- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - Eleven-year-old Caitlin Chan is laying the groundwork to become an Olympic figure skater and seems to be doing everything right.

The Darien girl practices almost daily, enters local competitions and has three coaches - one of whom is former world-class Russian figure skater Ekaterina Gvozdkova.

“She’s probably on the ice six or seven days a week,” her mother, Jessica Yep-Chan, said while watching her skate at Twin Rinks on Hope Street.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics coming up next month, it’s an exciting time for Caitlin and other figure skaters. While she isn’t old enough to make the Olympics this year, she’s hoping to qualify somewhere down the road.

“Of course that’s always a little girl’s dream, but we’ll take it as far as it goes,” Yep-Chan said. “She loves skating. She’s been doing it since she was five.”

Yep-Chan watched through a window at the rink recently as Caitlin practiced with Gvozdkova, whom they call “Katya.” She said they’re working on a routine for an upcoming competition in New Haven.

Wearing a pink headband and black outfit embroidered with sparkly skates on the back, Caitlin gracefully swirled and twirled around the ice, frequently stopping to receive instruction from her coach.

Among her many impressive moves, she mastered the one-foot glide, stretching one leg behind her and holding her hands in the air.

Keeping an eye on the duo, Yep-Chan said they hired Gvozdkova as a third coach in July to improve her skills.

“Katya has been such an inspiration,” she said.

When the practice ended, Caitlin said she enjoys skating, calling it “really fun.” She said she particularly likes to spin and is working on a “camel lay-back spin combination.” She also wants to work on her axels.

Asked how the practice went, Gvozdkova doesn’t mince words in front of the youngster, saying, “Some things good, some things not so good.”

Caitlin admitted that Gvozdkova can be tough, adding, “But she’s nice though.”

The coach said Caitlin needs work on her spins and jumps, like every other skater, as well as her facial expressions and arm positions.

On the plus side, she said she’s gaining more speed and power.

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