RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — Lauren Toia of Ridgefield delivers a mature perspective on life that few 12-year-olds can share. Then again, the East Ridge Middle School seventh-grader has been through far more than most children her age.
Toia will be honored Thursday, Feb. 23, as the State Athlete of the Year by the Nutmeg State Games. The honor comes after Toia won a silver medal in figure skating at last summer’s competition. She missed the event in 2015 after she suffered a spontaneous brain hemorrhage that left her unconscious for six days.
- Who : Lauren Toia, 12, Ridgefield
- What : Nutmeg State Games, State Athlete of the Year
- Why: She won a silver medal at last summer's competition in figure skating, a little more than a year after a brain hemorrhage left her unconscious for six days. She also donated birthday gifts to Yale Children’s Hospital Toy Closet.
“I would tell them that you should always stay positive through it all and be motivated to get well,’’ Toia said when asked what advice she would offer to other young girls facing a serious medical crisis. “Once you recover from your situation and get back to where you are going, you feel even stronger than before. You should always remember the greater the challenge, the stronger you will become and that there is more than one way to be a champion.”
Lauren discovered her passion for skating when she was 6, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Lindsay.
Lauren skates mostly at rinks in Danbury and Brewster and quickly found a passion for the sport. “It was more difficult than it looked,’’ Lauren said about her early trips to the rink. “When you watch skating in the Olympics ... when the professionals land triples so easily, it looks like they don't have to try. It isn't like that at all.”
When Lauren first started to skate, she remembers taking a tumble when her coach asked her to try a bunny hop. “She told me to try and land more on my toe pick,’’ Lauren said, “and I landed on my face.”
Despite that early misstep, Lauren found herself on the skating fast track when she won a gold medal in her first competition, and every other event in which she competed that first year. Now, she competes at the Pre-Juvenile level.
She earned the award from the Nutmeg State Games for her skating skills and her activities outside the sport. For her 12th birthday, she requested gifts for the Yale Children’s Hospital Toy Closet.
“I invited my friends to join me in helping a kindness organization by making bells that they distribute,’’ Lauren said. “I also raised and donated $100 to children's cancer research, because I wanted to help other children.
She said she was surprised that she won the award from the Nutmeg State Games. And despite her temporary physical setback, she has continued to evolve as a promising skater with big dreams and big goals.
“I want to go as far as the sport takes me,’’ Lauren said. “It has already taken me so far. Figure skating teaches you how to be strong and elegant at the same time. It also taught me how to overcome challenges, how to persevere and how to get up when you are knocked down.”
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