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Ice Dreams

Phyllis Friello with her pairs partner.

When Phyllis Friello twirls on the ice, she’s inspired by the sequined skaters she watched leaping through this year’s Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Now training for the 12th Annual Adult National Figure Skating Championships, which take place on March 29 in Dallas, Friello practices her pair-skating program over and over. The long training hours are rough, yet she relishes the thrill of being on an edge and flowing across the ice.

“I love being thrown, and the lifts feel like flying, but nothing can replace the simple joy of gliding across the ice,” says the 45-year-old research program manager who works with the upper-aero digestive group at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

Friello did not start skating until she was 28. She was slogging through a master’s degree in biology and craved physical activity. Intrigued by the jumps, throws, lifts and death spirals, she discovered pair skating. Since then she’s been competing in regional and national competitions, raking in nine national medals, including two golds in artistic skating and a silver and bronze in pair skating.

Along the way, Friello skated with Olympians Johnny Weir and Kimmie Meissner, Olympic champion and Baltimore resident Dorothy Hamill, and Olympic pair skater Calla Urbanski.

Friello practices up to three hours, three days a week. Weekends, she and her pairs partner from Atlanta fly up and down the East Coast to train together. Fitting time-consuming lessons and training around a complicated work schedule is a challenge, but Friello carves out enough hours and then some. She’s vice president of the Ice Club of Baltimore and coaches at the Northwest Ice Rink in Mt. Washington. She also teaches silk painting to patients and families at the Hackerman-Patz House, takes care of two cats and a dog, and provides shelter to a parcel of foster animals.

Friello’s skating informs her work as a research program manager. Through skating, she’s learned how to handle herself in different situations. “Once I was dropped from an overhead lift during a sold-out performance. You just get up and go on to the next element,” she says. Training has taught her not to give up easily. With practice, patience and a lot of hard work, she feels she can tackle anything.

As a research coordinator, she moved from project to project and has had to learn how to pick up new concepts. “Same thing on the ice. You need to have a can-do attitude, but when something doesn’t work, it’s important to recognize that it’s time to make a change.”

—Lydia Levis Bloch

JHM on Ice

Phyllis Friello is hardly the only Hopkins Medicine employee who has a passion for skating. Here are five more: ophthalmology administrator Suzanne Alexander; pediatric nurse Beth Diehl-Svrjcek; oncologist Mike Gibson; ophthalmologist Henry Jampel and his wife, dermatologist Risa Maura Jampel.



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