Many people remember sitting in front of the television watching the winter Olympics with their families. One of the most popular events is figure skating. Sensational moves, often paired with popular music—it’s a sport that inspires awe. Children and adults both secretly wish they had the ability to do routines like those. Some, however, dare not hope to accomplish such things. Millions of people with various special needs often find that opportunities are limited. The Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club trains at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube arena, and they invite people, even those with special needs, to join them. Mary Johanson, skating club Director, gives us some of her insights on the subject.
What kinds of programs are offered?
The Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club offers many different programs from very beginner through international competition. Our Learn to Skate program offers group classes for 3 year olds through adult, as well as a therapeutic skating class for people with special needs. We are also the home of the Washtenaw County Special Olympics skating team. Other club members skate on our synchronized skating teams, the Hockettes, which compete internationally. We have ice dance competitors competing at the National Championships in both solo dance and traditional partner dance. Finally, we have singles skaters who compete all around the midwest region.
How/why did you personally get into figure skating?
My first introduction to skating was on a lake in the middle of winter in Wisconsin. My father, a former high school hockey player, would shovel the snow off the ice creating a large rink in front of our house every winter. I began taking formal lessons at the age of 6 and fell in love with the sport. I still enjoy skating outside every chance I get. Nothing else that fills me with as much joy.
Who or what is your inspiration and why?
I am inspired each day by the skaters in our special programs. Seeing the joy in the face of a young skater who stands up on the ice for the first time or the excitement on the face of a parent who never imagined their special needs child would accomplish certain skills— these moments with the skaters inspire me to think of the next program that may reach out to the community and allow more people to experience
the joy of skating.
What qualifications does someone need to be an ice skater?
The only qualifications needed are a willingness to work hard and a positive attitude.
Is figure skating hard, or can anybody do it?
Like any other sport, figure skating is difficult and takes lots of practice. One of the great things about skating, however, is there is something for everyone. While some may go on to compete, others may just enjoy learning enough to enjoy a Saturday public skate with friends and family. As it is an individual sport, accomplishment can be achieved at every level.
What is the best part about ice skating?
I am sure if you asked ten different people this question, you would get ten different answers. Skating is special to different people in different ways. When I was skating, it was the feeling that I could almost fly as well the daily challenges that drove me to work hard and achieve. The feeling of camaraderie and the friendships I made along the way were also a very important part of my skating career.
What skills can someone learn from ice skating?
Besides the actual skating skills one can learn, there is so much more to be taken from this sport. Important life skills such as time management, perseverance, winning and losing with grace, sportsmanship, teamwork, and most importantly that when you fall down in life, you get back up and try again. Many lifelong friendships are developed at the rink as well as special relationships with coaches and parents.
What would you like to say to anyone considering getting involved in figure skating?
I am biased, but I would say skating is one of the greatest sports out there. There is really nothing else like it and I would encourage everyone to give it a try. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish when you try something new!