The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Vicky Dagresta of Deerfield didn’t start figure skating until she was in her early 40s. Courtesy photo.

 Controversy on the U.S. Ladies’ Olympic team

If you’ve been watching the news, you probably already know about the controversial decision to send Ashley Wagner to the Olympics in one of the U.S.’s three spots for ladies singles skaters, despite her disappointing fourth-place finish at the National Championships two weeks ago. Right now, the U.S. team includes Wagner, Gracie Gold (who won) and Polina Edmunds (who came in second). Left as an alternate is third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu.
Although the National Championships is not an official trial for the Olympic team, it’s been tradition that the skaters who place top two or three (depending on the number of spots the U.S. has) move on to the World or Olympic Championships. Exceptions have been few, with one example being the 1994 Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan event.
Wagner was reportedly chosen because of her more successful year of competition — she was one of the only U.S. figure skaters to qualify for the Grand Prix Finals, an international competition in which she finished third — but Nagasu is not without credentials. She’s the only one of the four with Olympic experience and placed fourth at the Games in 2010. This also isn’t the first time Wagner choked under extreme pressure, having also missed the 2010 Olympic team with a fourth-place finish.
As such, this decision made by the United States Figure Skating Association has caused extreme controversy, with many locals in the skating realm quite angry.
“All of the coaches at our rink and in the area, we all have the same opinion. I think everybody does,” Hurley said in a follow-up phone call. “It was unfair. Poor Mirai got the shaft. … I was at Nationals in Boston this year. During Mirai’s program, people were on their feet with 15 seconds left of her program. It’s all political. … As figure skaters, we all feel very disappointed, because it’s one more thing that turns people off from the sport.”

Never too old to dream
Adults can learn to skate too

By Kelly Sennott

 Are you 30? Forty? Fifty years old? Your dreams of competitive figure skating don’t have to be over just yet.

To be fair, it is probably too late for the Olympics — no female or male singles figure skater over the age of 30 has medaled since 1924, when, according to Wikipedia, Ethel Muckett from Great Britain won bronze at age 38 — but people over the age of 50, heck, over 60 have found successful and fulfilling amateur careers in figure skating right here in New Hampshire, many of which started with adult learn-to-skate classes.
“It’s a thing! It’s out there!” said Jen Hurley, Granite State Figure Skating Club coach and skating director at the Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett. “It’s a lifelong sport. You can do it forever.”
And there’s a big call for it, too. Most of the beginning adult students at Tri-Town Arena are learning to skate because they want to keep up with their kids; they want to learn a fun form of exercise; they want to play stick-and-puck hockey; or they simply never had before and wanted to give it a try.
Take Judy Williams of Deerfield, for instance. She began taking lessons at age 41 simply because until then she’d never had the opportunity. That was more than 20 years ago, and she’s still skating.
“I skated for the first time on an indoor rink when I was 40. I was with my sister-in-law, and I said, ‘I wish I took skating lessons,’” Williams said in a phone interview. She was flipping through her copy of Skating magazine at the time of the call.
Her sister-in-law suggested she give it a try, and a year later she started taking lessons in Concord. The lessons soon catapulted into a passion for the ice. About 17 years ago, she started lessons with Hurley. 
A few years after her first lesson, she competed in the United States Figure Skating Association’s first adult master’s national competition, which has since become pretty competitive.
“I skated every chance I had for about five years,” Williams said. “I had no idea how addictive this was going to be! It’s the only exercise I’ve ever stuck to, and I stuck to it in a big way for a long time.” (She also rides horses and opened a stable a few years after she started skating, but she still skates regularly.)
“I absolutely love the sport. I love the feeling of skating, and I love learning new skills. Jumps actually came more easily to me than spins did,” said Williams, who is now 62. The flip and loop jumps are her favorites. 
Forty-nine-year-old Vicky Dagresta of Deerfield, another member of the Granite State Figure Skating Club, didn’t start skating seriously until her early 40s. She began in 2006 while seeking a fun way to get exercise. 
“I always loved to skate as a kid. I grew up on a lake, and back when ponds actually froze at Christmastime, I used to do twirls around the goal line while everyone else played hockey,” Dagresta said. “I always loved skating — I wanted to go to the Olympics! — but by the time I had enough money to take lessons, I was 18. I was too old to start training.”
Today she skates on Tuesdays and Fridays at the Tri-Town Arena and is training to compete at the U.S. Adult Championships, which this year take place in Hyannis, Mass.
Williams and Dagresta are not unique to the figure skating world. Today there are adult figure skating programs in venues across the state, including the Tri-Town Arena, which offers two adult Learn to Skate programs on weeknights for students 15 and older.
“You can go at any speed you want,” Dagresta said. “You don’t have to test or compete, but I like to do it because I like the goals. … That’s what’s exciting for me, the challenges you put out there in front of yourself and accomplishing them.”
In the most elementary of classes, you’ll learn the basics: skating forward, skating backward, turning and using your edges.
“My oldest student is 71. She’s going strong and isn’t quitting any time soon,” Hurley said. “Skating is an individual sport. Everyone’s on a different journey.”
And everyone starts in the same place. 
“The first, the most important thing you’ll learn is how to get up when you fall. We have newcomers sit down on the ice and push themselves back up,” Hurley said. “You’ve got to have a sense of humor, too.”
Advice for newcomers from Williams: invest in good equipment. Skating in flimsy gear is kind of like mountain biking with a tricycle. 
“If it’s something you’d like to stick to, buy the skates with the support in them. While you don’t have to be a superstar, you should have decent equipment,” Williams said.   
As seen in the January 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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