January 16, 2010 in City

Time arrives for best to shine

Local skaters thrilled to have role in opening ceremony
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

The Lilac City, Spokane and Inland Northwest skating clubs help open the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Friday in the Spokane Arena.
(Full-size photo)

On the Web: Find galleries of photography from competition and practice, the latest news, skaters’ tweets on Twitter and video from KHQ television at passporttogold2010.com

Haley Anderson has had many sleepless nights since November.

That’s when the 10-year-old figure skater began practicing the routine for the opening ceremonies for the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in her hometown.

“I’ve been so excited … my mom made me go to bed at 8 p.m., but I’d wake up and ask, ‘Is it here yet?’ ”

Friday her mom finally replied, “Yes.”

Anderson joined about 50 young skaters from the Lilac City, Spokane and Inland Northwest skating clubs for a performance before the men’s senior short program Friday night.

It was the kickoff to the 10-day skating event that brings thousands of skating fans and world-class athletes to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The results from the championships will determine the U.S. national team headed to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., next month.

“It’s a privilege to be here, especially during an Olympic year,” said Leslie Tunnell, of Spirit Lake, Idaho. Tunnell and friend Sue Cleveland have passes to multiple events this year.

Tunnell said she and her husband, Sid Wurzberg, attended the 2007 championships in Spokane, and after the experience vowed to return. Attendance at the 2007 event broke records, and officials are still hoping to surpass the 154,893 seats sold three years ago.

“It really speaks well of Spokane and the community,” Cleveland said. “The first time around there was a sense of newness, the second time it’s a privilege for Spokane.”

Friday’s opening ceremonies included appearances by Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, followed by the up-and-coming local skaters, some of whom hope to one day skate at the level of the national champs.

The performance was choreographed by Tanya West, of the Lilac City club.

“It’s great exposure for the 6- and 7-year-olds,” said Callie Halpin, 20, a junior coach and member of the club. Halpin skated at the 2007 opening ceremonies as well. “It’s pretty cool to be able to see all the different skaters.”

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