Adult Regional Training Camp Continues to Grow

Story and photos by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Lorraine Diaz (New Haven, Conn.) gets some coaching on her edge jump from Artur Dmitriev.

Photos from the Adult Training Camp

Event Details

(7/1/04) - More than 120 adult skaters from 20 states and Canada attended the 2004 U.S. Figure Skating Adult Regional Training Camp June 25–27 - a significant growth from last year's attendance of 85. For the third consecutive year, the American Academy FSC hosted the camp at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J. The skaters were psychologists, film editors, orchestra teachers and vocational counselors. They were right out of college, at the peak of their career and enjoying retirement. They were adult skaters ready for two days of intense training and more intense friendships in an event created specifically for them.

This year, four on-ice and two off-ice sessions were held each day, and skaters were grouped by jumping ability, rather than tests passed.

"I decided to come when I tanked at nationals," said Yvette Matthews from the Bismarck FSC. "I've got to get better."

On Saturday, the 10 groups participated in three different sessions: toe jumps taught by Robin Wagner and Kim Murphy, edge jumps taught by Artur Dmitriev and Wendy Weston, and moves in the field taught by Edward VanCampen and Bidisha Mukherjee.

Hsin-Ting Feng from New Jersey and Becky Langford from New Mexico sat together during lunch after helping each other with power threes.

"When I was in Rochester, there were adults, but I just took private lessons," Feng said. "Now that I moved back, for about a month it's been all kids. They're doing double-doubles and triples. So this is good for me to be with adults again."

Langford agreed, "[The coaches] have really good insight into what we should be learning right now, like take-offs - what edge we're supposed to be on before we jump. When I was coming here, I was reading my newspaper on the flight - I'm missing a lot of stuff this weekend in Albuquerque. Then I got here, and it's like, I'm so glad I'm here!"

Five-time U.S. ice dancing champion Peter Tchernyshev and assistant coach Danielle Sandars worked with the dancers. Off-ice, World champion rhythmic gymnast Tatiana Droutchinina led the class through her human pretzel stretching class.

New this year was an Olympics class led by husband and wife Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman. In the class, which is a mini-version of their own seminar they give to clubs around the country, the couple talked about their experiences in Salt Lake City and their lives leading up to it. Videos of their programs were shown, and they explained what was going on in their minds and bodies throughout those minutes on the ice. Because class sizes were small, the campers had the opportunity to ask questions in an intimate setting.

Angelo Watler, who placed fourth in championship gold men at the 2004 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, attended the camp for the first time.

"I live in New York City, so of course I heard about it," Watler said. "I was chicken last year. My friend was in it and she said it was wonderful, so I said why not."

Matthews had also heard the camp was a lot of fun but was a little apprehensive.

"I was really worried about being star struck, like Robin saying 'Go do an Axel' and I'm like 'No way! I'm not going to do an Axel in front of you. You [coached] an Olympic champion!' I was worried about that," she said.

But Matthews was OK. "I decided to just do it. That's why I'm paying the money and why I came all this way. I just went for it."

Watler had a harder time getting over the Olympic coach.

"I didn't get past it in the class," Watler laughed, "but I did learn a lot. From my mistakes, she told me to fix my shoulder and let it pass through. Although I didn't get over my nerves, I did learn from Robin."

One of the highlights of Saturday was the power-stroking session. Last year's class taught by Zimmerman and Tchernyshev had a reputation that carried over. Some campers not assigned to that session managed to make their way into the class.

Silvia Fontana helps Cynthia Clark (Washington FSC) in the combination jumps class.
As many were gathering in the lobby for dinner at the end of the day, Olympic champion Oksana Baiul, who trains at the Ice House, was there to meet a friend and signed some autographs. The campers dispersed, talking of hot showers and lamenting that bathing suits were left behind while a hotel pool was calling their names.

Sunday was a gorgeous New Jersey June day, and quick-thinking coaches took advantage of it. Weston and Murphy moved their off-ice jumping class to the park across the street - a welcome break from the freezing rinks.

Sean Donellan, the former New York Islanders strength and conditioning coach, used his time with all the freestyle skaters to review adult-smart conditioning. Donellan specifically tailored his training for the campers' not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be bodies, keeping in mind that work and family schedules make personal time a premium. He showed the campers workouts that featured multi-tasking exercises that saved time but gave the same results.

Although most of the skaters were there by themselves, one couple from the Skating Club of New York attended together.

"I heard about [the camp] from a friend who had been here before," Kent Blocher said. "I like the idea of an intensive weekend experience and getting exposure to other coaches and techniques."

His partner Christy Putnam explained, "We usually skate at Wollman Rink in the wintertime, and it's hard for us to do much skating in the summer. This is a great opportunity."

On-ice classes on Sunday were combination jumps taught by Fontana and Zimmerman, spins by Wagner and Van Campen, and edge quality by Dmitriev and Droutchinina. World silver medalist Sasha Cohen, who was scheduled to visit for the Q&A and autograph session at the end of the day, brought along her skates and offered to be a guest coach for a couple of the sessions. Cohen first joined the combo jumps class and then the body movement class that ended the training.

In body movement, the coaches made spontaneous choreography and had the skaters follow. After Tchernyshev, Dmitriev and Droutchinina had their turns choreographing, Cohen came onto the ice. She talked about music choice and finding one's comfort and inspiration in the music, specifying her favorites to be classical and Spanish.

Dmitriev then challenged her to improvise a program and put on a bluesy “Pink Panther” CD. Cohen protested slightly that the music was not something she would normally choose, but there is no arguing with Dmitriev. In a stunning performance, Cohen slinked around the ice, hitting deep lunges and oozy hip movements until stopping in front of the campers.

"It's my first time [working with adults]," Cohen said. "They are very different from working with little girls who are 5 or 6 because they really want it, and they are there because they love it. I really felt like they were taking everything in and were interested, so it's more fun to interact with them. It's always great when you have people eager to learn and be able to give them some knowledge that you've accumulated over the years."

"I really felt like they (the adult skaters) were taking everything in and were interested, so it's more fun to interact with them. It's always great when you have people eager to learn and be able to give them some knowledge that you've accumulated over the years."
Sasha Cohen
The end of the camp was highlighted by the annual Q&A and autograph session. All the coaches took questions on a variety of subjects: the ISU's new judging system, commentators' criticisms, choreographing for programs, picking the right music, conditioning/injury prevention, and hitting an impasse with learning an element. U.S. pairs champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin were surprise guests, as they were in Hackensack to have their choreography done by Tchernyshev.

The Ice House's director of figure skating, Craig Maurizi, wrapped up the event with thanks to the participants. "As long as U.S. Figure Skating keeps awarding us the camp, we'll keep doing it!" he promised.

Three-time camper Barry Johnson from Atlanta summed the weekend up.

"The camp is just a lot of fun. Seeing people, seeing instructors, getting instructions - just the whole ball of wax is what keeps me coming back, he said. "It's a great facility, and Craig is wonderful. [The weekend] pushes you a little bit, too. Last year I didn't have a toe loop, and I left with a toe loop. This year I don't have a Salchow. I still don't have it yet, but it's getting a little bit better. If I get this, fine. If I don't, I'm getting closer."