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On the ice with competitive pairs skaters Tallulah Tanner and Sam Herbert

On the ice with competitive pairs skaters Tallulah Tanner and Sam Herbert
November 2023

The rising stars will compete this month at the US Pairs Finals in Tacoma, Washington

Sam Herbert and Tallulah Tanner have been training as partners at Carolina Ice Palace since 2019.

Charleston might not come to mind when you think of winter sports, yet inside Carolina Ice Palace in North Charleston, 13-year-old Tallulah Tanner and 17-year-old Sam Herbert have been training to join the ranks of elite ice skaters. This month, the pair, who are ranked third in the nation in their division, are competing in the US Pairs Final in Tacoma, Washington. 

Sure, Tallulah enjoys riding her bike and swimming in the temperate weather like most teens here, but she shines on the rink. “I love how I can just glide on the ice,” she says. “I feel free, and I can do whatever I want.”

Tallulah and Sam have been skating together since 2019 when coach Libbie Chabot Lundeen paired them in a holiday exhibition and watched them execute a difficult element. “They have gone from two kids skating together to what I would now call a competitive pair team,” Lundeen says. “They are nationally ranked and hopefully will become international competitors for the United States.”  

The partners continued to train during the pandemic, using roller skates that mimic an ice-skating blade so they could practice outside at the James Island Town Hall parking lot and on smooth pavements in nearby subdivisions.

To condition themselves for the grueling competition season, Tallulah and Sam rehearse three hours a day at the Ice Palace, then work with sports trainers running, swimming, biking, as well as doing Pilates, ballet, high-intensity workouts, and lifting weights. “The off-ice component is so much more important now because the level of skills that people are doing is so much more difficult,” says Tallulah’s mother, Tiffaney Tanner, who skated competitively.

Sam Herbert lifts Tallulah Tanner during the Battle of the Blades competition in August in Indiana. (Right) Tallulah’s mother, Tiffaney Tanner, Tallulah, Sam, and his mom, Minde Herbert, at the National Championship in January 2023.

After their morning training sessions on the ice, Tallulah and Sam turn to their studies. Tallulah is enrolled at LTP Scholars, which offers academic support to student athletes enrolled in an accredited online school, while Sam attends high school in Mount Pleasant and also takes online classes through Trident Technical College.

So far this year, the duo has been recognized as US Pairs Bronze Medalists, Eastern Sectional Champions, and members of the US Figure Skating High-Performance National Development Team, which identifies them as rising stars, putting them on the radar for joining Team USA and representing the US in international competitions.

At the US Pairs Finals this month, Tallulah and Sam will compete with a short program to Danny Elfman’s Batman theme and a long program to The Piano Guys’ “Story of my Life.” If the duo finish in the top four, they’ll move on to the US Figure Skating Championship in January in Ohio.

Getting to this level in the sport requires repetition, commitment, confidence, and even failure, as evidenced by the #GetUp hashtag used in ice-skating circles. “If you fall in the middle of the ice, you cannot just lay there and decide you’re done,” says Tiffaney. “You have to get up. You have to keep going. There is no other option. And I think that lends itself to positivity. It creates resilience in the kids.” 

Or as Sam puts it, “Be a goldfish. Goldfish have a 10-second memory. Just forget that you messed up. Forget it and try again.”

The US Pairs Finals is November 7-12 in Tacoma, Washington, and will be livestreamed on US Figure Skating’s Fan Zone website.

WATCH: On The Ice With Competitive Pairs Skaters Tallulah Tanner And Sam Herbert