Jan 9, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT
If figure skating is artistic, John Coughlin‘s back is the ultimate canvas.
The U.S. pairs skater’s entire back is covered by a tattoo of St. Michael to honor his mother, Stacy, who died in 2010. Coughlin, 28, got the tattoo before the 2011 World Championships.
“It’s the saint who my mother prayed to a lot to get my dad home safely because he was a policeman,” Coughlin said at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday, according to ESPN.com. “I just wanted something to remember my mom by because he’s the saint for policeman.”
The tattoo reportedly took 10 hours to complete over three sessions.
In July, Coughlin wrote a letter to his mom via a blog post on TeamUSA.org.
“I hope you look at where I am and feel like all of the sacrifices the family made for me were worth it,” he wrote. “More importantly, I hope you are proud of the man I am trying to become. I have decided to approach whatever I am meant to do from now on in this sport as a gift.”
Coughlin and partner Caydee Denney are favorites to earn one of two U.S. Olympic spots in pairs figure skating this week. They open with the short program Thursday evening. They are the 2012 U.S. champions. It would be Coughlin’s first Olympics and Denney’s second.
It’s a shame the tattoo will be covered by Coughlin’s costume on the ice.
“I don’t know if someone has ever skated topless,” he said with a smile, according to ESPN.com. “It might hurt our component mark a little.”
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