- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Adam Parr of Manassas makes perfect figure eights. Because he has been ice-skating for about 10 years, he has mastered the more elementary moves. His main concern on the ice is catching his partner, Joanna Canny of Lake Placid, N.Y., when he throws her into the air.

Early next month, Mr. Parr, 19, and Miss Canny, 18, will compete in the 2004 State Farm United States Figure Skating Championship. As two of the nation’s top figure skaters, they will perform at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

The event will offer a break from their five-day-a-week training routine at SkateQuest Prince William in Dale City, Va., which usually lasts seven hours a day.

“I care about winning, but I’m not going to go out there and skate for the judges,” Mr. Parr says. “I’m skating for myself, my partner and my coach… I’m a little scared because there’s a lot of extra work we’ve been doing to be the best we can be.”

Learning to look graceful on ice skates is easier said than done. It takes time, practice and patience to become the next Dorothy Hamill or Brian Boitano. Although most professional skaters first take to the ice in childhood, the sport can be learned at any age for recreational purposes.

Beginners start learning basic techniques, such as how to fall properly, says Jason Tebo, director of skating at SkateQuest Prince William. The rink offers classes for many levels on its Web site (www.skatequest.com).

“Try to fall toward your backside, but you don’t want to fall straight forward or straight back,” he says. “Fold your arms and keep your head tucked, which prevents you from hitting your head.”

Marching and gliding also are introductory ice-skating skills, Mr. Tebo says. Students progress toward learning forward crossovers, which is when one foot is crossed over the other foot to give momentum. Eventually, they also learn to do this move backward.

Forward spirals, lunges, 2-foot spins and waltz jumps are some of the more difficult moves beginning skaters are taught. Depending on the skater’s ability, it could take one or two years to arrive at this stage.

“Practice is one of the most important keys to improving,” Mr. Tebo says. “Once people get to the level where they are spinning around, it becomes a love and passion for them.”

After about three years on the ice, Jonathan Jerothe, 11, of Woodbridge, Va., is starting to jump. He would like to compete one day in the Olympics. He takes group and private lessons at SkateQuest Prince William.

“Ice-skating is lots of fun, especially having the wind to your face when you’re skating real fast,” he says. “I like to impress my family members.”

Jonathan’s sister, Lauren Ashley, 5, says she also enjoys ice-skating. While watching her brother skate, she insisted on learning. She has been taking lessons for about 1 years.

“I like to spin,” she says. “I like to dance on ice. I like the beautiful clothes.”

The most important aspect of skating at any level is understanding where to put your weight on the blades, says Terri Ann Lowenthal, skating director at Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast. (For details on lessons at the rink, click on www.fdia.org.)

“When you’re skating forward, your weight is toward the midback of your blade,” she says. “If you’re skating backward, your weight is on the ball of your foot. Generally, it’s important to stand upright so that your shoulders are over your hips and your hips are over your feet.”

The other important part of ice-skating is to bend the knees over the second toe, Ms. Lowenthal says. It is impossible to skate on stiff knees with the exception of a few advanced moves. Sometimes, skating with properly bent knees takes skaters 10 years to master.

It’s also essential to wear ice skates that fit well, Ms. Lowenthal says. Otherwise, skaters might never reach their full potential. Skates should fit snugly with a thin pair of socks or tights. Usually they are a half to a whole size smaller than regular shoes.

“It can make the difference between whether you go to the rink once and never go back again or whether you enjoy skating and continue to do it for fun and maybe more seriously,” Ms. Lowenthal says. “You should not wear thick, heavy socks, even though it’s cold. The skates should fit like a glove.”

Along with properly fitted ice skates, Kelsye Little, 8, of Southeast, enjoys wearing her purple velvet dress while gliding across Fort Dupont Ice Arena. She participates in the rink’s Kids on Ice and Speed Skating programs. Although she may have been nervous when she started the sport three years ago, today she is at ease.

“Now I’m more confident,” she says. “I’m not scared. What is there to be scared of? There is no water under the ice. You can’t fall through the cracks. It’s not like you’re on a lake, pond or river.”

Once skaters have learned harder moves, such as jumps, the goal is to repeat them as many times in a row as possible, combining them with other difficult moves, says Shari Trotter, skating program director at the Ashburn Ice House in Ashburn, Va. (Information about lessons at the rink can be found at www.ashburnice.com.)

For instance, a quadruple jump, especially in combination with another move, such as a triple jump, is extremely complicated. Also, landing a quadruple axle, which would be rotating 4 times in the air, is next to impossible, Mrs. Trotter says.

In addition to fancy jumps, athletes need a full package of skills, she says. They need to perform consistently at a high level. The all-around routine should look effortless. For instance, the way a skater interprets the music is just as important as landing jumps.

“Skating teaches the kids hard work and dedication,” Mrs. Trotter says. “It has an artistic side as well as an athletic side. It’s something you can do with your whole family. You’ll be able to continue to do it for the rest of your life, as little or as much as you want.”

Vanessa James, 16, of Manassas, practices with a private coach six hours a day, six days a week at the Ashburn Ice House. She has been skating for 5 years and aims to skate at the Olympics in the future, like Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski.

“When I watched them in the 1998 Olympics, they made it look so easy,” she says. “I wanted to see if I could do it just as well as they did.”

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