Dying to tell you about Adult Nationals, but first you have to hear about SkateFest! Offered by USFSA in conjunction with the Stars on Ice tours, the Skatefest events are free and offer on-ice interaction with the skating stars.
On the day of SkateFest I skated earlier in the day and only did the minimum possible since my legs were dog-tired from preparing for Nationals. But by the time SkateFest rolled around in the late afternoon I mustered up the energy to drive to the rink, register, and lace up my skates. I really didn’t want to miss it! At the time I registered I was the only adult in my group, the next oldest skater was 14. I was thinking that might be a little awkward, but my mind was eased when another adult registered for our group.
Our stars were Patrick Chan, Ben Agosto, Tanith Belbin, and Kimmie Meisner, all Olympic medalists, world champions, or both. We skaters were divided into four skill groups of about 20-25 each for group lessons. The top level (“jumps and spins”) would include most skaters who take private lessons, although some would be in the next highest level (“turns and crossovers”).
Coaches from our skating club began our lesson and the stars circulated around to help. Patrick Chan came to our group as we were working on spins. We all went out (as a group) and showed a sit spin. My first couple were especially bad, I was pretty shy to do a sit spin in front of Patrick Chan. But eventually I relaxed and was able to skate better. He gave some basic advice– ride the edge, hit the sweet spot, don’t bring your free leg around too soon or too late.
Then we all did jumps as he watched and he gave more advice. He talked about bringing the arms and legs in very tight, saying his coach used to tell him “you shouldn’t be able to shoot a cannon between your legs.” Our local coach asked him whether this applied to single jumps. He allowed as how that wasn’t so needed at that level. Kind of funny, as if he were remembering, oh yeah, there are these things called single jumps. He was very friendly and natural, as I’ve come to expect from the top-level skaters.
After our lesson we had a little time to hang out. Then we stood against the boards to give the stars a chance to be announced, come on to the ice, and each do a trick for us. When Patrick was announced Ben egged him on to do a quad, chanting “Quad! Quad! Quad!” Patrick blazed around the rink and into a quad salchow attempt, pulling out mid-jump. He circled around again and did a beautiful quad salchow. Probably the first quad ever done at our rink.
The event went on for two hours, and there was enough space for many of the skaters to take a lesson on both hours. It was a little sad that there were not enough skaters (or general public) to fill up both hours without repeats. I stayed for both hours.
On our second lesson Tanith Belbin came around first to our group. We worked on twizzles. She talked about proper twizzle position with the free skate held against the leg above the skate of the skating foot. We did an exercise of trying to balance at a standstill for thirty seconds while in that position.
Our local coach was a little ambitious in what she asked Tanith to demonstrate, and Tanith did a series of twizzles into a change of edge into a back inside loop. Our local coach asked who wanted to try it next, and unsurprisingly no one was game. We did some easier things, though, like single, double, or triple twizzles across the rink.
Tanith demonstrated catch-foot twizzles. She said the secret is to hold the free leg relatively far from the skating leg so it’s easier to catch, and to catch the free leg, then twizzle. We all tried. Next we worked on toe steps and did grapevines across the rink. The younger skaters grapevine-d across the rink on their toes at a fast pace: I worked my way across slowly. Tanith was with me at that point and commented that starting slowly was a good idea. Yup, good to not kill the adult bronze skater on the lesson.
Next Kimmie Meissner circulated around to our group. Our local coach talked about how Kimmie loved axels (she is one of the few women in the world to do triple axels) and asked us to each to do an axel, or if we couldn’t, to do a lutz instead. I was one of three or four skaters in our group with no axel. Our coach asked me to go out first and do a lutz. Feeling on the spot with the group and Kimmie watching me, I skated out, did a few crossovers into a successful lutz. I was really happy with that, took it as a good sign for getting my lutz to work in my program at Nationals.
Next Kimmie demonstrated a beautiful inside edge camel spin and asked us all to try one. Given that my plain old camel itself is not up to par I elected to skip this and was the only one who did not try. Kimmie asked me what spin I’d like to work on and I said sit spin. She asked, just sit spin? Or a variation? I said sit-change-sit and she had me go out and try one, which again, luckily worked. Just then our lesson time was over and we had time for pictures and a little chatting. As you can maybe see a little from the picture, Kimmie is also just very nice.
I’ll definitely be looking out for this event in the future. It was fun, a challenge, and inspiring!