By Mimi Whetstone
The inaugural U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and U.S. Challenge Skate got under way yesterday as skaters, coaches and officials filled the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. As practice sessions commenced, fans from around the nation gathered to fill the stands and celebrate a sport they’ve followed for years.
“I came because it was reasonable travel for an international event and it’s a great chance to see both up-and-comers and skaters we’ve been watching for years,” said Barbara Ray of Eugene, Ore. “This is a brand new competition and I can’t wait for the events to start so I can clap for each and every one of the skaters. We get to know their skating and they all work so hard. It’s like supporting your family.”
Ray has been attending skating competitions since the late 1980s, including regional and sectional championships, Skate America, Canadian and U.S. Championships.
“I’ll go to any event that’s a manageable distance,” Ray said.
Since 2005, Ray has traveled the globe with friend and fellow skating enthusiast Karin Olson, of Beaverton, Ore. This year, Olson will attend her biggest event yet: the World Championships in London, Ontario.
“I started coming to competitions when the U.S. Championships were in Portland,” Olson said. “From there, I can’t even count the number of competitions I’ve been to. This year, we’re here at the International Classic and Challenge Skate, and then we’re going to sectionals in Provo, regionals in Eugene, Ore. and Skate America in Seattle.”
Joining May and Olson in the bleachers this week is Shirlene Maughan of Salt Lake City, who attended her first skating competition more than 25 years ago.
“When I was little, I loved watching the U.S. Championships and listening to Dick Button on television,” Maughan said. “One day I told myself that if an event ever came close, I was going to go. Then in 1984, the U.S. Championships came to Salt Lake City. Scott Hamilton was there competing and I went. When they came again in 1990, I got my first all-event ticket. From there, I was hooked.”
Since then, Maughan has attended every U.S. Championships, Skate America and World Championships within a reasonable traveling distance.
“I just love this sport,” Maughan said.
Paul Krogue and his wife Celia have been following their favorite skaters around the world, attending Junior Grand Prix events, the Junior World Championships and the Grand Prix Final on several occasions.
“We watched Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner compete in Obersdorf, Germany at the 2007 World Junior Championships,” Krougue said. “Then we got to see them win U.S. titles. It’s fun to see them go so far and do so well.”
Though Celia did not make the trip from Blackfoot, Idaho, Paul is attending the event with his brother James of Seattle, who is experiencing a first figure skating competition for the first time.
“At my first competition, all of the junior skaters were watching the senior events with their parents,” Paul Krogue said. “We got to meet them and everyone was so nice. I expect this event will provide the same for James. We’re very excited to be here.”
Competition begins today and all events will stream live on icenetwork.com.
2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic competition notes
Icenetwork.com event page – 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic
Icenetwork.com event page – 2012 U.S. Novice & Junior Challenge Skate
Icenetwork.com live streaming schedule