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Adult skaters take a breath of fresh air
August 29, 2017

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LAKE PLACID - When one thinks of figure skating, it is usually of young girls contorting themselves into strangely positioned spins, launching themselves into triple jumps or racing around the ice with a partner.

But this is a limited view of the sport of figure skating. Adult skaters (participants over the age of 21) have increasingly become a large percentage of the skating population, with some participants competing and completing the same moves as their younger counterparts while others skate for recreational purposes.

U.S. Figure Skating, the sport's national governing body, describes it this way: "Whether you are an adult who became a skater or a skater who became an adult, the U.S. Figure Skating Adult Skating Program has a place for everyone to learn, enjoy and participate through a variety of skating programs, proficiency tests and competitions on the local, national and international level."

Above all, it's clear that regardless of their age or skill level, adult skaters share one thing in common: their love of figure skating.

Adult skating has always been an important component of Lake Placid skating culture. At the insistence of Barbara Kelly, the Skating Club of Lake Placid created the Coffee Club in 1995. This skating "club" offers an opportunity for adult skaters to meet once a week to skate and enjoy coffee and other snacks while socializing with fellow adult skaters.

The Lake Placid Figure Summer Skating program started adult skater programming around this time as well, instituting one week in June and one in August - both dubbed "Adult Week." These weeks were tailored to adult skaters, offering opportunities to take group lessons, engage in private lessons with elite coaches and perform in their own exhibition at the end of the week.

The group lessons were geared toward the type of skills adult skaters usually struggle with, while off-ice classes were similar to those taken by the youth campers, such as dance or trampoline. Many of the same coaches available during the youth Lake Placid Figure Skating camp arrived early or stayed on to teach during Adult Week. The exhibition gave adult skaters the opportunity to skate a solo and usually at least one group number with their fellow campers.

This is the best chance for many adult skaters to interact with other adult skaters, and some skaters have been coming to this camp for many years. Natalie Bare, of Williamsburg, Virginia, and Rosemary Kelly, of Riverhead, New York, have been coming to Lake Placid Adult Week for 12 years and fourteen years, respectively. Both keep coming back because of the friends they have made and the classes offered.

"I love coming back to Lake Placid to see the many friends I have made over the years, including coaches," Bare said. "I love getting lessons from different coaches to get a new perspective on my skating."

"What keeps me coming back are the friends that I've made and the skating without kids," Kelly added. "(I also appreciate) the classes and the support from the other adult skaters that are on the same learning curve."

One of the veterans of Adult Week is Nancy Armstrong of Connecticut, who travels to Adult Week with her sister, Alice. Although the drive takes five hours one way, Armstrong thinks it's worth it, for the ice time available, the opportunity to see skating friends and the chance to skate in the historic rinks.

"The program has changed in the 18 years that I have been coming," Armstrong said. "When I first started, the adult skaters were like me, we started skating late in life, I started at 45 years old. Now, many of the adult skaters who attend this program skated as youngsters and now as adults - they are wonderful skaters. It gives a new meaning to the term adult skater."

The camp is not only for veteran adult skaters as some skaters new to the sport also find their way to Adult Week.

Rebecca Hart, originally of Dorset, Lytchett-Matravers, United Kingdom, is a student at Exeter University and is in the U.S. working in a lab at the Cornell School of Medical Sciences in New York City. When she isn't studying, the 22-year-old enjoys figure skating and has been taking skating lessons for eight months at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

"I'm loving it," Hart said. "I am feeling validated and trying skating moves I can't do."

At the Adult Weeks, skaters from the Skating Club of Lake Placid occasionally join in to get the extra ice time and benefit from the classes and other activities. At the most recent Adult Week, Carly Brox participated after taking part in the regular Lake Placid Summer Figure Skating program all summer. She was joined by fellow SCLP members Gina Jadwisiak, David Kobe, Karen Kan and James Gann, who all participated in the Adult Week exhibition.

Adult Week also disproves the assumption that figure skating is mostly a woman's sport. There has been a great push in US Figure Skating to encourage boys and men to skate, and in adult skating it seems to be working. Several men participated in the Lake Placid Adult Week. Some have been coming to the camp for years, while others are new.

Lou Tomaino, of Schenectady, is a veteran of Lake Placid Adult Week, having attended both the June and August weeks since 1998. Tomaino has adopted an unofficial ambassador role for adult skating and Lake Placid Adult Weeks, sending out occasional email newsletters with pertinent information and serving as an unofficial "contact" to help potential campers and answer questions among the adult skating community.

"They are great opportunities to meet people with a common interest in ice skating," Tomaino said. "Many of the attendees have come before, so it is wonderful to be with old friends and to meet new people. The Adult Weeks are also opportunities to learn new things and to have old things explained in some different ways.

"The high-performance trampoline is one example - a great way to work on jump rotations. Other examples include the various group lessons from stretching to historical dances. And there is the opportunity to skate a program in front of a friendly audience."

One of the newer participants in the camp is Julian Czarny, of Bethlehem, New Hampshire, who has been attending for two years.

"With ice time opportunities from early morning until after dinner, I would definitely say that is a big draw for me," Czarny said. "The most enjoyable aspect of the Lake Placid Adult Skate Week is getting to meet a variety of people - be it the attendees or the instructors."

Of course, it's not bad to spend a week in Lake Placid, which can provide a refreshing escape for participants from warmer climates.

"I also love Lake Placid to get away from the heat and humidity of the South," Bare said. "Every year, I look forward to my week here as a chance to get away but to come home. The region is so different from where I live that it awakens my senses and renews my soul."

With the summer skating season now over, the next big skating event in Lake Placid is the Skate America Grand Prix Nov. 24-26 at the Olympic Center. Elite skaters from all over the world will be vying for a Skate America title in an Olympic season, and tickets are still available for multiple and single events. For more information, visit www.2017skateamerica.com.

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