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"Saint-Petersburg Times"

A new ice age

Following a reality show featuring stars learning to skate, figure skating itself is becoming increasingly popular in the city.

By Cori Weiner

Special to The St. Petersburg Times

 

 

Amateur skaters perfecting their skills at the outdoor ice-rink that has been set up on Palace Square.

While figure skating may be a traditional sport in Russia, lessons for adults haven’t always been accessible to the general public. Olympic skaters willing to train for countless hours per day have been and continue to be appreciated and supported. But for the average person to suddenly decide to pick up figure skating as a form of exercise or artistic expression is relatively new.

Quite possibly, it was last year’s television show “ Stars on the Ice” followed by this year’s version, “The Ice Age” which is responsible for such a phenomenon, as viewers watch movie stars perform on the ice rather than at the mercy of a director. The fans have come to realize that figure skating is not only a sport for Olympic athletes, but for anyone who possesses the coordination and will to try. “As soon as this show went on the air, we started getting letters asking why there were no groups for adults,” says Olga Shiryaeva of Leader Figure Skating School in St. Petersburg. In response, Leader School set up classes for adults. Starting with four last year; the number of groups has increased by nearly 400 percent to 15 groups this year. Considering Leader School has catered to groups of children since its conception in1954, this development is particularly encouraging.

In addition, the Olympic Hope Figure Skating School came into existence, with its director, Tatiana Tarasenkova, similarly attributing the demand for classes to the television shows. However, she adds that many of the participants on the shows skated in their childhood, as well as putting in hours and hours of practice each day. Attaining their level in a short period of time is harder than it looks. Tarasenkova also notes that the increase in the number of skating rinks has allowed people more opportunities to train.

There are other factors contributing to the increase in popularity of figure skating as a recreational sport. Generally speaking, to be considered a success in society, it has become imperative to do some sort of exercise, feels Shiryaeva of Leader School. “In the past few years, people have started going to fitness centers and taken up jogging. Maybe not to the same extent as in America, but it’s a growing phenomenon.” Figure skating is just another manifestation of this growing trend.

Svetlana Ryabinkova, PR manager for the Russian Federation of Figure Skating in St. Petersburg, adds that 2006’s success in the Olympics with one gold and four bronze medals, brought about increasing interest in the sport.

Whether the connection between television, changes in lifestyle and today’s interest in figure skating can be proven or not, the desire to be fit is certainly a good thing, says Shiryaeva. “In our city, there are more people dying than are being born. Staying healthy is good for the well-being of the public.”

But in the case of figure skating, staying in shape comes with a risk. With more and more people on rinks, one serious concern is the need for insurance in case of an accident. In St. Petersburg, people often receive lessons from a private trainer during public skating hours. This means during a lesson you could conceivably end up in a messy accident with skaters passing by, and compensation for the injury could entail a lawsuit with uncertain results. In addition to an on-site doctor, Shiryaeva prides herself on the solid insurance that her school provides for her skaters. “If the necessary institution determines that the accident is the school’s fault, we can respond in a responsible manner, and we are insured. Baker and Mackenzie, aided us in writing up the contract.”

Tarasenkova of Olympic Hope notes that one of the attributes of her school is that in order to become an instructor, the applicant must have achieved success as a figure skater and obtained a bachelor’s degree in physical education. She feels that being a superb athlete is not enough; effective methodology is also necessary.

The adults in the classes at Olympic Hope run the gamut in terms of age range, and interestingly, many parents of the children in the classes, inspired by watching their little ones, have decided to give figure skating a try themselves. Tarasenkova is particularly proud of these skaters for summoning up the courage to learn how to skate as adults.

In terms of the classes themselves, Leader provides 45 minutes of figure skating plus 45 minutes of a dance and exercise class that reinforces the positions and muscle development practiced on the ice. Olympic Hope first provides the exercise class, and then the figure skating class.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your Russian or your figure skating, either school will do the trick!

Leader School: lider-spb.ru

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