Olympic to ordinary ice skaters enjoy area rinks
By Lou Fancher
Let’s assume the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, have spiked interest in skating.
Maybe it’s Southern California’s Mira Nagasu scoring a win for her gender, home state and nation by becoming the third woman and first female American figure skater to nail a triple axel in Olympic competition. Or inspiration may come from 17-year-old San Jose native Vincent Zhou’s landing the first quadruple lutz in Olympic history.
Regardless, after the glow and memories of medal-winning performances fade, what’s a person to do with a hankering to glide as gracefully as a swan on a pond? Fortunately, the A&E — art and entertainment, not to mention athleticism and energy — of skating can be satisfied here in the Tri-Valley.
Dublin Iceland Skating Director Laura Erle says that after Nagasu’s triple axel, phone calls picked up. The fact that 1992 Olympic winner Kristi Yamaguchi and a handful of other Bay Area national, world and Olympic skating champions trained at the facility generates year-round interest. “We have 500 skaters in the upcoming series. I anticipate based on past Olympic years that registration on Monday will increase by maybe 100 people,” Erle said recently.
The Dublin skating facility opened in 1975. Erle, an accredited coach for 30 years with double national gold medals in her pocket, can remember it like it was yesterday. “They built it two blocks from my house. I started with group lessons at age 11. The figure 8’s, specific moves and patterns we had to trace, I liked. Jumping, I loved. Why? It was fun.”
For people with lower aspirations — like simply remaining vertical — Dublin Iceland offers lessons for skaters from tots (ages 4 to 6) to adults; daily public skating sessions; reduced-rate family nights; holiday camp intensives; special events and private group rentals. Robust youth and adult hockey programs and figure skating instruction are enhanced by the facility’s St. Moritz Ice Skating Club and Tri-Valley Minor Hockey Association. “Our hockey and figure skating are very popular. Often people come as part of a girl or boy scout party. They like the sliding and gliding. They try a jump. It sparks interest,” says Erle. Skaters with special needs are assisted as a class allows to create immersive experiences for everyone.
Not far away at Tri Valley Ice in Livermore, General Manager Andrea DeMeo says a surge of interest in skating sports has “increased dramatically,” especially in the Learn to Skate and Learn to Play Hockey programs for children younger than eight. The facility offers a full smorgasbord of activities: hockey and skating lessons for all ages, public skate hours that include special half-price admission on Wednesday afternoons, hockey drop-in sessions, tournaments, camps and more.
Although not everyone has DeMeo’s personal connection to the Olympics — U.S. Men’s Hockey Team member Will Borgen is related by marriage — she says the events this year are exciting for everyone. Aside from the Olympics, DeMeo suggests the rink’s slightly-smaller-than-regulation size makes hockey and lessons for younger children a big draw. “Advanced figure skaters like a bigger surface,” she says. Emphasizing that people in the Tri-Valley are attracted to public skate sessions that the whole family can enjoy, she highlights a special feature: Beer on tap and wine are available for adults.
Back in Dublin, Erle says a new program they offer, synchronized skating, turns the solo or pairs sport into a team activity.
“Maybe you’re not a skater who’s going to be an Olympic athlete, but as a team skater, you can experience world, national and Pacific coast competition,” she says. Like the Figure Skating Team competition that is in its second year as an Olympic event, Erle hopes synchro skating will be added to the competition in the future. “Let’s admit it, solo skating can be intense. Being a part of a team, the camaraderie, it’s the most exciting new part of skating this year.”