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Sharpening skates

John Bevan, left, talks with Novice Men's skater Daniel O'Shea, of Chicago, about the edges of O'Shea's skates Saturday at the Spokane Arena. 
 (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
John Bevan, left, talks with Novice Men's skater Daniel O'Shea, of Chicago, about the edges of O'Shea's skates Saturday at the Spokane Arena. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

John Bevan never was a figure skater. But he found himself bringing his son Johnnie to Eagles Ice-A-Rena years and years ago, and the ice has been a part of his life since.

“My son’s babysitter had a free coupon and we took him,” Bevan said. The 3-year-old boy had so much fun that he cried when his parents took him home. To console him, they promised they’d return the next day.

Skating became Johnnie Bevan’s passion, and he competed in numerous skating competitions, including several U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Now 30, he hasn’t competed for three years.

In fact, all three of John Bevan’s children became figure skaters. And so, about 13 years ago, Bevan bought the equipment to sharpen ice skates. It’s not too difficult, he said, and it gave his children one less thing to worry about.

This week, the 60-year-old Spokane native who is a mechanical engineer for Spokane Research Laboratory, is volunteering his time to sharpen skates during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane. He did the same in 2002, when Skate America came to town.

It’s an important task, but Bevan doesn’t imagine he’ll be doing very much this week, aside from responding to emergency cases. He describes himself as “the backup of the backup.”

“They’re very leery,” Bevan said of figure skaters. “You have to convince them that the magic is back in the skates and that the problems are gone.

“The last thing in the world they want is to have someone sharpen their skates that they don’t know.”

Skaters have good reason to be leery. A change in their skates’ blades can affect their performance.

“You can be very sloppy on a pair of hockey skates,” Bevan said. “You need to be more exact with figure skates and speed skates.”

That’s because skates have rockers – as the curve of the blade is called. A bad sharpening job can alter the rocker, changing the skate’s speed, turning radius and maneuverability.

Bevan understands the skaters’ need for consistency.

“My son’s skates were stolen right before the Cleveland nationals,” Bevan recalled, “and I remember saying I wish they had taken the car and left the skates.”

Johnnie Bevan got a new pair in time for the competition, but they had a quicker turning radius than he was used to and he did not perform as well as he had in practice.

Though he does not anticipate the largest role for himself in the following week, Bevan is optimistic about the success of the championship event.

“It was a big deal in L.A., but they have a lot of big deals,” he said. “I think we can do as good or better.”


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