Juneau figure skaters ready for regional competition

“We (figure skaters) have the biggest stage in the world,” world champion Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko once said.


Ten members of the Juneau Skating Club will leave soon for their own piece of that icy stage — the 2014 Northwest Pacific Regional Figure Skating Championships in Tacoma, Wash. The competition takes place Oct. 5-8.

“I started skating six years ago with my friends,” Laurie Balstad, 14, said. “I wanted to learn to skate because I wanted to hang out with my friends. Eventually, my friends left skating to do other things. Because I had gotten into competing, I stayed in skating. I skate because I like the freedom it brings. I step onto the ice, and everything is okay.”

JSC coach Pam Leary will travel with skaters Megan Renkes, Olivia Gardener, Meredith Fritsch, Katherine Fritsch, Josephine Zuelow, Kara Hort, Emily Bowmen, Ema Jessen, Gabriella Sloan and Laurie Balstad. Additional coaches helping the skaters prepare for the competition include Ebett Siddon and Debbie Tseu.

“I fell in love with figure skating when I saw graceful skaters on television,” Olivia Gardner, 10, said. “Of course, I wanted to be just like them. Some friends invited me to skate and I was hooked. It is a lot of hard work.”

This will be the JSC’s fourth trip to the Northwest Pacific Regional Championships and Gardner’s first. She will be in the preliminary free skate level.

“My program is choreographed to Anita’s Dance,” Gardner said. “It is classical music about an Arabian Princess. It will be a fun trip with my coach Pam Leary and my skating friends. I hope my performance will inspire other young girls in Juneau to join our skating club.”

The season began for the 20 or so skating students on Sept. 1.

“As soon as the rink opened we were on the ice working on programs,” JSC figure skating coordinator Pam Leary said. “Since we don’t have our rink over the summer it is very hard to train off ice to develop their programs. I am looking forward to seeing our girls do their best against competition with girls from all over the northwest Pacific region and for them to see skating at levels higher than we have in Juneau. It is exciting for them because they get to see skaters at much higher levels so they get to see what they can look forward to learning in the future.”

Balstad is the JSC’s top youth skater and will be looking to qualify for sectionals.

Regional competitions allow skaters to advance to higher skill level competitions in Sectionals.

Sectional winners then advance to Nationals. National winners reach the top level at the World Championships and the Olympics.

“The ice is freedom,” Balstad said. “I love the feeling of the wind, spinning in endless circles and that accomplishment of actually landing a jump. I love the rush of adrenaline, waiting for the first note of the music to start. I love to skate.”


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