By Nick Cheshire
After eight months of dedicated practice at Leesburg’s ION International Training Center, an unlikely pairing between 18-year-old Nikita Sosnenko and 15-year-old Harlow Stanley has blossomed into a talented junior ice skating dance team with loads of potential.
Just eight months ago, Sosnenko—a Ukrainian native and lifelong resident—moved to the United States to pursue an opportunity to train with premier coaches and talent from around the world here in Loudoun County. A skater since the age of four, he switched from freestyle skating to ice dance at the age of 13. He saw the move to the United States and the chance to skate with Stanley as “an opportunity to become a great team.”
Stanley, born in Denver where she spent the early portion of her childhood, relocated to Loudoun County nearly 10 years ago. A skater since the age of four like her partner, she only recently transitioned from freestyle skating to ice dance, around the time Sosnenko moved to the area. Her Mexican heritage gives the team the distinction of representing Mexico in International Skating Union events.
“At first, it was very difficult,” Stanley said. “There was a big difference in age and culture.”
They attend Riverside High School in Lansdowne, and despite their differences, the two have many things in common. Sosnenko is working to learn Spanish, which will be his fourth language, while Stanley is a member of the Hispanic Honor Society. They also both enjoy loud music and bike rides, but most importantly, they both love their sport and are committed to giving it their best every day.
Thanks to WISA Ice Dance Academy and coaches Elena Novak and Alexie Kiliakov, Sosnenko and Stanley have worked since late 2021 to build their chemistry as a team, on and off the ice. Having many coaches from diverse backgrounds and different countries has benefitted the team.
“They have different views,” Sosnenko said. “They help us fix things in different ways.”
Both attribute much of what they’ve learned not only to the coaches, but to the teams and the entirety of the WISA organization at the ION Training Center.
“We have the opportunity to train with so many amazing teams at ION,” Sosnenko said.
The team began competing in May, with their first competition taking place in Mexico. Now, they are preparing for an international competition in Dallas in July, where they will be the only Latin American team in the field. These competitions culminate in the ISU Grand Prix in late August, a prestigious series of events that runs through December, where Sosnenko and Stanley hope to shine on the biggest stage.
The sport has given both skaters a lifetime experience to learn from and be proud of, featuring lessons that are applicable not just within ice dance, but in life. “This sport requires not only skills, but you have to be able to communicate,” Stanley said. “You have to learn how to be able to adapt in different scenarios.”
Follow their journey on Instagram at @harlownikita_icedance. Nick Cheshire is a rising junior at Virginia Tech interning at Loudoun Now.