Friday, July 27, 2012
Frisco and McKinney host ice skating championships
The event features participants who range in age from 1 to 87 years old.
Ice skaters from around the world have converged on two unlikely locations this week: Frisco and McKinney. While two North Texas cities may not be the first places that come to mind for ice skating, they're hosting one of the largest ice skating championships in the world.
Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco and Dr Pepper StarCenter McKinney have been hosting the Ice Skating Institute World Recreational Team Championships, which will conclude on Saturday. Nearly 1,000 participants from around the world are taking part in the competition.
"This is an event that is more participant-oriented than it is spectator-oriented, so the crowds are primarily family and friends," said Peter Martell, executive director of ISI. "We've seen a lot of great crowds from those groups [since] 50 percent of the participants are local."
Frisco and McKinney were chosen following a bidding period from member rinks of the ISI. The association moves the championship event around the country on a yearly basis, Martell said, and Frisco and McKinney put together the best package.
"It doesn't hurt that the quality of the facilities here are superb," he said.
The event features participants who range in age from 1 to 87 years old. Skills of all levels are also featured in the event, from participants skating just for fun to Olympic hopefuls.
"Participants are separated first by gender, next by age and then by skill level," Martel explained. "This is not a 'survival of the fittest' kind of thing like a lot of competitions in different sports are. We want to encourage participation, so we separate by ability level so the judges are comparing apples to apples."
Although the event has a recreational emphasis, some of the skaters will go on to participate in more prestigious competitions if the past is any indication, Martel said.
ISI and its events have seen a large amount of talent since its inception in 1959. Among the institute's former members are five Olympic gold medalists -- Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, Sarah Hughes, and Evan Lysacek -- and two Olympic silver medalists -- Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen.
"The first [well-known skater] who started in our program and became famous was Dorothy Hammell, who was the 1976 Olympic champion," Martell said, "This is a national program with facilities all across the country that utilize our learn-to-skate and recreational programs, so we've got a long list of skaters who have gotten their start in the ISI program and gone on to greatness."
Some of those well-known skaters have come back to skate at ISI-hosted events, and others have come back to help coach in a teaching capacity, he said.
Participants in the championships traveled from as far away as China. Chen Lu, an ISI coach, traveled from China with 30 skaters to compete in the event. One of the 30 skaters she traveled with is 9-year-old skater Simon Lian, who has been skating for four years.
"In my country, the teams are very small and it's very limited in skating," Lu said. "Everyone can skate in ISI."
Local skaters still make up the majority of participants, however. Maddie Patton, a 17-year-old McKinney resident participating in the event, has been competing for 6 years and hopes to teach ice skating in the future. Patton's coach, McKinney resident Kim Hansen, enjoys the event this year because of its close location.
"It's nice for us because we're local," Hansen said. "It's convenient."
In addition to the competition itself, the event will also feature a performance by current U.S. National Champion Ashley Wagner on July 27 at the Frisco-based Dr Pepper Arena. Wagner's performance, which will take place at 7 p.m., is available to the public. Entry to the performance is $25 and proceeds will benefit the ISIA Education Foundation's scholarship program.
Additionally, a renowned Olympic coach, John Nicks, will host skating clinics that morning for enrolled competitors.
"John is Ashley's coach, and he's coming out with her," Martel said. "We asked if they wouldn't mind doing some clinics for these kids to give a recreational skater the opportunity to spend 45 minutes with a great coach like John Nicks. Not every kid is fortunate enough to be coached by an individual like that."
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