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Winter Olympics provide lessons for local ice skaters

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Matthew Bowler
Skaters of every age and skill level enjoy the Salvation Army Kroc Center's Ice Arena on Feb. 11, 2022.

Figure skating practice starts before sunrise at the Salvation Army Kroc Center Ice Rink. For almost 20 years, ice skaters and hockey players have used the facility in Rolando Park to improve their skills or just have some fun.

On Friday, the rink was packed with figure skaters of all levels, some of them with coaches. Everyone has followed the Beijing Winter Olympics taking place half a world away.

Winter Olympics provide lessons for local ice skaters

“Performance-wise it’s always good to see Donovan because he deserves to be there,” said Christopher Caluza a figure skating coach and teacher at the rink. He is also an international competitor and friends with Donovan Carillo, the Mexican figure skater who made history this week at the Beijing Olympics.

Caluza said Carillo was an inspiration for young skaters learning a sport with such a rich history. “What you see in skating is not only about jumps and spins," he said. "Figure skating is about creating figures on the ice. That’s why it’s called figure skating. It’s about drawing on the ice and then you have to retrace that.”

Christopher Caluza
Christopher Caluza, 31, is a figure skating instructor at the Salvation Army Kroc Center Ice Arena. He is also a friend of Winter Olympics figure skater Donovan Carillo, who made history for his home country of Mexico this week. Seen here in a March 2020 photo.

Ella Kanas, 15, is a 10th grade student at High Tech High and a competitor in figure skating. She practices on the ice at least five to six days a week. She was taking notes on the performance of the U.S. men’s gold medal winner. “I think it’s really inspiring, especially Nathan Chen,” she said. “It’s cool to see his performance and see his skating skills and things and try to take those things and apply it to your own skating.”

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Ice skating is an expensive sport that many families cannot afford to support. At the Kroc Center, there is an annual fundraising campaign for $100,000 every year to pay for scholarships so more children can participate in programs. Kroc Center Director of Marketing Glynis Eckert told KPBS News: “Children who wouldn’t be able to afford figure skating or soccer or any of the programs we have here will be able to offset the costs of the programs from those scholarships.”