That step led to a full-out sprint for Madorsky. In less than a year she raced from a retired junior skater to the elite cadre of female figure skaters in the country and a 17th-place finish at the recent U.S. National Figure Skating Competition in St. Louis.
Madorsky's transformation -- from burnout to top-flight within seven months -- has resulted in national attention for the 22-year-old senior anthropology major from Gates Mills, Ohio.
"It IS an incredible story," says her coach, Bob Crowley, who is in a position to know. Prior to taking over the reins of the Bozeman Figure Skating Club, Crowley had spent 11 years as the number two administrator with the U.S. Figure Skating Association based in Colorado Springs, Colo. "You just don't hear about athletes who leave a sport and come back five years later with far greater success than when they left. Especially not our sport."
Especially not an athlete who skates for Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., which Crowley agrees, is not exactly the center of the figure skating world.
"(Crowley) has everything to do with how successful I have been," Madorsky said. "He's the real deal."
But so is living in Bozeman and going to school at MSU, which Madorsky says is just the right antidote to the high stakes and pressure-packed world of competitive figure skating.
"There's nothing more beautiful than walking down (Centennial Mall) and seeing the Spanish Peaks right there," Madorsky said. "Even if you're having a bad day, it's just so beautiful here."
Madorsky says that there were a lot of bad days at the end of her previous skating career. A native of suburban Cleveland, Madorsky said there was never a time when she doesn't remember skating. Her older sister skated before her and she remembers riding in the carpool, and then beginning lessons when she was about three.
By the time she was 16, Madorsky had won a roomful of medals and she and her mother moved to Fairfax, Va. to work with an acclaimed coach. But things soon were going in the wrong direction. In her senior year, Madorsky finished fifth in the junior regional championship that she had won the year before.
Madorsky walked away from skating, initially enrolling at Radford University in Radford, Va. By the second semester of her sophomore year she took a National Outdoor Leadership School course and fell in love with the West. She applied to the University of Utah and the University of Oregon, but the "vibe" at MSU was more to her liking.
"I didn't want an urban setting," she said. "I liked the students and the fact that MSU offered off-beat classes, such as skiing and horseback riding."
Madorsky said she was a typical student, the co-president of the MSU Anthropology Club who liked to work out and hang out, until the day last October when she was on the elliptical machine in the Shroyer Circuit Room and tried to ignore the skating competition on a gym television screen. A skater that Madorsky competed against in high school finished well in the competition. Madorsky was transfixed and within a few weeks, she was back on the ice.
Coincidentally, about that time Crowley was in Bozeman, checking out the directorship of the Bozeman Figure Skating Club. He and his wife had met in Montana while he was in Great Falls coaching another pretty good Montana skater - Scott Davis. After more than a decade in skating administration, he and his wife wanted to return to Montana and coaching.
He said while they immediately liked each other, Madorsky's abilities weren't immediately obvious and what followed was a mutual evolution. "We are each others' reclamation projects," Crowley says.
Crowley worked daily with Madorsky, who had ended her career as a junior skater, to pass a test for a senior ranking. After that, Madorsky's next goal was to do a competition. Her first competition was in July in Salt Lake City. Crowley said Madorsky didn't do very well there, "but she got to the end standing and survived it. It was a good first step."
There was a string of competitions, at which Madorsky gradually improved her ranking. She competed for MSU at the National Collegiate championships in Hawaii, finishing sixth out of 50 senior-level skaters. Soon after she skated to first at senior regionals in Jackson, Wyo., which qualified her for sectionals in Sacramento, Calif., a tough, competitive area for figure skaters.
"She was a figure skater from Bozeman, Montana, and MSU and no one thought or expected her to be a good skater," Crowley said. She finished in the top four at sectionals, which made her one of the top 20 female skaters in the country and qualified her for nationals.
Madorsky's story was in the Bozeman Chronicle and her hometown paper in Ohio. She said she was touched when MSU President Geoff Gamble read it and called her up to offer a bit of financial support and an MSU pin that Madorsky wore at nationals.
Local fans at Ice Dog games also chipped in $3,000. Skating is an expensive sport, in which good skating boots and blades cost $1,000, Madorsky said. "Every little bit helps. Even more than that, it is so touching that the community wants to be a part of it. It means so much that you don't even know how to say thanks in the way you want to say it."
By the time Madorsky arrived at nationals, people knew who she was. Peggy Fleming and Dick Button told a national audience about Madorsky's Cinderella story, as did Peter Carruthers on ABC.
"The largest crowd she had skated in front of before that was at the Ice Dogs games," Crowley said. "At nationals, she skated before an audience of 7,000." Crowley didn't let Madorsky know that the ESPN cameras broadcast her short program on ESPN2 until after she was done.
"Again, our goal was for her to go out and do the best she could," said Crowley, who said he and Madorsky had no expectations she would be higher than 20th. "She did a nice job with it" and finished 17th. "She was really pleased with that."
Madorsky took one week off after nationals and now is happily back at The Valley Ice Garden, working with Crowley two or three times a day. "I'm still improving, so I want to see where it takes me," she said.
Madorsky plans to keep her long skating program and develop a new short program, and she is also working on new triple jumps. Madorsky is adept at two types of triple jumps and is close to consistency with a third. Crowley said national competitors must have five types of triple jumps in their programs.
To help her prepare for the upcoming round of competition, Madorsky has cut her MSU course load in half and will graduate in December instead of May.
"We're quite proud of Anna," said Larry Carucci, anthropology professor and Madorsky's adviser. "She's one of our best students and has done superbly in what is a very rigorous course of study. I think it's especially important for kids to see someone like Anna who can excel not only in academics, but have other incredibly important skills as well."
Madorsky said she "thinks there is something beyond skating for me" and plans to earn a master's degree one day. But for right now, she plans to continue skating, perhaps with an ice show after her competition days are done.
"For now, I'm skating for all the right reasons," she said. "I find a lot of joy and balance in it. But when the time comes, I think I will know when to walk away."
Larry Carucci (406) 994-5255