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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Skaters test how they measure up

Clubs gather at Riverfront Park for competition

It was chilly outside Saturday, but that didn’t stop dozens of figure skaters and their families from having a little bit of fun at the Riverfront Park Ice Palace.

The Spokane Figure Skating Club hosted its 21st annual Skate at the Park Competition. The skaters in Riverfront Park were from nine Northwest skating clubs, but the event wasn’t a qualifying competition that would lead a skater to the Olympics.

“They come for the experience to compete against others in their respective levels,” said event chairwoman Paula Keller.

The competition attracted 66 skaters ages 6 to adult. Some were in their 40s, Keller said.

Keller’s daughter, 24-year-old Amanda Smith, was among the adults competing.

“I started when I was 13,” Smith said. “I skated off and on.”

Smith took time off for college and to take a job as a flight attendant. She started hitting the ice again on a regular basis last fall. “I was going through a really hard time,” she said. “I needed something to keep my focus off myself. I needed an escape.”

She learned the sport by enrolling in one of Riverfront Park’s classes. “I didn’t even really want to skate,” she said, but ended up falling in love with it. “It was the only sport that came naturally to me.”

Smith was competing in an artistic category Saturday because a recent hip fracture keeps her from doing demanding jumps. But someday she’d like to take her skating on the road. “I do want to skate for Disney on Ice,” she said.

The day was filled with competition in basic elements, compulsory moves and freeskating. Some programs had booming music that competed with the roar of the Spokane River, while the compulsory competitions had no music, only the sound of blades swishing across the ice. Families with their legs wrapped in blankets watched with rapt attention, some rushing forward at the end of programs to throw stuffed animals and flowers on the ice.

Eastern Washington University freshman Jennifer Dawson, 18, was there competing for the Tri-Cities Figure Skating Club. She started with the sport 12 years ago and once dreamed of performing in the Olympics. “That didn’t work out so well,” she said.

Dawson now skates in the junior ladies category. Saturday’s competition was free for upper-level skaters, so Dawson decided to participate just for fun. “I don’t really skate much,” she said. “I got busy with life, going off to college.”

Eight-year-old Dana Nicol is one skater who has visions of Olympic medals dancing in her head. She’s only been skating a year and a half in the Inland Northwest Figure Skating Club, but by midday Saturday she’d already collected one medal. “It’s really fun to meet people and make friends like I did today,” she said.

She was a little worried about competing outside even though she seemed to be doing well. “I don’t really like it at all,” she said. “It’s a little on the cold side. Birds can fly in your face. It just doesn’t feel right.”

When Nicol took to the ice in her purple skating dress, however, there wasn’t a bird in sight. They apparently had the sense to go somewhere warm.

Nicol may be dreaming of Olympic gold, but her goal on Saturday was much more immediate. “I can’t wait,” she said. “After this I get a double scoop ice cream cone.”

Nina Culver can be reached at (509) 927-2158 or via e-mail at
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