Israel. She qualified for the European Championships three times, and won the Israel National Championship in 2016, which she said is one of her single greatest moments to date in figure skating.

The top 24 spots in the Olympic individual competition are filled at the World Championships the previous year, and the final six spots are filled at a qualification event. She earned the right to compete at the singles qualification event in September, but she was hampered in part by an ankle injury that hadn’t fully healed.

Buchanan takes the Olympic ice in the ladies’ singles team skate on Feb. 11. Only the top five teams move on to the long program, and the competition will be fierce. “I just want to go out and skate like I do in practice. I want to have fun and be in the moment enough to enjoy it and not be so stressed,” she said.

As a skater, spinning is one of her greatest strengths. The crowds in Pyeongchang are likely to be wowed by the sheer amount of spinning in her program, which she skates to “Only Hope” by Mandy Moore, from the 2002 movie, "A Walk to Remember."

“Competing in the Olympics is a dream come true," she said. "I still don’t quite believe it. I know it’s true, but I don’t think I’ll believe it until I’m actually there."

Regardless of what happens in Pyeongchang, she says she’s going to keep skating as long as she can. “I just love to skate,” she concluded.

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