A Young Immigrant's Olympic Dream
Young Daniel Samohin was nervous. His father and coach, Igor told him "we can do this." At 11 years old, Daniel was competing for the third time in the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships, and had just fallen during his warm-up. In past years, he had finished ninth and eighth. He had received high marks for artistry, but fallen short on the technical side of his performance. Still, after a year of practicing more seriously, he knew he had a chance.
As soon as his program started, everything seemed to flow. Daniel's performance exhibited both outstanding artistry and technical excellence. As he left the ice, his eyes filled with tears of happiness. The judges were so impressed they awarded Daniel the highest scores and the gold medal. The young man had come a long way, and continued a proud family tradition.
A New Beginning in America
Daniel says the fun of the sport is what motivates him, and enjoyment of the sport goes hand-in-hand with success. When asked about his goals, he says he wants to go to the Olympics and compete for first. He says representing the United States would feel really good - and love of the sport and showcasing his hard work is what drives him.
His father Igor, an accomplished skater in his native Russia and former coach of the Israeli skating team, coaches his sons and other young skaters for the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club. Igor and his wife, Irina, moved to the United States to provide their family a better life and more opportunities.
Daniel was encouraged by his father to start skating at an early age, and found that he excelled at and enjoyed the sport. Coming from Israel as a small boy and speaking little English, skating provided an outlet.
An Older Brother's Perspective
Daniel's older brother Stanislav - or Stas for short - is also an accomplished skater and aspiring Olympian. He helps Daniel learn difficult jumps and other advanced skills. While Daniel has few memories of Israel, Stas was born in Russia and clearly remembers his family's moves to Israel and the United States.
"Things were hard" and "we didn’t speak the language" Stas recalls when asked about coming to the United States. It took time to make friends, but things got easier each day. "My main purpose was to come here and train and we adapted pretty quickly."
At first, Stas primarily had Russian friends, but he has found that branching out and reaching outside that circle of friends has enriched his life and given him more opportunities. Being an immigrant and having lived in different places, he says that "you've seen other people and how they live" and it provides a view of things that others might not have.
"They Are All United Here"
Stas emphasizes that being involved in sports helped provide the mentality and life skills needed to adjust to the challenges of a new environment. "If you are into sports, you have to overcome yourself - and these obstacles, these hardships, are like goals that you try to step over."
He sees American Olympians as a particularly good example of what makes this country special. Many athletes come from other places, "but they are all united here" and "this is like their home now."