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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Teen thrilled with opportunity to compete in singles and pairs

It doesn’t take an expert’s eye to know that all of the skaters, from 10-year-old Nathen Chen in the Novice Men to 36-year-old John Baldwin in Senior Pairs, have put in an amazing amount of time and effort to reach the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

And there are a handful of youngsters who have managed to make it to Spokane in two events.

That’s what makes Amanda Dobbs so amazing. The 16-year-old Californian is competing in two Senior events. She and Joseph Jacobsen placed seventh in Pairs last weekend and she returns to the Arena ice Thursday for the Senior Ladies’ short program.

The impression from Dodds is that it is no big deal and if she could, she would spend even more time on the ice.

“I like the freedom,” she said. “I like the feel of the ice. It’s when I’m happiest. When I step onto the ice, nothing else really matters.”

“I think that’s one of the things that makes it workable for Amanda,” said Todd Sand, one of her coaches. “She really, really loves to skate.”

That means two events just double her pleasure.

“I like them both the same,” she said. “I like my time to myself, but I also like having someone on the ice that makes me laugh, who enjoys skating as much as I do it. It’s nice to share the love of the sport with someone else.”

So Dodds finds a way to make it happen. Her parents understand what it takes because they were competitive swimmers, as is her younger brother. Her coaches, Jenni Meno and Sand, encourage her. And her partner is her biggest fan.

“Lately she’s been working her butt off,” Jacobsen, 22, said. “We’ve been getting in an equal amount of time in singles and pairs. I think it’s a sufficient amount of time.”

All agree that both disciplines complement each other.

“To be a successful pair now, in the country or at the world level, you have to be a strong singles skater,” Meno said.

Dodds was fifth in Junior singles in 2008, when she won a Grand Prix event in Italy, and seventh last year.

“I think it has helped my singles skating a lot doing the pairs,” she said. “It has made me faster in singles and my landings have gotten stronger because of it. It’s been a nice variety of skating for me. It’s been a lot of fun all year.”

What’s remarkable about the success in pairs is how quickly it came, which is a credit to Jacobsen, who has skated pairs for 12 years.

“We started training in March and then I broke my foot, (so) we really didn’t start training together until July,” Jacobsen said. “I think we’ve been able to catch up really quickly.”

It doesn’t hurt that their coaches have more than a little cred. Meno and Sand, who won three straight pairs titles, plus a silver and two bronzes in the World Championships from 1994-96, are being inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame this weekend.

“They’re both really good at keeping my schedule, making it so I can train both,” Dodds said. “They keep my schedule well-balanced and keep me well-balanced.”

Still, their placing was almost more than they hoped for.

“They ended up seventh, which is the highest we thought they could be coming in,” Meno said. “In fact, we never even thought about placing coming in as a new team. I think they actually did more than any of us expected. It was a great, great competition for them for the first year.”

What they lack in experience they make up for with personality.

“What really came across in the pairs is that both Joe and Amanda love to skate,” Meno said. “I think that fresh, exciting, exuberance they have really came across. That’s what we look for in her singles, too.

“It’s not just about the elements, it’s about the people in the audience. They can watch and feel how much they really love to do this. That’s what’s really special about Amanda.”

Well, that and more than a little talent.

“At the senior level it is quite rare to be at the level Amanda is in both,” Meno said. “We encourage Amanda to still do her singles because she is a beautiful singles skater. You’ll see when she competes.

“We think she can do well in both. It’s not a question of which one. She can do well in both and she handles both so we encourage that.”

Dodds likes the idea of joining pretty unique company. Kristi Yamoguchi, who will be signing autographs at FanFest on Saturday, won a national title in singles in 1992 but won titles paired with Rudy Galindo in 1989 and 1990. Before that it was Joan Tozzer, who won both in 1938, ’39 and ’40.

“I think that would be really cool,” Dodds said. “I think if anyone could, I could, especially with the support system I have, so we’ll see.”

The odds may be against her, and with at least two more Olympics to shoot for she could chose a singular gold path.

“We might have to make a decision down the line, but I don’t think that’s anywhere in the near future,” Sand said. “I think physically she’s in very good shape. She’s relatively injury free – that’s a big part of that. … It’s a balancing act, but she gives everything she can to both.

“The sky’s the limit. We know what we need to work on in both disciplines, but we’re also very happy where we are.”

Novice ladies

Leah Keiser, a 13-year-old from Pennsylvania, won the free skate to move from third to champion in the Novice Ladies. Her win kept Texan Ashley Cain, 14, from duplicating the gold she won in Novice Pairs. Katarina Kulgeyko, 13, from San Diego, was third.

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