A summer on ice

Skaters take advantage of seasonal opportunities


— According to the U.S. Figure Skating Association, a young skater may fall down more than 20,000 times while trying to learn a jump.

Braden Overett couldn't even guess how often his backside has struck the ice. Now 21, the University of Denver student and Denver Figure Skating Club member can land a triple axel/triple salchow combination.

A decade ago, that would have won an Olympic gold medal.

Today, men are successfully landing quads, a jump with four revolutions, in combination and in competitions.

"Summer is the big push," Overett said. "That's when you have the most training time. There's no school. It could take two weeks to get a jump or it could take six years."

This week, about 30 skaters from the University of Denver Figure Skating Club and their three coaches -- Tracey Seliga, Susan Williams and Mia Hoeksema -- are in Steamboat Springs to train at the Howelsen Ice Arena.

Overett followed Williams, his coach, to Steamboat for the one-week camp, complete with on-ice clinics and off-ice conditioning.

Overett has performed in Steamboat before, during the Winter Carnival. He will perform for the public again from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday as part of a free exhibition held by both the Steamboat and DU clubs.

Tuesday, about 30 skaters were spiraling and spinning on the ice when Overett's program music began to echo through the ice arena.

Slowly, he began to skate. One by one, most of the other skaters worked their way to the edge of the rink to watch him practice his competitive program, complete with combination jumps and beautiful spins.

The most important part of his competitive season picks up in October and ends with the National Championships in January.

Overett isn't big on setting long-term goals. He'd rather focus on the present and this season, but he would love to be an Olympian some day.

While Carly Gustin hasn't yet thought of making an Olympic team, the 10-year-old Aurora girl became interested in figure skating by watching the Olympics.

"I was watching Michelle Kwan and it looked like fun," Gustin said.

She joined DU's club and began to skate seriously several years ago. The same is true for Littleton's Sarah Browning, 9.

The two are training to pass their preliminary test, which involves successfully completing crossovers, spirals and three turns.

But the two young skaters do feel like serious skaters in Steamboat. They are staying at a condo for the week with other skaters and a coach.

"We feel like we're on our own," Gustin said. "It feels good."

Courtney Gill, a coach for the Steamboat Springs Figure Skating Club, said funds from the club were used to reserve the rink for the month of July. Many of the Steamboat skaters recently returned from June camps, and the club coaches wanted their girls to have someplace to continue progressing.

This summer is the first that Steamboat skaters have had year-round access to Howelsen Ice Arena. The club's large regional competition is in October, but previously, the girls were unable to seriously train until September.

"It's been nice to have the ice," Gill said. "It's gone to the next level and you can see it in their skating. We were always at a disadvantage because we'd take off so many months."

The arena will be closed to the public through July, as local and outside clubs use the facility.

Rink manager Stacey Foster said Howelsen will open for public use on Aug. 4. Schedules are available in the lobby.


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