Ice remains fairly constant, no matter where you skate.
For Coquitlam's Ronald Lam, the ice has been getting better and better no matter where he's laced up his blades.
Someone who's seen his share of international competitions, Lam has juggled a few new realities over the years while pursuing his passion for skating.
At times, the demands of skating and being a full-time university student meshed like Obama and Romney. Clash, they could, but persevere Lam did.
Results over the past six weeks, however, have produced more smiles on Lam's face.
In last month's U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City, Ut., the 21-year-old gave an impressive performance en route to finishing fourth in senior men's competition.
He was joined in Salt Lake by fellow Coquitlam Skating Club (CSC) member Kai Jing Leong, who placed 12 th among senior women while representing Singapore.
Lam's near-podium performance came on the heels of an earlier championship effort at the Asian Trophy championships in Taipei, Taiwan, where Lam experienced his first international meet on behalf of Hong Kong - and won the senior men's title.
A longtime CSC skater, Lam is now competing for the Chinese regional district with the knowledge that it will provide him with more international opportunities in which to hang his 2014 Olympic hopes on. He also has an attachment to his birthplace that made it a good fit.
"It's gone well," Lam noted of representing Hong Kong. "I wanted to do it because I was born there and I think it gives me a better chance of going to the Olympics - I still have to do all the qualifying but I will have more opportunities, more international meets to do that."
It wasn't his first international meet, as he has represented Canada at a handful of Grand Prix events, beginning in novice. To skate on behalf of another country, the University of B.C. computer science student had to essentially shut down his international skating career for two years, as required by the International Skating Union, before representing Hong Kong.
Despite that time on the sidelines, the lanky, smooth-skating Lam made some big strides.
"That time gave him a chance to focus on his education, which is very important," co-coach Bruno Delmaestro said of Lam, who he has coached since the age of nine. "The last time he competed as a senior he was seventh [overall] at the Canadians."
Although his first competition this year was in Taiwan, he made the solo trek to Taipei not knowing exactly how he'd measure against the best Asian skaters. The result was a pleasant surprise.
"That went very well," Lam said in his understated, softspoken manner. "Just going out and competing is an experience. I definitely think international meets are different from local competitions. The atmosphere is just incredible."
In the spotlight as the newest skater for his birth-place, the UBC student went in and was the surprise of the meet.
"He's raising the bar, and the [Hong Kong] officials have been very receptive. Ronald's always bringing his skating to the next level. I'm really excited because he's worked so hard to get to this point," remarked Delmaestro.
Lam followed the Asian championship with a polished performance in Salt Lake City, where but for a few errors, he was outstanding. He completed most of his jumps and moves with a confidence that has been groomed over years of training.
He registered a clean short program, and was strong in the long despite a fall on a double axel-triple toe combination. Lam bounced back and nailed a triple axel and finished the routine strongly.
"I was happy for him, Ronald nailed both triple axels and was fourth overall after the short. That result qualified him for the Worlds [in the short program]," said Delmaestro, who along with Kelly-Lynn Champagne, has seen his student grow leaps and bounds over the past dozen years.
Skating for a different country has tested a number of athletes, with Delmaestro having his own personal experience when he competed for Italy from 1979 to '83 - where he was a three-time Italian national senior men's champion.
The Hong Kong skaters have welcomed Lam into their midst, said Delmaestro, and the Coquitlam skater has earned their respect with his hard work and performance in competition.
"It's all a new experience for him, but what's really rewarding is to see people (from Hong Kong) embrace Ronald," said Delmaestro.
Pushing his talent farther up the ladder may have intimidated Lam a few years ago. He's had numerous peaks along the way - at Canadian national and international meets representing Canada - but the computer science student admits he feels different on the ice now, with more confident.
"For a while I guess I thought competing was different. There were definite nerves going on," he said. "Now it just feels like my entire self is elevated, on another level - I definitely focus on keeping calm."
The next task on his to-do list is to add that elusive quad into his program, a jump that has buried many good skaters.
"We're working on the quad now. It's a very tough, precise move and we'll have to see if we do it. It's something that's very risky but it's worth a lot of points," Lam added.