Elegance, grace, effortlessness: figure skaters from all over the world wow audiences at Art on Ice with their amazing routines. But can adults also learn how to do an elegant Biellmann spin and glide around the arena like an ice prince or princess?
Sandra Ehrbar-Grond, Head Coach at the Wallisellen Figure Skating Club and former elite figure skater, offers courses for adult beginners and reveals in the interview why figure skating is not a question of age.
Many people fulfill their childhood dream of becoming a figure skater only when they are adults. This could be because they lived too far away from an ice rink when there were a child or because their parents were against this sport. Others did a course as a child, then stopped and haven’t skated for years. The one thing they all share is a fascination for this wonderful sport: the elegance, the quick spins and spectacular jumps.
As ability increases, many adults would like to learn choreographies. Some take part in our club championships, others in our skating exhibitions and others simply have their own program with music. For example, an elderly gentleman trained on his own for years, I often saw him at the ice rink. He has been coming to my course for “fine-tuning” at the rink for two years now.
In reality, anybody can usually learn how to figure skate, regardless of their age, but of course skating is not as easy as it looks: It’s one of the most demanding and difficult types of sport. All parts of the body are used - from legs, bottom and stomach to arms. And body tone is also extremely important to be able to stay on the ice. In short: Figure skating is a full body workout!
The most important thing is a good dose of courage, people mustn’t be too afraid. They also need to be patient and put in a lot of training, as the movement sequences have to be performed accurately. Balance improves with more and more training and the pace can be increased. The Wallisellen Figure Skating Club has various groups so that everyone can learn to skate in the group that is “right” for them and at their own pace.
Those who are terrified of falling over would find figure skating difficult. They often tense up and can lose concentration. People need to respect the fact that they might fall, but should not panic because of it. The risk of injury is greater for adults compared to children and young people, so as a coach, I give very clear instructions that challenge everyone but overextend no one.
You need excellent flexibility in your back, shoulders and legs to be able to perform the Biellmann spin. All of my course participants can perform spins, but the Biellmann spin requires extra agility. If you have that, you can also glide over the ice at age 45 like Denise the world champion.
The joy of learning something new. Courage to put yourself to the test. And believe in yourself. If you do this, then you can also learn to figure skate if you’re over 40.
If you stay healthy, you can skate until retirement age, that’s what I intend to do (laughs). My oldest participant on the course at the moment is a sprightly pensioner, a passionate ice skater – always in a good mood and very keen to learn. We normally have more women than men on the adult courses. In terms of age, the women are aged between 20 and 60 and the men between 35 and 70.
At the moment, I have a 50-year old lady who wants to learn to do an axel which is a jump consisting of one-and-a-half revolutions. It’s the only maneuver she doesn’t have in order to pass the Swiss bronze test. If she manages this jump, she would be the first woman to have an axel at age 50. A younger woman of around 30 came last fall to learn how to skate and stop securely. When she learned to do that, she discovered enthusiasm and passion for this wonderful sport and is still training. So with figure skating, everyone can achieve their major and minor goals.