The 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships are taking place this week at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. A bubble similar to what the NBA and WNBA did last summer has been created. Among the competitors will be Mark Sadusky, who will take part in the senior pairs division with his partner Brynne McIsaac. The two have skated together for about a year and a half.

Sadusky, 22, grew up in Oakland, Calif. At age 4, he was adopted by a single white father, who let him try all kinds of sports, including gymnastics, baseball and basketball. At 11, he went to a Disney and Ice show and found himself completely amazed by skating and asked to try it.

“I went to Oakland Ice Center…but it was quite interesting because I wanted to play hockey,” said Sadusky. “I didn’t really want to figure skate, but I did want to learn how to skate. The coaches told me I was too small for hockey and put me in figure skating and told me I could play hockey when I got bigger.

“I fell in love with figure skating—the jumps, the spins, everything and how freeing it was,” he continued. “Once I started, I never looked back.”

Now six feet tall, Sadusky was on the smaller side until he hit puberty. He always wanted to skate pairs, but his coaches encouraged him to skate singles until he established himself on the skating scene. After he qualified for the 2016 U.S. Championships in novice men, his coaches introduced him to a renowned pairs coach and the quest for a partner began.

After a couple of short-lived partnerships, Sadusky paired with McIsaac, 21, in 2019. The duo now trains in Colorado Springs. When he first started skating, Sadusky’s father didn’t want to hang around the rink when he trained. This taught him to be independent and self-motivated.

“If I’m going to be successful, I have to put in the hard work,” Sadusky said. “Learning how to work for something you want.”

Sadusky and McIsaac were off the ice from March until late June when rinks were closed due to COVID-19, but they did off-ice training. Since July, they’ve been intently focused on getting ready to compete.

“Pairs skating is everything I hoped it would be and more,” said Sadusky. “I love skating with Brynne. There is so much cool movement and things you can do together that look unique. We always try with our choreographer to look unique and different. In pairs, there’s an endless amount of things you can learn.”