Summer Update

August 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Posted in moves in the field, practice | 2 Comments

Well the good news is that I have made some progress.  I ended up not testing this summer. My juvenile MIF are looking better, but there is still room for improvement. Hopefully I can test sometime this fall. My coach is starting to teach me some of the Intermediate moves now too. I just learned how to do a bracket. So will add that to my practice rotation as well. I’m still not skating or exercising as regularly as I should. But I do definitely feel a big difference when I take time to stretch at home before I go to the rink.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed the last couple of weeks with wrapping up projects and reports at my job and moving to a new apartment. I’m starting a new position next week. I will have a shorter commute to and from work, so I’m hoping this will lead to more time and energy to skate in the evenings after work.

Skating Log: 5/4

May 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Posted in ice skating, moves in the field, tests | 1 Comment
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I wish I could say that I have stuck to my skating goals. But, alas, not quite. I have not been stretching daily, nor have I progressed past skating more than twice a week.

But that is changing starting this week (I’m serious this time!). The testing date I am aiming for is June 29th. That leaves 8 weeks to work my butt off. I still think there is hope. I haven’t signed up for the test yet, but I think I will this week as an extra motivation.

I had a lesson yesterday. There is some progress being made. But there is still room for much improvement.

Good:

  • Back power circles look good
  • Forward cross strokes look good and back cross strokes look a little better
  • I performed the two full circles of back power 3s in the correct pattern

Not-so-good

  • I have formed bad habits in the way I do crossovers. So I have to break them and perform the crossovers correctly. I have been pushing off the back of my blade, which causes me to extend more to the side and lead the crossover with my heel. Instead I need to let my toe be the last part of my foot to leave the ice, extend backwards, and lead the crossover with a pointed toe.
  • I need to work on my quick crossovers.
  • My 8-step mohawk pattern is uneven, and not creating a proper circle. I also need to improve my extension.
  • Double 3s: I need to bend my knees more on forward 3-turns, and keep my thighs closed on back 3-turns. I also need to relax more and just let the turns happen & not try to force them.
  • There are a few other not-so-goods, but these are the major ones

 

I had practice #1 of this week today. I felt really tired, and it was hard to push myself. I kept taking breaks….to breath. This is partly due to general lack of stamina, but I’m also just getting over being sick for about a week. So there has been a lot of laying in bed lately.

So my goals for this week:

  • Stretch at least once a day.
  • Skate two more times this week
  • Try to fit in one or two off-ice cardio sessions

We’ll see how things go.

Making Improvements

March 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Posted in moves in the field, practice | Leave a comment
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The past couple of weeks, I have been consistently skating twice a week, and it is definitely making a difference. My moves are (slowly) improving. They are not too bad really. My power circles and back cross strokes need the most work. Everything else just needs finessing. My goal is to test in June. My coach thinks that is doable … I just need to “work my butt off” between now and then. He is being really nit-picky right now, fixing the little things like the height of my arms during crossovers, how I hold my free foot when I complete double threes and back power threes, and correcting how I push in my forward crossovers (I’m pushing out to the side when I should be pushing back). I appreciate his emphasis on high-quality technique and the goal of achieving maximum points from the test judges…. but OMG, it seems never ending. There is always something else to fix. lol  It’s a lot of details to remember. However, I must admit, it’s nice to see the difference the lessons are making in the quality of my skating. Eventually, I am sure it will all become muscle memory. Until then, the work continues.

So my current goals are to

  • finish out this month with skating twice a week.
  • In April I plan to try to bump it up to three times a week.
  • Stretch at home twice a day. I want my above-the-hip spiral extension back. Right now I’m lucky if I get my leg up to hip height.
  • Add some cardio on my non-skating days to increase my stamina. At the moment, I want to get through a 30-minute lesson without feeling winded (which at the moment I’m definitely doing too much huffing and puffing, especially after doing some of these moves patterns back-to-back).

Back on the Ice: Starting Over part II

March 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Posted in ice skating, moves in the field, synchro, tests | Leave a comment
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Me_Synchro 2013

Starting Block
Open Adult Synchro, ’13-’14

In the spring of last year, I blogged about “Starting Over” with skating, and I actually followed through and started skating more regularly….several months later. September through January, I competed with the DC EDGE Open Adult Synchronized Skating Team. The team didn’t place as well as we hoped in our division, but there’s always next year. It wasn’t my best season of skating (personally) for synchro. I felt like I could have done better. The experience made me realize that it’s time to return to private lessons.

So I started moves in the field lessons this month, and hope to test Juvenile moves this spring or summer. My goal is to continue testing (and not stop) until I pass Senior moves. I’m not putting a time limit on it, but I would like to pass two tests a year if possible. We’ll see. Right now, I’m taking a 30-minute lesson each week, and aim to skate two 45-60 minute practices between each lesson. I also want to start stretching twice a day, so I can become more flexible and regain my lovely spiral (which is really struggling right now).

I’m not taking lessons in freestyle skills right now. I haven’t decided what goals I want to accomplish with freestyle. At some point, I would like to at least test up to Adult Silver. I’m also toying around with the idea of possibly competing in adult competitions. Or, maybe I’ll just let synchro be my only competitive event. I don’t know…still thinking about it.

I will keep you posted on how things progress. :)

Black History in Figure Skating: Atoy Wilson

February 17, 2014 at 11:50 am | Posted in ice skating | Leave a comment
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In honor of black history month, I am highlighting the accomplishments of African-Americans in the sport of figure skating. This post features Atoy Wilson, a competitive skater from the 1960s, who went on to skate professionally in ice shows in the 1970s. To read about other history-makers of skating click here.

Atoy Wilson

AtoyWilson_Argenta Images

Atoy Wilson
Copyright Argenta Images

Atoy Wilson is a pioneer in the sport of figure skating, making history as the first African-American to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and the first African-American to be a principal skater in a major ice show.  Atoy was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. When he was about seven years old, he became interested in learning to ice skate after his parents took him to see an ice show. His first coach was Mabel Fairbanks, who worked tirelessly on the behalf of her skaters to break through the existing racial barriers. Thanks to Mabel’s influence, Atoy became the first African-American member of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.

In 1965, thirteen-year-old Atoy received national acclaim for becoming the first African-American to compete nationally in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where he placed second in the Novice Men’s event. In 1966, he continued to make history when he became the first African-American to win the Novice Men’s title at the U.S. Figure Skating Champions. Atoy also has the distinction of being the first African-American to complete all of the U.S. Figure Skating figures and freestyle tests.

He can skate good figures and he is a very good free skater. … He has all the jumps and a very nice style. If a Negro is going to make it. Atoy is the one. (“13-Year-Old Boy is 1st Negro to Enter Figure Skating Event”. The Leader-Herald, February 10, 1965)

Besides Miss [Peggy] Fleming, the biggest newsmaker so far in the nationals is Atoy Wilson … The 14-year-old Wilson is the only Negro ever to win a national figure skating title. (“Fleming Nearing 3rd Title; McKellen is 7th”. Reading Eagle, January 28, 1966).

Both the spectators, competitors and officials showed their excitement over the Negro youngster’s victory in a sport ofttimes accused of discrimination. (“Negro Boy, 14, Wins First U.S. Skate Title”. Jet, February 17, 1966, page 53).

After graduating from high school, Atoy stopped competing and enrolled at Loyola University of Los Angeles, where he majored in political science. In the 1970s, he was invited to tour with two ice shows, Holiday On Ice and Ice Follies, making him the first African-American to star in a major ice show. When people asked how well he fit into his new environment, Atoy responded: “I think skaters and skating fans are too interested in the sport and the skaters to care what a fellow’s color is. I found no discrimination either as an amateur or now as a pro.”

AtoyWilson2_Argenta Images

Atoy Wilson
Copyright Argenta Images

In a January 2001 New York Times interview, Atoy said that “he is forever indebted to [Mabel] Fairbanks for her tenacity and courage; quitting was never an option for her.” Mabel’s courage enabled Atoy to be a pioneer and pave the way for other African-American skaters to join figure skating clubs, compete nationally and internationally, and pursue careers as professional skaters in mainstream ice shows.

Atoy Wilson currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he works in production accounting for the television industry.

Watch some of Atoy Wilson’s performances!

Want to learn more about Atoy Wilson?

Black History in Figure Skating: Mabel Fairbanks

February 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Posted in ice skating | 3 Comments
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In honor of black history month, I am highlighting the accomplishments of African-Americans in the sport of figure skating. It is only right to start with the grande dame, Mabel Fairbanks. From the moment I first learned about Mabel, she has inspired me. Not only because she first started skating as a teenager (like me!), but also because she gave back so much to the sport that initially refused her access.

Mabel Fairbanks (November 14, 1916 – September 29, 2001)

B-2 Fairbanks crop

Mabel Fairbanks is a trailblazer for African-Americans in the sport of figure skating.  She began ice skating in New York City as a teenager in the 1930s. At first, the local public indoor rink denied her access because of her race. Mabel kept returning to the public rink until the manager finally relented and allowed her in. Mabel’s first skills were self-taught. Then a famous coach, Maribel Vinson Owen, took an interest in Mabel and gave her free skating lessons. Mabel became a very talented figure skater, but was barred from joining a figure skating club or participating in any competitions.

Eventually she was hired to skate with professional shows that traveled to places like South America and Mexico. Her skillful skating caught a lot of people’s attention — including the media.

Ice skating is one of the few sports at which Negroes have not already equaled or surpassed white athletes. But this year a 19-year-old Harlem girl has turned up to skate figure eights around all but the top white performers. (“Sport: Swanee Snow Bird”. Times Magazine, Nov. 29, 1943)

Despite unanimous recognition as one of the world’s greatest professional ice skaters, Mabel Fairbanks is still meeting stiff opposition from producers who draw the color line and refuse to book her. (“Mabel Fairbanks Harassed By Jim Crow”. The Afro American, May 5, 1945)

Mabel Fairbanks–portrays all the finese [sic] of a top notch star. She is rated in New York City and throughout the country as the greatest colored skater of all time…She keeps her audiences spellbound with her numerous executions comprising of difficult spins, jumps and spirals. (“Fairbanks Flattery”. The California Eagle, May 27, 1954)

After Mabel’s professional career she became a coach in Los Angeles, CA. She provided free lessons for those who could not pay, and helped minority skaters accomplish some of things she had not been allowed to do. Among her students were famous skaters such as Atoy Wilson (first African American to win a national titile), Richard Ewell and Michelle McCladdie (first African Americans to win a national pairs title), Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tiffany Chin, Rudy Galindo, and Scott Hamilton.

Negro skating star Mabel Fairbanks with Mae Edwards. Jet Magazine, May 27, 1954

Negro skating star Mabel Fairbanks with Mae Edwards. Jet Magazine, May 27, 1954.
Copyright vieilles_annonces (flickr)

Although Mabel Fairbanks was never able to participate in official competition, she said “If I had been allowed to go into the Olympics or Ice Capades like I wanted to then, I may not have helped other Blacks like I did, and coached such wonderful skaters, and I think all that has been just as important and meaningful.” Mabel became the first African-American woman inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1997. She was posthumously inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Professional Skaters Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

Want to learn more about Mabel Fairbanks?

Starting Over

May 26, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Posted in freestyle, grad school, ice skating, jumps, spins | 4 Comments
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Today I went to practice during a freestyle session for the first time in over a year (maybe two years?). I’ve honestly lost track. I put skating on hold while I pursued my graduate degree. Now that I am finished with school, and I want to get back in shape and back on the ice. 

I skated for almost an hour. I have to admit the first 20-30 minutes were the hardest. I felt a little stiff…and slow…and sloppy in my movements. Trying to do that perfect pointed toe and excellent leg extension for “proper” forward stroking was making my thighs hurt. Let’s not talk about spiral extension. Or spins. Or jumps. All my skills are just rusty. :(

As I skated some laps, I actually considered hanging up the skates for good. I’m almost 31, do I really want to put myself through this anymore? Getting the skills, flexibility, and stamina back is going to take a lot of work…and a lot of sore muscles. Is it worth it? Should I just find another (warmer) hobby? 

But by the end of the session, my muscle memory was starting to kick in. I managed a couple of scratch spins and back spins. I landed the waltz jump, toe loop, flip jump, and a (cheated) lutz jump. They weren’t the prettiest, but it was a relief that they weren’t totally gone. Being back on the ice felt good…it felt right.

So here I am, starting over again. The rudimentary skills are there, but they need a LOT of refinement. I want to return to testing. I will need to relearn the juveniles moves patterns again. I would also like to learn a new program and compete in one of the local adult competitions next year. I’m also considering coaching basic skills again too. 

I’m starting over in other ways too. Now that I’m finished school, I have to rediscover my “non-school self”. The past 2.5 years has been all about coursework, internships, work, and preparing/worrying for my first post-graduate professional position. I pretty much dropped all my hobbies. I need more fun in my life! :)

Another way I’m starting over, is after the recent ending of a 2-year relationship. Before that relationship, I was in an almost 4-year relationship with not much of a break in between. So now, after recovering from heartbreak, I am discovering a contentment in being single. I don’t feel ready to date again yet. It’s been a while since I’ve been single and not “talking to” anyone at all. I think I will enjoy this experience for a little while.  

It will be interesting to see what this new season in life will bring.

Ice Skating Is More Than Just Birthday Parties: An Open Letter to Sierra Schellenberg

March 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Posted in ice skating, Kids On Ice | Leave a comment
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I know it’s been a couple of years since I posted on this blog. I’m not skating much these days because I am so busy with work and school. However, I needed to come back and post in response to a recent online article.

On Thursday, Sierra Schellenberg, wrote an article for InTheCapital highlighting D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed projects for fiscal year 2014. One of the projects she deems a waste of money is the upgrading of Washington’s only indoor ice rink, Fort Dupont Ice Arena. I am writing in response to this statement:

“$20 million on assuring that 10 year-old-girls will have the best birthday party ever! And by that I mean Gray is really considering spending $20 million of our tax dollars on upgrades to the Fort Dupont Ice Arena. Be real with me, when was the last time you went ice skating?”

Ms. Schellenberg,

I was very angry and disappointed to read your uninformed comments about Fort Dupont Ice Arena and ice skating. Ten-year-old girls are not the only ones who ice skate, and Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FDIA) provides much more for the community than just space for birthday parties. Obviously, you did not check your facts first, so let me enlighten you.

What Fort Dupont Ice Arena Is All About
FDIA is managed by the non-profit, Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, Inc. They provide free and low-cost ice skating and educational activities for youth ages 5-18. Ice sports in general are very expensive, and this cost is a major barrier for children of lower-income families. FDIA seeks to remove this barrier and allow children from any socioeconomic background the equal opportunity to participate in this awesome sport.

Members of Kids On Ice hockey class with the Stanley Cup at Fort Dupont Ice Arena.

Members of Kids On Ice hockey class with the Stanley Cup in 2009 at Fort Dupont Ice Arena.

Through the Kids On Ice©  program (KOI) they offer group classes on basic ice skating skills, ice hockey, speed skating, and synchronized skating. They also partner with D.C. Public Schools to incorporate ice skating into the physical education curriculum through the Schools Skate For Fitness Program. Afterschool tutoring and academic enrichment sessions are provided through the Study Buddies and Kids On Ice PLUS programs. Youth and adult hockey and synchronized skating teams from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia come to Fort Dupont Ice Arena to purchase practice ice. Birthday parties are only a very small part of what this rink does.

Kids on Ice Advanced Figure Skating class in 2007 (that's me, end of back row on the right)

Kids on Ice Advanced Figure Skating class at FDIA in 2007 (that’s me, end of back row on the right)

Ice Skating Is for Everyone
It is unfortunate that you don’t go ice skating anymore, but I am sure there are many Washingtonians that can tell you the last time they went ice skating was fairly recent. Ice skating is a great family activity and a lifelong sport to be enjoyed at any age. There are many health benefits, including cardio fitness, weight loss, strengthening of muscles, stress relief, and increased endurance and flexibility. You are welcome to come visit the rink when it reopens in July for the next season.

Ice skating is a great family activity! Okay, so this isn't FDIA. But just wanted to show my siblings and I going ice skating together (note: everyone in pic is over 10 years old).

Ice skating is a great family activity! Okay, so this isn’t FDIA. But just wanted to show my siblings and I going ice skating together over the Christmas 2012 holidays (note: everyone in pic is over 10 years old).

In conlusion…
You are entitled to your viewpoints on the benefit of Mayor Gray’s projects. But before you start bad-mouthing a very worthy organization, get your facts straight. As a former KOI participant, former FDIA Assistant Skating Director, and a current KOI volunteer, I know first-hand what a treasure this rink is to the Southeast neighborhoods and the city of Washington as a whole. It is more than just a place to skate, and functions as a community center. Mayor Gray is right to make this ice rink and its programs a priority.

Time to Revive This Blog

March 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Posted in freestyle, grad school, ice skating, synchro, tests | 1 Comment
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OMG, has it really been almost a year since I have written about my skating adventures? Probably because I have barely been skating since last spring. I took the summer off so I could use “skating money” to finish paying off a car note for a vehicle that was totaled in an accident….as well as some other expenses. I had planned to start back to private lessons last fall, but then I started grad school and was sidetracked by that for a semester.  I am taking a break from synchro until further notice, mainly due to grad school. If I can find a way to include both in my life (and afford it along with my private lessons), I will definitely try…but I might not be competing with the team again until I graduate — we will see.

That being said I have returned to taking lessons with my freestyle coach twice a month. We are once again working on the test program (see “First Freestyle Program…” ).  My goal is to test this fall. Jumps are great, spins are getting better. There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel as far as the individual skills are concerned. Now as it relates to putting it all together to music…well, let’s just say everything fell apart during the run-through — literally. I found myself sliding across the ice on my jump attempts, tripping and mis-stepping, and generally looking very awkward and un-artistic. My music is beautiful — I want to look beautiful too!  :(

I have time though. I am determined to stay focused and practice at least once per week in addition to my lesson time. I am also going to return to MIF lessons soon too. I really need to finish these tests.

First Freestyle Program in 8 Years???

April 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Posted in freestyle, ice skating, jumps, spins | 1 Comment
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Today, I started learning my preliminary freestyle program.  I am skating to The Chairman’s Waltz from the soundtrack Memoirs of a Geisha. Very pretty music.  :)

The required elements are salchow, loop, flip, single jump combined with toe-loop (my choice is flip-toe), back spin, and sit spin. A few creative elements are included such as spiral, attitude, lunge, etc. And of course graceful arm movements.

Performing the jumps in a specific spot on the ice with a shorter set up will take some getting used to. But the program is nice and simple. I just need to work on making the transitions between elements smoother…and actually manage to hold the spins in the proper form for three full revolutions.

I don’t think I have had a program since 2002 or 2003….when I last time performed a solo in Fort Dupont’s annual ice show. I fell down two or three times and felt totally embarrassed. I have had no interest in skating alone since then. lol

But I need to pass these tests….or rather I WANT to pass as many freestyle tests as possible. And a program is required. Since I have been competing synchro, I have become more comfortable with performing. So I feel good about returning to skating solos.

I don’t know when I will test…..not until the spins (and the program) are consistent….the spins are ALMOST there.  *sigh*

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