Like many elite ice skaters, John Zimmerman started skating when he was young, hitting the ice for the first time when he was just 3.
For the most part, though, Zimmerman's upbringing wasn't typical of a professional skater. There were no private coaches or fancy home rinks. As a kid in Alabama, he honed his skating skills at the local shopping mall, which had an indoor ice rink. Zimmerman participated in all kinds of sports, and he almost gave up skating for baseball when he was a teenager.
A long list of accolades would seem to indicate Zimmerman made the right decision by sticking with skating. He's an Olympian and a three-time national champion. These days, he skates with the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour, which stops in Albany Sunday, March 29, for a show at the Times Union Center.
Sometimes, Zimmerman said, it's hard to believe that this kid who headed out to skate after watching Saturday morning cartoons is now making his living on the ice.
I should not even be in this sport is what it comes down to, he said with a laugh during a recent interview from Cleveland, where Stars on Ice was performing.
Zimmerman's mom is the one who introduced him to the sport. A Michigan native, his mom was a "pond skater" and loved being out on the ice, he said. So, she took young John to the mall on the weekends, letting him spend hours skating.
She was adamant, though, that he play other sports, too. Zimmerman fell in love with baseball, which presented a dilemma when he was about 14 and it was becoming clear he was an above average athlete. He knew he had to decide to focus on just baseball or just skating.
He liked the idea of being more involved with his school, which baseball offered. Skating, on the other hand, had cute girls.