Sunday, July 19, 2009

There's no off-season for figure skaters and their coaches

It's a sport confined to no season. Even in mid-July, coaches are working in their cold-weather apparel -- long pants, fleece-lined jackets and parkas.

At the Arctic Edge Arena in Canton, figure skating coach and choreographer Marina Zoueva spoons honey into a mug of hot tea between sessions.

At the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club, ice dancers Evan Bates and Emily Samuelson head to ballet class with dueling colds.

And at the Detroit Skating Club, U.S. men's champion Jeremy Abbott and Daisuke Takahashi -- who's visiting from Japan to work with choreographer Pasquale Camerlengo -- alternate playing program music as they practice at opposite ends of "A" rink.

"People ask us when our off-season is, and it's hard to explain because we really don't have an off-season," said Meryl Davis of West Bloomfield, who won the U.S. gold medal in ice dance with Charlie White in January.

The Free Press dropped by the Detroit area's three major figure skating clubs last week to check in on our Olympic hopefuls. What did we find?

With the Vancouver Winter Games seven months away, there has been no time to hibernate.


In a couple of hours, the lobby will be transformed to a party scene for coach Igor Shpilband's 45th birthday. The celebration will serve as a respite from the day's work of constructing programs and training ice dancers for the upcoming season.

Zoueva has been at the rink since 6 a.m. to prepare for the avalanche of teams that begin arriving for practice at 7 a.m. On this day, her spiral-bound organizer reveals a booked schedule through 5 p.m.

Arctic FSC is home to two of the top-four ice dance teams in the world: bronze medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, and Team USA's Davis and White, who were fourth at the world meet in March.

But Shpilband and Zoueva have eight other teams that train full-time in Canton, including current world junior champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, who have moved up to seniors this season.

The dance crew shares ice time with the club's pair teams coached by Johnny Johns and Adrienne Lenda. While a clock ticks down the remaining minutes in the session, pairs skaters Andrea Best and Trevor Young work on their long program a few yards from where Davis and White are practicing a move.

Full article.

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