Ask Matthew Solomon how long he's been ice-skating, and the adorable little boy matter-of-factly replies, "Since always." Surprisingly, it's not much of an exaggeration -- the active little boy crawled at 7 months, walked at 9 1/2 months, and was able to balance on the ice by 14 months. In fact, along with the traditional baby gifts of snugglies and toys, his mother received a tiny pair of ice skates.
An unusual present for a baby, to be sure, but not when the mom in question is Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan. After nabbing the silver seven years ago in Lillehammer, Nancy is enjoying a new life as a mom and as a performer in the noncompetitive skating world, starring in shows such as Footloose on Ice and a variety of other events her sports agent husband, Jerry Solomon, produces. And unlike in her Olympic days, Nancy isn't skating solo: Matthew loves to pair up with his mom on the ice.
"He knows Footloose so well now, he'll tell me, 'Mom, you were late at this move,'" Nancy says with a laugh.
Matthew was delighted to show off his skating skills during our photo shoot, held near the family's Lynnfield, MA, home. He skated backward and forward, gliding around the photographer's lights and dancing with Nancy to "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and other music from Footloose.
Even though Matthew is clearly comfortable on the ice, Nancy is very conscious of not pressuring her son to skate competitively or overscheduling him. "There are parents who have their kids doing two or three sports each season, but that's so hard on the kids and the parents," she says. "How do you enjoy activities when you're that busy?"
Despite those baby-size skates, Matthew's introduction to the ice happened quite innocently when Nancy brought him to one of her practices when he was just over a year old. "I put him in a snowsuit and let him crawl after me, but then he managed to pull himself up," she recalls. "He wasn't even speaking yet -- he just stood there with a big smile. His balance was great."
Matthew is now so enthusiastic about skating that he loves to hit the ice while his mother practices with other pros. And Nancy's schedule allows mom and son plenty of time together. She can do shortened tours so she's not away from home too long, and she can easily take Matthew with her. "At one point, we lived on a tour bus for a month, and he loved sleeping on a bunk as we traveled," Nancy says. "He thought it was the coolest thing."
Family has always been important to Nancy, and she speaks gratefully of the sacrifices her parents made when she was young. "They never made me feel obligated or pressured, even though they didn't have much money. It was demanding on them, so I wanted to give it my all."
Nancy started skating at age 6 for only an hour a week, but her instructors noticed her budding talent and soon recommended more lessons. "I never saw skating as work," she says. "If you're good at something, you enjoy doing more. There were days when I felt frustrated, but I was determined."
That devotion is also evident in the way she approaches motherhood. Earlier this year, the National Mother's Day Foundation honored Nancy with the Outstanding Mother Award for 2001. Both mom and son went to the awards ceremony in New York City, and a beaming Matthew told the reporters how proud he is of his mother.
Oddly enough, one of the best pieces of parenthood advice Nancy ever received came from a tag on one of Matthew's baby outfits. "It said that since you have to say no so often when you're a parent, whenever you have a chance to say yes, do it," she recalls.
So far, both mom and son have said yes to skating. And if Matthew decides he likes the sport as much as Nancy? "Well, I almost hope he doesn't," she says, laughing. "I'd like him to pick something warmer."
Despite her busy schedule, former Olympic star figure skater Nancy Kerrigan makes time for a variety of charitible causes, and even has her own organization which benefits the visually impaired. The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation was set up by Nancy and her husband, Jerry Solomon, in honor of Nancy's mother, Brenda Kerrigan, who is legally blind. To make a donation to the foundation, write a check payable to The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation, c/o The Giving Back Fund, 20 Park Plaza, Suite 1129, Boston, MA 02116. The foundation gives grants to a variety of organizations that support the visually impaired.
Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the November 2001 issue of Child magazine.