Emmy Ma of Team Taiwan
Keep Emmy Ma on your radar.
She is a figure skater on the senior level, newly branded as a skater for Taiwan. Departing from the United States Figure Skating Association, she captures a new home within her family's country. Along with the new federation, Emmy is approaching a new playing field: college. With balancing her education and figure skating career, Emmy finds her sweet spot in falling back in love with skating. Even when the world is on everyone’s back, she wants to make sure that, despite the scores and programs, she is “happy every day on the ice and in competition.” Emmy joined me for a short interview and we covered things from staying positive even when you're at your lowest point to her bias in Loona! Read ahead for more!
Q: Can you tell me about yourself and how you got to where you are today?
Emmy Ma: Sure! I don’t know even, I don’t like talking about this stuff [laughs]. I don’t even know what to say. Where do I even begin? [laughs]
Q: You could talk about how you first got into figure skating and stuff like that.
Emmy Ma: Okay, sure! Well, it’s kind of, like, a silly story. I feel like I’ve said this a couple of times before. I don’t know if anyone knows, but, I started skating, like, I don’t know. Everyone has these cute stories about how they went to a birthday party, or like, “Oh, I loved watching skating on TV and I love the pretty dresses,” but my sister and my brother skated before me. When my sister quit after a month, she had new skates, and my dad was like, “You’re not going to get new skates,” or, “We’re not gonna give the skates away,” because they’re expensive. So, I started skating! [Laughs] So yeah, it’s pretty funny telling people that story, but yeah, that’s how I started skating. I guess I just kept going. I was the kid in the family that continued doing skating.
Q: Nice, nice.
Emmy Ma: [Laughs]
Q: So your brother and sister, they just stopped, they didn’t do any more skating after that?
Emmy Ma: Nope.
Q: It happens. On a normal practice day, what does your training schedule look like?
Emmy Ma: Well, in the fall, I’m going to start my freshman year in school, so I don’t know how that’s gonna be navigated, but right now in the summer I get there [to the rink] at 8:30, er, 8:00, I do off-ice warmup, and then at 8:30, I skate. I skate for two hours, and then I take an hour break, and then I skate another hour, and then I do off-ice training and stuff. Sometimes I coach.
Q: Oh, wow.
Emmy Ma: Yeah. [Laughs]
Q: What do you love most about your coaches?
Emmy Ma: I love Mark and Peter so much. I mean, what do I love most about them? I guess how much they care and how much they’re… I don’t know. They’re always there for me. I call them my second dads. They’re literally always there for me. They’re the most supportive people I could ever have in my life. I love them.
Q: That’s sweet! Are you planning to add a triple-triple combination into any of your programs?
Emmy Ma: I’m working on it. I’m working on it! [Laughs]. I’ve seen many people [wondering], not that I look myself up or anything. It’s definitely a matter of getting my technical, you know, stuff, up. The past couple of years, there’s been setbacks, like injuries, and last year I went through a period of time where I was just going through it, so I took my gap year and figured things out. Right now I feel more ready than ever to start school, to go into a new environment, and to learn how to balance skating and school. And so I hope to add a triple triple soon.
Q: A lot of people were asking me to ask you that, and I was like, “Yes. that is exactly what I want to ask.
Emmy Ma: Yes! [laughs]
Q: Besides the triple-triple, are you training any new elements for programs or just in general?
Emmy Ma: I feel like when I train, especially with Mark and Peter, they always say, “The main focus of the day is to get your three programs done for the day.” So every session, I warm up to get my program done, but then besides that, especially on the last session, on my last hour, I’m able to work on other things. So, today I was working on triple toe!
Emmy Ma: So that’s something I’m trying to get, I feel like it’ll come soon. And hopefully I’ll get a video of it! When it happens, it’ll happen.
Q: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
Emmy Ma: This is probably just the corniest answer ever, but I feel like my biggest goal for this season would probably be just to be happy while skating, not even just in competition but in practice. I feel like it’s really common to see some people just not really enjoying it, or, I don’t know, you’ll see a lot of skaters saying, “Oh my god I hate skating,” but we don’t actually mean it. Last year was a tough season for me, as some might have seen. I didn’t really get back after Nationals last year, and then Junior Worlds was kind of tragic, but I ain’t dead though! And then the rest of the 2018 season was kind of just rough for me. It wasn’t until November or December of last year [that I was feeling good], and then at Nationals 2019 I skated two programs that I was really proud of. Then I kind of realized, “Oh, I actually do really love skating.” I feel like all of that kind of led to my ultimate goal, besides getting new jumps, besides getting good scores in international assignments and results, is to make sure I’m happy every day on the ice and in competition.
Q: That’s a really good answer. I’ve asked that question to a few people, and they just said, “Oh, go to this competition,” or, “Oh, I just want to get this score,” but that’s just a good general answer. That could apply to anything.
Emmy Ma: Thanks! Oh yeah, absolutely. I feel like if you have that mindset, the scores and the competitions will come without worrying about one specific thing.
Q: Do you have a dream piece of music to skate to?
Emmy Ma: Not off the top of my head. I know that’s a disappointing answer, but no, I don’t have anything in mind at the current moment.
Q: Who is a skater that you look up to or one that you’re very inspired by?
Emmy Ma: My first answer would be Carolina Kostner, because I think her skating is just angelic, in a word. I love her skating so much. I love Satoko Miyahara’s skating. Who else? Mao Asada. I really look up to her. Okay, top three! I don’t have just one, but those are my top three, I would say.
Q: Totally approve!
Emmy Ma: Thank you!
Q: What is the dynamic at your rink like?
Emmy Ma: I love skating at the rink in Revere. I don’t know how much… I guess I’ll just explain to you. I don’t want to explain too much but you already know everything, so just tell me [if you know].
Q: Oh, it’s okay.
Emmy Ma: Alright. Ok! So, the training style there, Mark and Peter kind of have a bunch of coaches on the ice, like Mark and Peter and then two other, I don’t even want to call them assistant coaches so don’t… You didn’t hear that from me! [Laughs]. There’s ten to fifteen people on the ice at a time, and I feel like they [the coaches] kind of split. So one coach will get two or three or four skaters, and we kind of just do our own thing. If there’s something that needs a correction, then we’ll just go back to them, or they’ll call us over, and that’s kind of the way we do our sessions. I love being able to just take my own responsibility, and it feels like I’m kind of doing my own… It’s supported but it’s also independent. I’m the kind of person that likes to do my own thing, but Mark and Peter keep me in check. I love skating at the rink and everyone is super friendly. My best friend is Heidi Munger, so stan Heidi! I love skating with her every day.
Q: I don’t know if you announced this already, but what music will you be skating to for your short and free skate this season?
Emmy Ma: My short program is “Is That Alright?” by Lady Gaga from the A Star is Born movie. I know it’s basic, but I love the music so much! [Laughs.] I’m keeping my long from last year [Selections from Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian].
Q: Do you get to choose your own music?
Emmy Ma: It’s kind of a group [decision]. I feel like every skater has the same answer to this; it’s a group effort, I feel? Sometimes, if I’m being honest, Mark will give me a piece of music and I’ll be like “Uh, I don’t really know how I feel about that.” My short program last year was to “One More Try”, a George Michael song, and I didn’t really know how to feel about it, but he said, “Just trust me.” I liked it but I was, like, not sure, but then it ended up being one of my favorite programs ever. So, he usually gives me a couple of options and I pick which one I like.
Emmy Ma: Yeah! [Laughs].
Q: What is your favorite part about meeting skaters from all around the country and world?
Emmy Ma: Making friends! [Laughs]. I guess. That’s a stupid answer. I don’t know how to answer that. It’s just nice being able to, I don’t know, meet other people who have the same experience of, you know, doing the grind every day at the rink. And it’s also just, like… I don’t know, I’ve never been the type of person… Okay, I am competitive, but not to the point that I can’t talk to my competitors. Not that I really know anyone like that, but you know what I mean. I feel like I’m a very friendly person, or I try to be at least, so I love being social and meeting people at competitions.
Q: A lot of people were surprised by your federation change when the entries for the Chinese Taipei National competition were released. Are you changing federations, and if so, why the change in federation?
Emmy Ma: Yes, to confirm, I am switching federations to the Taiwan Skating Federation. It’s kind of a decision that’s always been in my mind since I was ten or eleven or twelve. I was like, “Maybe I should compete for Taiwan.” But I never actually got around to doing it because… I don’t know why honestly. I think my mom was kind of iffy about it and then I was iffy about it. It wasn’t until Mark said, “Maybe we should try doing this Taiwan thing, because it would open up a door to a lot of different new opportunities.” I feel like that’s the main reason I decided to do it, just to see what I could do for Taiwan, my country.
Q: A lot of people were really proud of you, so I don’t think I can say I’m proud of you, because I don’t really know you…
Emmy Ma: I understand! It felt like I was able to take charge in the coming season, or possibly take more charge of my skating.
Q: So the Taiwan National competition. How did it go for you?
Emmy Ma: I skated well. I’m not trying to make excuses, not that it would come off as an excuse, I don’t know why I just said that! The ice at the arena in Taiwan goes from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., which is public skating, so there’s hockey skating, speed skating, and figure skating. So before 9:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. was when we were able to rent the ice. So that made me feel lucky to have such good ice in America. I feel like that’s something we really take for granted. I did. So, my first practices were at 12:30 in the morning.
Q: Oh my God.
Emmy Ma: Yeah, so for the first two days were, like, jet lag and weird practice times. That was honestly just a new challenging experience. It went well, I’m happy with my performances. Obviously they could have been better, I popped my lutz in my short, which is just not a smart thing, because popping is bad! [Laughs]. And in my long program, I think there was one mistake, I think I fell on my flip. But besides that, I’m really proud of what I put out there, and that was my second competition of the year, so onwards I guess!
Q: Will the change in federation have any effect on your training? Will you still be training in the United States?
Emmy Ma: Yes. I plan on going to Boston University in the fall, so I wasn’t going to move to Taiwan to skate.
Q: A lot of people wanted me to ask about this, and I can see the posters on your wall…
Emmy Ma: Oh yes! Stan Loona! [Laughs].
Q: How did you become a fan of K-Pop?
Emmy Ma: To be honest, I’ve been into ever since I’ve been really little. Well, not really little, but younger. My siblings were casual listeners, so I got into it from them. I listened to BIGBANG, Girl’s Generation, SHINee, can’t forget about them, the classics. And then I got into high school, and was like, “K-Pop is stupid!” And then more recently I saw Loona, and I saw Twice, and they’re beautiful, so yeah. I stan girl groups because I have taste! [Laughs].
Q: Who’s your bias in Loona and Twice?
Emmy Ma: In Loona, it’s probably Gowon or Hyunjin, and then in Twice it’s Sana. Periodt!
Q: Would you do an exhibition program to any K-Pop programs? I don’t know if people do that.
Emmy Ma: I think I’ve seen it!
Q: Yeah, I think during the Olympics, a South Korean pair team did one.
Emmy Ma: Oh you’re right! The ice dance team. I mean, it would have to go through Mark Mitchell, and I don’t know if he likes K-Pop, so I can ask him and get back to you? [Laughs]. But I would love to. It would be super fun. Super fun!
Q: Since you’ll be a freshman at Boston University in the fall, how will your competition schedule change?
Emmy Ma: If I’m being honest, not really that much. I just have to figure out with my professors when I meet them that I might miss some time in classes. I’m living on campus this year, and I finessed a parking spot, so I’m able to go to the rink in the morning and go to class in the afternoon. So I feel like I’m still gonna get my three hours of training time, that’s gonna be the same. I see no real issues! I’m honestly just excited to go into a new environment and see what a challenge it is to balance all of that.
Q: There’s other skaters who are also pursuing education while skating, how do you feel now that you’ll be part of that group that competes while skating?
Emmy Ma: I assume you’re talking about Nathan Chen and other people like that [Karen Chen, Vincent Zhou, etc.]? I mean, I feel like a lot of people--well, maybe not a lot of people, but when I was younger, I would see people doing college and skating, and I guess it is a little different when you’re traveling internationally for competitions, but I feel like… I don’t know. I’m just excited! I keep saying that, but I don’t really know what else to say. I think right now I may be speaking too soon, saying that I’m excited, it’ll probably be the hardest thing ever, but obviously I don’t know what to expect because I’ve never been in it. I guess we’ll just wait and see. I’m happy to find a place that isn’t just skating, skating, skating. It can be a little bit… I don’t want to use the word toxic, but it can be a little bit claustrophobic being stuck in a rink all day. I definitely found my way out of feeling stuck, because skating wasn’t going well for me last year for a variety of reasons, mental health and stuff like that, so I definitely found a social life outside of the rink. I felt like if skating wasn’t going well, why am I spending all of my time here? Obviously now I’m enjoying my time in the rink and I’m looking forward to finding friends outside of the skating world.
Q: Is there any specific reason or reasons why you chose Boston University over any other university you may have applied to?
Emmy Ma: Yes. If I’m being completely honest, it was not my first choice, but I also didn’t really know what I was doing during the college application process.
Q: I feel that!
Emmy Ma: Yeah! So I’m just happy I got into Boston University. It ended up being my top choice. After I committed to the school, I thought, “Okay. This is the right fit for me.” I wanted to continue training with Mark and Peter because they’re, like, the best people ever, I couldn’t imagine skating with anyone else. Also, I feel like I’m at a point in my skating career where I feel happy and comfortable. You’re supposed to go out of your comfort zone or whatever, but I feel good skating with Mark and Peter and I really really love them. I feel like Boston University isn’t just the traditional campus, the campus is Boston, the entire city, and I’m kind of used to navigating something like that, so it’s not going to be a total culture shock. Also, I live, like, ten minutes away from school, so if I need anything, I can just come back home.
Q: Are you doing any clubs at Boston University, or will you have time?
Emmy Ma: I would have to see what clubs the school has to offer. I would have to admit, I’m not the best at doing research, but hopefully once I start school it will be more clear to me what I have time for and what clubs the school has to offer. I guess the figure skating team counts as a club? I plan on doing that and collegiate competitions, so that’s really exciting. I’m so excited about that.
Q: Are there any hobbies you enjoy doing that are completely separate from skating?
Emmy Ma: I hate this question, because it’s like, “No, I have no life!” [Laughs]. Just kidding! But no, I obviously love listening to music, I love K-Pop, but also a variety of other, different genres. I like to play violin, not in my free time, but I’ve been learning it since before I started skating, and it’s been a part of my life for so long, and I’m going to continue doing it until I feel like I’m done with it. I don’t know. I just like playing violin and music in general. What else? I have such an uninteresting life! Hanging out with friends, going to the beach, I don’t know!
Q: What is a sport you're looking forward to in the 2020 Summer Olympics?
Emmy Ma: The most basic answer ever: Gymnastics! It’s the only thing that I kind of know how to watch. I think diving is really cool, though, too. Swimming and diving are exciting to watch.
Q: What is something someone might not know about you if they know you as just a figure
Emmy Ma: I don’t know how to answer this question! I’m thinking, I’m thinking. Oh my god I’m so awkward! I don’t know, I feel like I put myself out there, especially on Twitter. I just kinda post whatever I want. So I feel like that’s kind of my personality in general. Hopefully by talking with me, or video-chatting with me, you get that. I don’t know, there’s not really anything interesting with me!
Q: What do you like to do with family in your free time?
Emmy Ma: We eat good! We go out to eat a lot. I don’t really do that much with my family, if I’m being honest. I live at home. I live with my mom and my brother, so we’re kind of around each other in the morning and at night. In the morning, we get ready together, and at night, we eat dinner together.
Q: Who is someone you’d love to train with or skate with?
Emmy Ma: Any of the three skaters I mentioned earlier. I think if I skated with Carolina Kostner or Mao Asada, I mean come on. I would probably not be alive. I would be starstruck. Periodt! But I would love to train with my girl Yuhana Yokoi, she’s super cute and super sweet, and I feel like every time we’re around each other in competition, it’s just good. I have a card from her right here. We were at Junior Worlds, and she gave me socks! Like, the toe socks! Shoutout to my girl. But I would also love to train with Mie Hamada in Japan. I feel like it would be interesting to see how they train. From what I heard, it’s very intense and everyone works very hard, which is very evident in the skating they put out. But just being able to see that for myself and seeing what the training environment is in different places, it would be interesting to see.
Q: Okay, this next question I didn’t make on my own. Somebody else wanted me to ask this, but how is your meme game so fire?
Emmy Ma: [Laughs] I don’t know. I guess Twitter? That’s really funny. I love that question.
Q: Okay, now we’re going to go on to favorites.
Emmy Ma: Okay!
Q: Favorite food?
Emmy Ma: Pasta! Anything with carbs and cheese, you know? We’re living.
Q: Favorite TV Show?
Emmy Ma: I don’t really watch TV. I don’t know. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic! That’s a serious answer, though. Have you watched it? It’s so good! So cute! It’s literally so cute.
Q: Maybe I’ll watch an episode in my free time.
Emmy Ma: Ooh, she said maybe!
Q: Favorite movie?
Emmy Ma: Gone girl.
Q: Favorite guilty pleasure?
Emmy Ma: I don’t have any guilty pleasures. Everything is just a pleasure to me.
Q: As it should be.
Emmy Ma: Yes!
Q: Favorite jump?
Emmy Ma: Lutz.
Q: Aw, I love the lutz!
Emmy Ma: Yes, we been knew!
Q: That and the axel are the only thing I can differentiate when I’m watching skating. Favorite element?
Emmy Ma: Ooh. Layback spin. No, no, flying camel spin! Flying camel spin. [Laughs].
Q: Favorite quote?
Emmy Ma: I’m, like, not smart. I don’t know anything off the top of my head. I’m sorry. Pass!
Q: What advice would you give to a skater that’s starting to come up and skate national or international competitions?
Emmy Ma: Similar to what my goals were for the season, that should have been my mindset since the very beginning, but because of pressures from my mom or my coaches in the past or myself, honestly, [I wasn’t able to do that]. The reason why I skate is because it’s fun and it’s fulfilling and you can’t get the feeling of skating anywhere else, or by doing anything else. So I guess my advice would be to make sure that you’re doing something you love and and if you’re not enjoying it, then maybe take a look at what’s happening, and try to remember why you started in the first place. Work hard, but make sure you’re happy while you do it. And enjoy it!
Q: Last question. Is there anything you want to say to your fans that will read this interview?
Emmy Ma: Stan Loona!
Q: I will definitely put that.
Emmy Ma: Thank you!
Q: That’s pretty much it! I didn’t do as many questions as I planned because I feel like you answered the questions in other questions, if that makes sense.
Emmy Ma: Yeah!
Q: Thank you again.
Emmy Ma: Of course. I can’t wait to see this when it comes out!
Thank you to Emmy Ma for allowing me to conduct this interview and taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate you, Emmy!
Thank you to Camden Rider for being a lovely pal and transcribing the audio into text!
Stay tuned for another interview soon!
Visit her socials at these handles: