Amber Glenn

It wasn’t the cleanest free skate, but Amber Glenn was consistent enough to pull through and break through at U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in Columbus, Ohio on January 25.

If getting the women’s championship after surviving seeing a promising season derailed by COVID, a concussion and an eye bone fracture was the full story, it would be enough. But Glenn added a breaking news item as she celebrated.

Gliding in victory with arms outstretched, the Progress Pride Flag glided along with her.

There was a time in the career of this budding young star where queerness would be frozen deep in time and never thaw.

When Glenn came out as pansexual in 2019, she was worried about her place in a sport where subjective whims of judges are the difference between gold and also-ran.  

“When I came out originally I was terrified and I was scared it would affect my scores, but I didn’t care,” she told reporters after winning her U.S. title. “It was worth it to see, over the last couple of years, the amount of young people that feel more represented at the rink and just because you have this aspect doesn’t mean you can’t be a top athlete. We’re here, you’re represented and it just means a lot.”

The last time Glenn won a national championship was ten years ago. She was 14-year-old from Plano, Texas with a gleam and a dream.

At U.S. Junior Nationals that year, she achieved that first big goal and then looked ahead to larger ones. National titles and Olympic glory loomed, but for her also caused gloom.

The expectations weighed heavy. Glenn was hospitalized due to depression in 2015, but with her senior debut approach, she left the hospital and skated. She ended up sixth, but in a deeper hole.

The next few years saw her withdraw from the sport, come back and then withdraw again. She was seen as a person with all the tools to be a contender or champion, but could never quite put them together.

She began to doubt herself, question herself, continually remake herself, until she decided to be herself.

“I was trying to be this person that I wasn’t,” Glenn said to the Washington Post last month. “I was trying to come off as like the perfect girlfriend or the perfect skater or the perfect example, rather than just being who I am.”

The realization came with a helping hand.

Timothy LeDuc, coming off a U.S. pairs title in 2019 and who would be the first nonbinary U.S. Winter Olympian in 2022, trained at the same rink as Glenn in Texas. Glenn confided what she was feeling to them, and LeDuc was filling in the words to describe the feelings.

In October 2019, Glenn came out and the once choppy waters slowly became a perfect sheet of ice. In 2021, she broke through with silver at the national championship.

The next year she fought through illness, ended up 14th, and found out she was infected with COVID. Last year, she rallied back to bronze.

This year, even with some stumbles, she put things together.

Glenn has revealed more about the backstory of the dark times between her junior championship and when she came out. She has made those hard times into a message to help others and has been an outspoken advocate in growing conversation among athletes about mental health.

“As a junior athlete, I had crises that were overlooked in order for me to ‘do my job,’” Glenn said to “I struggled in silence until eventually everything fell apart. Since then, I’ve refused to let my mental health deteriorate for short-term success.”

She also relished in being a queer role model inside and outside her sport. At nationals and at world championships in Montreal this spring, there were a few more Pride flags among the spectators. Many of those are a sign of support for Glenn’s pluck and persistence.

And she’s shown that she is not done even at the old-for-figure-skating age of 24. She was tenth at worlds but became the second U.S. woman to land a triple axel in competition.

She also plans to make a run at being a part of the U.S. Olympic Team for 2026 in Milan-Cortina, Italy.

Given what Amber Glenn has overcome so far, smart money says she’ll be out, loud, proud and at those Olympic Games ready to skate. We look forward to watching her continue to flourish for many, many years to come.

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