NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Catherine Rivers fell in love with ice skating from the moment she set foot on the Market Square rink in Knoxville. The 11-year-old asked her dad to take her skating nearly every day after school.
"I would get my rental skates and go on and just do laps and try to learn how to stay on my feet while also moving," Cat said. "That year for Christmas, I got my first pair of skates."
Cat, now 18, is a bronze medalist in junior pairs at the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating National Championship
"It feels so, so unreal," she said. "It all started in that one little rink."
Cat took her first lessons at the Ice Chalet in Knoxville with skating director Julia Hardin.
"I observed the really natural talent she had for the sport," Hardin said. "To get to her level, you have to show a dedication and a desire to work hard early on. And she really did."
As Cat's skating improved, she began taking lessons from different coaches, including Lindsay and Kim Patterson at Cool Sports.
Cat's mom, Denise Rivers, credits them with convincing her a little girl from Knoxville could make it all the way to nationals.
"I don't know where I'd be without every single person who has been there for me this entire time," Cat said. "If you think you're on that list, you absolutely are because I love you and I appreciate you so much."
With their recent placement at nationals, she and her partner Timmy Chapman are starting to reach their dreams.
"We love skating so much and it is a blessing for us to say that we inspire people," Timmy Chapman said. "Do what you love and stick with it."
Only 12 junior pairs teams — including Cat and Timmy — were selected to compete at the national championship in Nashville this year.
Cat and Timmy were chosen as alternates for the 2022 World Junior Championships.
"So few skaters actually make it to that level," Hardin said. "It's an indescribable feeling knowing I had a little part, a very small part in her beginning."
Cat hopes her success shows other skaters from Tennessee that they can make it too.
"As long as you have a passion for it, then just don't stop," she said. "Honestly, just do your thing and put your blinders on and don't forget why you started. Have fun!"