Dorothy Hamill Fantasy Skating Camp 'a Dream Come True'

by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, special to U.S. Figure Skating Online

Hamill works with camper Jorge Lima of Brazil.
Photo by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz

(10/13/09) - As an adult skater, Ruth Anne Rahal appreciates every hour she spends on the ice honing her skills. When the opportunity to attend the Dorothy Hamill Figure Skating Fantasy Camp presented itself, Rahal, a member of the Nantucket Figure Skating Club, signed up immediately. The event, held at Rahal's home rink, the Christopher Nugent Bovers Rink, gave Rahal a chance to fulfill her skating wish: to learn skating skills from World and Olympic champions.

The camp, a long-time dream of Hamill's, took place Sept. 20-25. For the participants, it truly was a dream come true. Skaters traveled from Arkansas, Utah, Texas, Indiana, North Carolina and even Brazil to participate in group and individual lessons with Hamill and her guest coaches, Peter Carruthers, Randy Gardner, Tim Murphy and Nathan Birch.

"They treated us like we were the most important skaters in the world," Rahal said. "The rapport that the coaches have together, that just brings out the best in us. It's almost surreal for us."

Hamill has a special place in her heart for adult skaters and, because of this, created the fantasy skating camp.

"I love adult skaters," Hamill said. "I'm always trying to encourage adults to be brave and take the plunge. You are never too old to skate. It's a healthy exercise. It's creative, and it's a great activity for adults."

Throughout the week, Hamill and her fellow coaches passed on their love of the sport to the campers.

"Skating is a wonderful world, and I am so lucky to be a part of it," Hamill said. "My fellow coaches and I have become great friends, and we want to share the love we have for this lovely sport."

Activities were non-stop at the camp. Skaters began each day with range-of-motion warmups followed by Zen exercises on the ice, which not only encouraged perfect carriage but proper breathing techniques.

Skaters also participated in individual freestyle lessons with each coach and took part in morning stations, in which skaters rotated among the various coaches to work on footwork, spins, jumps and other skills. Level and ability were not a factor, and participant levels ranged from beginner to gold medalist.

"The individualized instruction is the best because you rotate between the coaches," said Jo-Ann Capobianco of Stoughton, Mass., a member of the North Shore Junior Figure Skating Club. "The coaches treat you like they really want to teach you."

A group photo of the Dorothy Hamill Figure Skating Fantasy Camp
Photo courtesy of DHFSFC
Guest coach Carruthers agreed. He found the camp a "collective experience on many levels."

"To be able to reconnect with Dorothy and Randy and Tim - and now we're all back on the ice together - and work with adult skaters, it's so satisfying," Carruthers said. "They are so enthusiastic to learn and advance their skating. They are so excited to try and come across with new skating skills."

Jorge Lima, an adult men's gold medalist from Brasilia, Brazil, found the experience "magical" and found several chances to work on his "carriage skills."

"Just learning to keep your shoulders over your hips, I learned carriage," Lima said. "I've learned so much in the past three to four days. It's amazing."

Lima and his fellow campers especially enjoyed the group number choreography classes and a chance to perform in the public exhibition on the final day of the camp. Skaters joined the five coaches on ice in a number Murphy affectionately called "Island of Love," which was choreographed by Murphy to "Beyond the Sea" by Celtic Woman and Bobby Darren and paid tribute to the week the campers spent on Nantucket Island. At the end of the performance, each skater felt like a true performer, and new skills and improvement was evident in every attendee.

The camp also included off-ice seminars and a field trip to Crush Cosmetics in Nantucket, where the hosts demonstrated on-ice makeup techniques, with camper Cathy Janssen of Kerrville, Texas, happily serving as a model.

For beginner Katie Brower of Wake Forest, N.C., a destination skating camp for adults was a chance of a lifetime.

"We did a follow the leader-type exercise with Dorothy, and I was in Dorothy's group," Brower said. "Following her, I just felt beautiful. There is so much talent on this ice."

Tim Murphy leads the group in off-ice choreography.
Photo by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz
Mary Ferguson of Nantucket spends many hours off the ice as a bronze-level judge, and she enjoyed the camp experience for the perspective it provided.

"This has been a lot of fun for us," Ferguson said. "As a bronze judge, you're on the sidelines all the time. After you watch kids all the time, you want to get out there."

Ferguson's time on the ice also gave her a perspective on what skaters go through during testing and competitions.

"We are definitely spoiled with this," Ferguson said. "How many events can you go to where you work with world-class skaters?"

A pairs skills class with Gardner and Carruthers was another camp highlight, with campers practicing cross-over maneuvers and even throw jumps with the two coaches.

"Skating with Randy Gardner - now that's a dream come true," said Midge Farkas of Park City, Utah. "It was so awesome."

The historic and quaint island of Nantucket offered campers the opportunity for fishing, boating, sailing, shopping and dining. Campers enjoyed accommodations in a local bed and breakfast and shared meals together, many hosted by Hamill and her coaching staff. For the campers, the camaraderie among the coaches and campers and new-found friends meant the most of all.

"Whatever we worked on here, they didn't make us feel was silly or unimportant," Rahal said.

Hamill spent the week sharing tips and stories as well as interacting with camp participants, not to mention the opportunity to be with her longtime coaches. For the camp's hostess, the Dorothy Hamill Figure Skating Fantasy Camp definitely was a dream come true.

"The experience surpassed even my expectations of the camaraderie and friendships we formed," Hamill said. "It was satisfying on so many levels: emotional, instructional, being with old friends and making new friends. I hope we inspired the skaters, because they inspired us very much."

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