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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Countdown party at the rink

Bored in Singapore on New Year's Eve? Here's yet another party - Fuji Ice Palace is having a countdown party for the new year!

Looking back at this past year...

It is once again that time of the year where we reminisce and take stock of events in the year gone by.

2006 has been quite a good year for me (skating-wise, at least). I skate with more confidence, the double Sal & double toe are feeling much better, I have experimented with different variations in spins and spiral sequences... I have learned a lot and overall, I am happy with my achievements in the year.

A look back at some events in my skating life:

I started this blog! It is proving useful in reviewing what has been going on this past year...

My various issues with dance.
A last-minute pairing, inspired me to try again.
I was later obliged to stop, but gave it a final shot - which failed!

I found out that I have a fracture in the spine! Fortunately, my back has held up very well throughout the year.

There are new things in my skating life
- Choreographed a new freestyle program (and practising it!)
- Put together my first "Artistic" program (within one month)!
- New variations for the combination spin, footwork sequence and spiral sequence.

To top it all, of course, my win at Mountain Cup 2006!
Not forgetting also that I am the National Champion in the Adult Ladies' category.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Layback Spin

This morning, I was complimented on my layback spin. I don't think too much of my layback, since my back is not all that flexible. In fact, I have recently been looking at old videos, and find that my layback isn't much of lay-ing back, but more of lifting the free leg up! Well, the "lifting the free leg up" part must have improved over the last 2 years... I have also felt much more comfortable in this spin lately.

So what makes my layback?

Free leg position
I keep my knee turned out just a little, and circle the leg around so that my boot would be right under my head. Almost like wrapping my free leg around a tree trunk. My previous coach hated that I keep my knee out - she said to press the knee down, turn the toe out, and keep the boot under my ponytail - a combination of instructions which I always thought was impossible (and even if possible, would be ugly). The positive thing was that she did make me think of pulling the boot around and back under my ponytail, which makes for a nice rounded free leg position.

Back position
The most important is to think of pressing the hips forward, before arching the back backwards. I have seen girls starting on the layback by pushing the tummy out. Looks cute, but well, not all that aesthetic!

Speed in the spin
I have noticed that lately I've been able to maintain speed in the layback. As I pull the boot in under the ponytail, and even think of pressing the knee down a little, yes, I can go fast. No wonder my previous coach said to do that... perhaps it isn't all that impossible after all!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back from vacation

Got back yesterday after a holiday in Cambodia. It was a fun, interesting and educational vacation,
FIVE days without skating, and the double Sal has disappeared... I suppose it thought that if I could go on vacation, it can too! At least my Axel only turned ugly, and didn't go away completely.
I feel so broken...
First, my right knee was really stiff - no less from all the climbing around in the Angkor ruins.
Then, my back was kinda sore - from all the bumping around in the tuk-tuk? I hope to keep back problems at bay...
Lastly, my landing leg kept sliding out from under me. Later I realised that I didn't lace my right boot tight enough!
Boy, I even forgot how to lace my skates?!? Wonder what state my skating would be in after the 10-day hiatus in January when the rink will be closed for renovation!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Skating with Celebrities

More than NINE months after it ended in the US, local stations are going to premier Skating with Celebrities here in Singapore.

Reading short synopsis of each episode, it sounds like it would be quite entertaining! Unfortunately I'd miss the first episode ad I'm going on holiday! HEE!!

It'd be awesome if they'd show the UK show, Dancing on Ice. Apparently this has been reproduced in other countries such as The Netherlands & Belgium, Germany, and Russia. Don't see why they can't do it in Singapore too *grin*

Monday, December 18, 2006

Announcement for Mountain Cup 2007

The Mountain Cup 2007 will be held on 1-3 June 2007 at Villard-de-Lans, France.

As usual, there will be a 3-day camp just before the competition (from 28-30 May) and with the raclette dinner as well... fun!

The announcement and information has just been made available. I have put them up in a zipped file.

Planning and Performance

I recently viewed some of the ladies' programs from the Grand Prix Final.

Yu-Na Kim is gorgeous. She makes everything look so easy! Mao Asada fell on two jumps and missed a combination. Still, her program was beautiful!

The outcome of a competition depends on the athlete's performance. It was a shame for Mao, but really, she didn't perform as perfectly as she often does. I think, though, that the greatest shame would be to lose on a poorly planned program. To lose out on points that "could have been".

As a math major working in operations research - and a figure skater & coach - it is not surprising that I'm trying to derive ways and means to up levels of spins, step sequences, etc... and ways to optimise the elements and layout of the program so as to
max total points achiveable
max performance
s.t. skater's ability
(by the way, it is okay if you didn't understand that.)

So, I'm really very curious why Yu-Na Kim, Fumie Suguri and Mao Asada all had only level 2 step sequence in their free program. Was it planned that way? Is there a further objective? Or is the effort for a level 3 more what it is worth? If so, perhaps we mortal souls shouldn't even crack our heads and waste our energy trying to up the level of a step sequence!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

No show => forfeit??

I am always miffed when students don't show up, and don't even have the courtesy to call to cancel. Especially on a day like today, when I had to wait an hour between my previous lesson and this girl's lesson, and when I had no one else after her! I mean, I could have gotten home an hour and a half earlier! SHEESH!

Theoretically, the rink's policy is supposed to be:
forfeit the lesson unless the skater calls to cancel at least 24 hours in advance (or produce a medical certificate, if she/he is ill).

BUT often the office tends to close 2 eyes.
AND sometimes mis-communication stalls the message.
IN ANY CASE, I have a good mind to tell the office, as long as I was there I want my commission even if the student wasn't! (of course, unless I knew in advance that the student wasn't going to come)

This is part of the reason I like to communicate directly with my students. I don't care if they call me the week before, the night before, or the morning of... as long as it is before lesson and I don't end up waiting aimlessly!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Day in the life of an adult skater

Three times a week, I skate at 8am, before going to work. A typical day with morning skating would be somewhat like this:

6am -> alarm rings... Actually it is really not yet 6 since my clock is something like 8 minutes fast... So I hit snooze  - it will ring again in 10 minutes (that is, if I didn't hit the wrong button!).

I get up early because my body needs about 2 hours to be awake enough to skate! Another skater friend of mine insists that it should be 3 hours, not 2. She really did wake up at 5am for her 8am test (and she was staying with me that night! ARGH!!!)

I make tea, and, if hungry, get something to eat. I turn on my computer to check mail (and reply only if urgent, since I don't have much time). Then I go about doing stuff around the house. Laundry, or ironing, or cleaning the floor, or even making dinner for the evening...

Yes, that's right, dinner! I have one of those wonderful vacuum pots, which keep food hot for eons... It is almost like having a wireless slow cooker. So I start a soup or a stew, get it boiling, stick it into the vacuum pot and it will complete cooking while I'm skating. Brilliant!

Oh, of course I have to get some stretching in too. Ever since my back problems two years ago, I have lost faith in the "no warm up needed" theory. Not that I believed in it to begin with, but I had gotten away with it often enough, when I'm rushed for time! (Yah, I know, that is terrible!) So these days, I stretch in the morning before I go to the rink.

At about 7:20 and I get changed into my skating clothes, and pack a change of normal clothes for work. I try to get out of the apartment by 7:40, but I invariably run late. This time of the year, it takes just 10 minutes for me to drive to the rink in the morning - and I do have the car these days. If I take a bus, I would have to leave before 7:30. If the public schools are in session, it would take at least 15 minutes by car!

I run into the rink, with 5 minutes to jump into my skates and onto the ice! I skate for an hour. Or rather, I plan to, though I'd often give myself another 10 minutes more, 'cos I need to do that spiral sequence again... or I need to try that variation in the layback... or I forgot to work on flying camel... or... some other thing!

Then, I jump off the ice, out of my boots and into my "normal" clothes. Time to rush off to work...

I am not at liberty to disclose what I do at work, so just imagine it is a typical day of work, with issues to settle, meetings to go to, things to plan for...

It is often way past 7pm by the time I get home, usually almost 8. That is, if I'm not headed back to the rink to coach in the evenings, or taking some course, or meeting with friends. Finally, some time to relax a bit... dinner, TV, surf the net for news (you can't imagine how entertaining the net is these days!), check mail, chat with friends... Seasonally, I would also be cutting music, choreographing programs, thinking up of incredible variations for IJS, or worrying about TBISC or SISA events...

So there... If you have read this far, you must be totally bored... but oh well, whatever!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dynamics at the Rink

With the new pricing scheme, the dynamics at the rink is changing...

Beginners are allocated to the "Tier 1" coaches... or rather, the "instructors".

The full-time coaches (and other Tier 2 coaches) are starting to have more free time. Partly due to regular students stopping or cutting back on lessons due to the increased expense, and partly due to not getting most of the beginner skaters. On the other hand, the instructors are getting busy, and often have full schedules.

Some history: These "instructors" are those employed to work behind the skate counter - to give out skates, and provide "free guidance" to group bookings. At one period of time when there was a dire lack of coaches, they were also brought in to also teach "introductory lessons". This slowly evolved to teaching any skater who would have lessons with them.

OK, let me get this straight - I do not have anything against the instructors coaching. In fact, I think they are doing a pretty decent job with the beginners. I make the distinction only because of their original job-scope... they are hired primarily to man the skate counter!!!

So while the instructors are busy, who mans the skate counter? Nobody! Oh, sorry, yes, there's somebody - the full-time coaches who have some time off and happen to be sitting there...

"could you get skates for me please"

My coach was insulted when he had to do that! To make matters worse, I heard that last week, he had to take a group for "free guidance" because all the instructors had lessons scheduled!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Discounted Coaching

It wasn't so long ago that I had a conversation with one of the people in the rink office about discounts for lessons. It went something like:

T: I'm not sure if this affects you too, but you know some groups get a discount on lesson, and I have been rather confused why we are still paying full commission for them.

Me: Well, we expect commission based on the published prices. We wouldn't know about discounts the rink gives, and even so, its the rink's decision, not ours.

T: But it does not make sense that we are collecting less, yet paying the same commission to the coaches.

Me: Ok, if that's what the management decides, at least let us know beforehand so that we can decide whether to take the student. For example, the school group class was heavily discounted, but before I agreed to do it, the office had told me how much the commission was going to be.

[Note that this is not the exact transcript, but it was something like this.]

In my opinion, if the rink decides to give discount on lesson fees, it ought not impact coaches' commission. We are the ones providing the service. It would be tantamount to a car salesman giving 20% discount to the customer then turning around and telling Mercedes Benz that they would pay only 20% of the cost price because the customer got a discount!

Or at the very least, tell the coaches in advance so that we can make a decision as to whether to accept the discount or not! This cannot be done retroactively!!

We hadn't heard anything more about this... But in the latest commission statement that came out last week, all the coaches noticed that they had discounted commission!

This morning, someone suggested a solution: discounted coaching!
What is that? Well, perhaps put in 80% of energy to coach? Or perhaps give a 24-min lesson instead of a 30-min one!!

Oh boy, I don't think the skaters are going to be very happy about that!!

Rink Renovation

While I have heard some time ago, it is now officially announced:
The rink will be closed for renovation from 8th to 17th of January 2007

They are optimistic that the renovation might be completed early, in which case the rink will re-open on or before 17 Jan. To be sure, the previous time they re-did the ice, it was completed early.

In any case, I will probably have to deal with skating withdrawal for those 10 days! Talk about AOSS! LOL!

* AOSS = Adult-Onset Skating Syndrome

Monday, December 11, 2006

Trying to practise my program

This needs a cartoon, but I am no artist, so simple diagrams and words will have to suffice.

I work my program myself (heck, my coach hasn't even looked at it yet!). I put in my CD, hit the play butten and RUN to the start position. Then I look around, and... this is not a specific scenario, but quite typical:
Coach A is standing right in front of me - on the exact spot I do my combination spin.
Coach B is working with a student on crossovers on a little circle in the corner exactly where I would land the Axel.
Coach C always has his students do jumps (and spins too) in the Lutz corner.
Coach D would be standing near the other side.

This diagram shows their relative positions to me:

Thus I start the obstacle course...
1. Can't do the combination spin. Ok, just a small spinning motion, wait for the music...
2. I get to the Axel, and OOPS! Ok, do a Waltz jump... pretend it was a beautiful Axel. No problem!
3. Skate around for the Lutz... uh-oh! NO! Dont' even jump!
After that, I finally get to the a bit of my program, then the layback, then...
4. Spiral sequence starts with a backwards... Oh sorry, can't do it, someone's there!

JOKER! How can I ever get a full run-through of my program?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Skaters changing coaches

I don't usually question why skaters switch coaches.
I don't usually ask why skaters choose the coaches they are with.

Each coach works differently, has different technique, different style, and different interaction with students. A coach may work well with some skaters, but not others. Some skaters may like one coach but not another. Each skater should find a coach they are comfortable with.

BUT, it is unavoidable that gossip gets around the rink.

Recently I heard that a skater is considering switching coaches... why? Her mother said, "people say she should find a more "pro" coach as she gets to a higher level."

From what I see now, she's with a capable coach, who can teach comfortably at her level. I suppose if she feels she is stagnating, its her prerogative to try another coach. Which coach? "They say Coach X is better than Coach Y. What do you think?"

Oh, "they say"?? Is that why everyone is flocking to Coach X? So what do I think?

From personal experience in freestyle lessons: I feel that Coach X has done nothing for me in the two years I was under him, while Coach Y has done wonders in just this past year.

That is such a high-level, sweeping comparison, sounds totally unfair, but it is really how I do feel. So, if anyone had asked me, they would have gone to Coach Y, right? Of course it is not always fair. I still respect Coach X's technique and attitude, but not for me, not at the time I was under him - I felt I made zero progress!

Some time back, it also seemed there were "complaints" of coaches soliciting other coaches' students. The way I see it, it might not be the coach that is doing the soliciting, but rather the gossip around the rink!

And I am now losing a student to my own coach... oh well...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Coaches and their Skating Level

In a recent conversation with a friend, I was reminded me of something mentioned on one of the mailing lists:
ISI has this rule now (although many do not follow it) that you can only teach 1 level below what you have passed.

AHA! That would be one incentive for me to pass that FS7 test... walley and all... WOOHOO!!!
But I digress... my point of contention is:
Should a coach be teaching things he/she hasn't mastered himself/herself?

As with all other responses, this one is also "it all depends!" BUT the basic premise is, the coach must be familiar with the technical aspects of the elements. Figure skating is certainly not something one can master from a book, and how else to be familiar than having done it yourself!

To be sure, while I was working on the Axel (that horrendous jump!!) I would feel like it was almost there and of course I could teach it... After all, I knew what was required technically, I knew what each stage of the jump should be like, and I knew some little exercises to work on that would help with it ... That was many years ago, when I did not have students at this level, so the point is moot.

When I finally "mastered" the Axel (i.e. got it more-or-less consistent), I realise that at the previous stage, there was something missing - the "feel" for the jump. While that is not easily explained to the student, it is something a coach needs to have in order to understand what needs to be fixed, and fix it.

So, as a general rule-of-thumb, one level below your test level seems like a pretty reasonable gauge. Then I look around the rink and wonder... oh nevermind!

Years ago, I told one of my beginner student's father that I would grow with my students. I know that I have, but now am pressured to grow a little faster! Perhaps I should seriously consider FS7 sometime...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Attack of the Blue Fluid

When I walked into the rink this morning, there was a gigantic puddle of BLUE fluid on the ice! Looks like someone had burst the cooling pipes once again...

Heard that it happened towards the end of the National Team's early morning ice time.

Also heard that when the coaches came in later, one of them walked out to investigate, and got blue fluid squirted on him. I couldn't help laughing, but I'm sure if I had gotten blue fluid on me, I wouldn't be laughing.

So, I stood by the side of the rink trying to decide if I should still skate ice time this morning or postpone it to next week. The puddle rendered about a quarter of the rink un-skateable, and of course skaters who were having lessons were getting on... And I would loathe to run into any one of them!

Eventually, I decided not to skate... *sigh* wasted trip!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Real Sit Spin

A few years back, I offered to show my friend what a real, lady-like SIT spin should look like. He took a video of it!

Last night, I revisited this spin. It is actually quite a fun variation of the sit spin!

Monday, December 04, 2006

2006 Skate Asia Winter Classic Artistic Program

My Artistic program at the 2006 Skate Asia Winter Classic. My DH used his mobile phone to take this video, so the resolution isn't all that great...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Last day of Skate Asia Winter Classic 2006

Today is the last day of the competition. Rather short competition - just 3 days. My events happened to be only on the first and third day, but I ended up spending the whole of yesterday at the rink not skating, but putting my students on the ice, and judging. I was exhausted by the end of the day.

This morning, I could barely wake up for Dance at 8am! Anyway, it went well, though it has been eons since I last skated the European Waltz. One year, to be exact, as I did it for last year's Skate Singapore competition... It didn't go too badly, except when I realised I was going to hit the boards! No, I didn't crash, but I'm sure it put me a little off-time. EEW!

Artistic was ok, except that I fell on the Axel - something I haven't done in competition since Mountain Cup 2005! It was landed, just a little too much on the outside edge, and with the hard ice, it was impossible to catch... Anyway, the rest went well and I actually landed my double Sal. Ok, not too bad for a 3-week-old program ;-)

My DH took video of my events on his phone, and today I tried to put them up on Google Video. Still trying to figure out how that works...

Friday, December 01, 2006

First day of 2006 Skate Asia Winter Classic

Competition started today.

I took the Gold judges test and... uh... yeah I passed, but just barely! Seriously, the errors were because I read/interpreted the question differently (read: wrongly) OR I put down the answer without thinking (and without checking!).

Oh and also because I didn't believe Freestyle 9 and 10 skaters receive their Freestyle entry FREE at ISI National events! I suppose I knew about it at some point in time, but I didn't remember...

Anyway, after the test was an hour of waiting for the coaches' meeting, then another hour of waiting for my first event -> Figures. The selected figure was the inside eight, and I did ok, though I was quite horrified that my tracings were so horribly far off! Of course it didn't help that the portion of ice I was on was a little uneven.

I did jump and spin with RL. To my surprise, my coach wanted him to do the double loop and I do the flying camel. I mean, his double loop hadn't been all that consistent, but I hadn't seen him for 2 months I thought maybe that has changed. I suppose not... He popped the first loop and did a single instead. Then he stepped out of the second one. Fine, I'm not perfect either - fell out of my first flying camel, though the second one was ok.

Solo Compulsories was right after that. It was 8pm by then, and I had been hanging around the rink for almost 7 hours - I must have been in the perfect frame of mind to do compulsories!

Anyway, the double Sal actually felt good until I stepped out of it. ARGH!!! Then, I did the classic Chow move -> falling out of the camel spin. I think it is good that I'm choreographing my new freestyle program without a forward camel!

So, I left feeling very dissatisfied. Dissatisfied because I didn't perform, not because I ended up second against nobody! Then again, when I thought about it, I must admit that if I had performed yet ended up second I would have been hopping mad!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Matter of Perspective

This morning when I got to the rink, a little 5-year-old skater pretended to hide behind the boards, jumped up and yelled "BOO!" She loves to scare me!

I have also noticed that her elder sister (who has been in Canada) is back this week. So, I asked her, "Are you happy your sister is back?", and she replied, "Yes!" She did look quite happy, and initiated another conversation with me...

Little skater: How old are you?
Me: Can you guess?
Little skater: Fourteen?
Me: Fourteen? That's so young!
Little skater: Oh, you are older than my sister!

This little girl always makes me smile!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zamboni drives through Burger King

Midnight Zamboni run prompts firings (from Yahoo News)
Idaho Zamboni joy-riders fired (from King 5)

When I first heard this, I thought they literally drove into Burger King. No, all they did was to take the zambonis on a ride through the Burger King drive-through!

Strange things happen!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why am I getting left out?

Seems like I'm being left out of announcements...

Well, for a start, I never received any information about Oberstdorf. This year when I went, I almost panicked a week before I was leaving for Europe, 'cos I didn't know where to go or what to do if I did get there!

In fact, I still didn't know how things were supposed to work when I managed to get there. And after I'm back from there, I still don't know that we can order photos and videos. I'm sure we can/could 'cos other skaters are talking about not having received their DVD, but I'm blissfully ignorant of such problems!

So, when the announcement for next year's competition came out, guess what? Right-on! I did not know about it. Ok fine, I do now, thanks to my many friends... :-)

This is not the first competition announcement I got left out of. My club was left out of the announcement for our very own National competition! We are still wondering how to look out for email we don't know we were supposed to get!

Announcement for 2007 ISU Adult Competition

The ISU International Adult Competition 2007 will be held on 24 - 27 May 2007 at Oberstdorf, Germany.


Website, with more information

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christmas Rink at Suntec City

In December, there will be a temporary rink set up at Suntec City. The Singapore Ice Skating Association will have the ice from 18 - 23 December, and will host public skating sessions, as well as two performances a day.
Link to the Event Poster (on SISA website)

There was a call for volunteers to perform or help out with the sessions. Some of us adults have got together to plan for a group number... uhh... but that was before I saw that it is advertised as "Kids on Ice". Oh well, we will still be kids!

Anyway, given the space and cooling costs, do not expect the rink to be big. Oh, I mean, expect the rink to be just 7m by 7m. Yes, that is all... I am still trying to imagine how to fit things in such a size.

Two weeks ago, I measured distance on the ice using the length of my blade, and found that the two blue lines at the middle of the rink at Fuji Ice Palace are 7m apart. (Of course, it was only later that I realised I could have just asked the office how far apart the blue lines were.) Ok, I can do spins in there - doesn't seem too bad... BUT when I tried the Axel, it was impossible!!! Will need to come up with some creative use of space (both ice and non-ice) to make up something feasible.

I am curious which Australian group it is who are doing the other performances.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Recognizing jumps

Is it very hard for non-skaters to recognize jumps??

In a discussion with a fellow adult skater, we were talking about how the association is looking to train judges, and how, maybe parents should start getting involved. She pointed out that many non-skaters have difficulty recognizing jumps, citing as examples previous judges' training sessions where some of the mothers did indeed have

So, out of curiosity, I tried it out on my DH last night.

I think there are three stages to recognizing jumps.
First, to know the names/definition of each jump.
Next, to be able to recognize the edge a skater is on.
Lastly, to be able to recognize the jump while it is done.

The first stage is probably not too difficult - after all, its mostly a matter of remembering the definitions of each jump. My DH tried to visualize how each of those jumps would be, and was able to tell me, after some analysis, which seemed easier and which seemed like they would be harder.

The second stage was harder. Funny I always thought it was intuitive - I mean, if you are on the right foot and pressing on the outside edge, there's pretty much only one direction you can go, right?? Oh well, apparently it wasn't all that obvious. And after figuring out edges and direction, actually seeing what edge a skater is on is not all so straightforward!!!

The last stage is probably the worst. Partly because of the many different types of entries, partly because everything happens so fast, and also partly because the entry edge for the toe jumps are usually not very deep.

Overall, my DH did well. He picked up little tips like subsequent jumps in combination would be toe loop or loop, looking out for the Lutz, etc. Sure enough, there has to be a certain skill involved, but I believe there are many parents out there who are capable of doing it!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hard ice and ROH

When I got my skates sharpened in NJ, Jim told me the ROH was 9/16. I was a little surprised, as I had been convinced the ROH of my blades was 7/16" as is advertised for Pattern 99 blades! I mean, I never had the ROH changed...

In any case, I like it this way, and especially after he sharpened them. Back in Singapore, I have enjoyed sharp blades for the last 5 weeks, although there were several occassions, usually when the ice is hard, where the entry edge for the Axel or double Sal felt like it was sliding across the ice!

Then, this morning, I tried figures. Nothing fancy, just forward outside and inside edges. BUT the ice was hard. Terribly hard... and I could literally feel my blade starting to move sideways! EESH!!!

To top it off, the ice was not fresh. There were so many marks on it I had problem finding my own tracing. Heck I couldn't even make out where I started! Forget it... I gave up after 3 minutes.

[Afternote: In case some of you are wondering what ROH is, it is the radius of the hollow between the two edges of a blade. It also referred to as the grind.]

Wyandotte 2007

The Deborah Burgoyne North American Invitational, hosted by the Wyandotte Figure Skating Club, will be held on February 17, 2007.

The announcement is on the website.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Talent, Intelligence and Passion

I once asked my coach, how she knows if a beginner skater is talented. She replied, through experience.

At that time, I had just started coaching. I was trying to find that magic formula to decide how talented those beginner skaters were. Naturally, I started with how the skater takes to the ice.

There are those who are fearless, and not minding the falls. They jump onto the ice, fall down, hop up, skate a bit, fall down, hop up... etc.
There are those who are scared and tense, gingerly putting one foot on the ice, then the other, wobble a bit, and grope around for something to hold on to...
There are those who are steady and calm, knowing that they have to maintain balance and trying to do it.

Which is talented? It all depends!

Argh... such an excruciating reply. But in real life, that first step on the ice does not tell much. And after years of observation, one starts to realise that there is no magic formula - at least not one that is instant. It takes interaction with the skater and some instruction to assess how talented the skater is.

There is something I would like to call "skating intelligence". It is related to same intelligence as in IQ. After all, skating is about physics and dynamics rather than sheer strength and power. The beauty of figure skating shines in those who can make it look effortless.

But there is more to it than just pure intelligence. It is also how the skater responds to instruction and the skater is able to use the correct muscles to help to adapt the body to the right.

I had a little girl do an "introduction class" with me two nights ago. When she started, she looked unstable, and her ankles were wobbly. However, she took to instruction very well, and responded intelligently. Within 10 minutes, she had corrected her posture, her strokes, and was doing glides on one foot. I mean, it wasn't perfect, but way improved from before the lesson! Toward the end of class, I had her try the pivot... She entered it with some speed and flow, and easily went around. She has something going for her there...

Another little girl started lessons with my coach at the beginning of this year. It seems not-to-long-ago when I watched her learning crossovers, with hardly any power in her stroking. Now, she's happily working on salchow and toe loops, and will be competing in the ISI Freestyle 3 in the competition in a few weeks' time. It is amazing how she has progressed! When I mentioned this to the girls father, he said, "its a matter of interest. she really likes skating."

Sure enough, talent alone is not enough. Interest and passion is what makes the difference in a skater's progress. Unfortunately, figure skating is full of plateaus (sorry, that was too optimistic - what it really it is is a lot of ups and downs) AND the difference between a skater who is passionate and wants to skate, and a skater who does not really care is that the former will persevere to overcome the plateaus while the latter would give up.

At the end of the day, success is 1% talent and 99% perseverance!

Singapore National Figure Skating Championships 2007

6th Singapore National Figure Skating Championships
will be held on
31 Mar & 1 Apr 2007
Fuji Ice Palace, Singapore

The announcement is available on the Singapore Ice Skating Association website.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Competition Events

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have decided to enter the artistic event in competition - amongst other events.

Now, what exactly are the other events, I can't really remember. What I can remember is telling my coach that I didn't want to do anything that requires choreographing another program (as well as persuading him dancing with me, but that's beyond hope). I vaguely recall putting in Dance and Figures, and maybe solo compulsories, on a whim. Then he signed it, and suggested I could do "jump and spin" with another student of his - he would check and confirm.
Yesterday, l tried figures - just Figure 1, since I can't do a nice enough BO edges to pass Figure 2. My coach comes up to me and asked, are you competing in this? I said, I don't know. You signed the paper, you should know!
I suppose the "jump and spin" event should be confirmed... forgot to ask him!
Anyway, the artistic program is coming along easily. Never have I done a program with just 2 jumps, 2 spins and a spiral sequence. Lots of time to think, breathe, glide and wave my arms around in between! Oh, wait a minute... this morning I thought a little more about it, and realised that, hey, I can turn this artistic program into a freestyle program by just adding another 30s of music, during which I put in the required "dance step sequence". I mean, I either do or have a space to do each of the other required elements in Freestyle 6! Sheesh, how did it end up that way??!!
If anyone is wondering why I'm still in Freestyle 6 after all these years, here's why:
1. I cannot land that #*$@#& double toe consistently to pass FS7. (erm, not that the d Sal is any more consistent, but... haha, old story!)
2. I cannot do a 1-ft Axel. I cannot make anything land on the "wrong" foot these days - that is why I'm not doing FS6 freestyle because of the 1/2 loop requirement in the Axel 1/2-loop flip combination.
3. I refuse to do a walley, let alone two walleys in a row.
If I can get these out of the way, the FS7 test would be no problem. But what for?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Diplomatic Position for Michelle Kwan

Condoleeza Rice has announced Michelle Kwan as the first public diplomacy envoy.
Read the full text or view the video on the US Department of State website.

Secretary Rice said,
So one of Michelle's greatest objectives will be to engage and spark dialogue with young people all around the world. By helping to tell America's story through her own story, Michelle will foster understanding of our democratic principles and the rich diversity of our people."

ABC News reports that Michelle is not paid for this job!!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cards and Lessons

This morning, my students, 2 sisters, forgot to bring their lesson card.

Ok, some background first:
The rink here sells lessons in sets of 5. For each set, the skater will get a lesson card that lists the dates for the 5 lessons. This card will be signed against the relevant date as they come in for lesson. Coaches will then be paid a commission for lessons that are conducted. Yes, this is a wonderful way of keeping track of it all!

It is inevitable that cards sometimes get left behind, lost, etc. The rink has a policy of "no card, no lesson". They do also charge a fee to replace cards.

Previously, I had students forget cards. What do they do?
1. Go home to get it. (only for those staying really close by!)
2. Call someone at home to bring it. (for those staying not-too-far-away)
3. Pay for a replacement card. (if skater is willing to do that!)
4. Pay for following set of lessons and use that instead.
5. Cancel this week's lesson and postpone to next week.

Would anyone disagree that #5 is horribly unfair to the coach? We are there, the skater is there, and yet we have to sit around doing nothing while missing out on the commission for the lesson. So, I would usually try to use solutions #1, 2, 3 or 4.

So, back to the story...
This morning, the sisters were willing to pay for their next set of lessons, but... get this: they cannot do that because they had not yet put in a request for the next set of lessons, and they cannot put in a request for today's lesson because all requests have to be approved by the office before they can pay for & start lessons!!

Every rink works differently and I respect that. The skating school at the rink here takes care of lessons, fees, and scheduling. Policies are set to protect the business. While I do appreciate that this removes the burden of coaches having to deal with money issues, I find it hard to accept the inefficiency the rigidness of the system leads to.

There's got to be a better way to deal with such things...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wild Skating

Not in Singapore...
In countries where rivers and lakes freeze over in the winter, wild skating is starting to gain popularity. It is essentially cross-country skating.

This month, Condé Nast Traveler Magazine ran an article: The Rush of Black Ice on wild skating on Lake Champlain.
Some photos of tours across Lake Chaplain.

It sounds really cool (and cold), and I would love to try it out one day. Makes me wonder how I could have been in upstate NY for 4 years, yet never came close to trying such a thing. Yeah, why is it that I have never skated outdoors??

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Me and the boards

Wonder why I have such affinity to the boards - I love to crash into them!

Long ago, during a stroking session at Lansing, I caught the back inch of my blade during back crossovers and the speed send me sliding across the ice all the way to the boards on the far end.

That is the only boards incident in a full-size rink that I can recall. The rest (below) happen in the rink here...

All too often, I would be working on a dance, or a field move, and bang into the boards.

During one of the Association tests, I was supposed to do the field moves involving BI3 (ok, I admit I don't remember exactly how those go now). I got too close, blade skated into the ridge between the edge of the ice and the boards, and I just slid down.

Working on the Fiesta Tango for the very first Mountain Cup I went into the FI mohawk for the end-pattern. The next thing I knew, I had slammed into the doorway - someone had left the door open! OUCH!

Last week, I was working on the double toe, tried to avoid a skater and brought the jump farther down the rink than usual. The moment I landed, wham into the boards! One of the older lady skaters told me, "you should be more careful!" I was thinking, "yeah, if I hadn't been careful, it would have been that girl, not the boards!"

This morning, again on the BI3, I suddenly saw the wall in front of me right after the turn. OOPS, WHAM!!! Here we go again...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why do I still need lessons?

My DH sometimes asks me, "why do you still need lessons?" After all, I manage my own progress, plan & choreograph my own programs, experiment with my own moves (though inevitably, someone else would coincidentally have the same bright spark). Well, here are some reasons:

Accountability and motivation
Lessons => commitment to a coach, fixed schedule => yes, I better go!
It gives some motivation to wake up at 6am to skate. There have been mornings when I wake up groggy and don't feel like skating, yet by the end of the session, I was glad I did!

Supervision and support
My coach is my eyes. When working on a new element (especially those @#$#% doubles) I cannot always feel when something is wrong... Rather, by the time I can feel and correct my own errors, it is when the element is relatively consistent. So of course I need someone to tell me that that double loop was scrunched up in the air, or that the shoulders weren't level...

Break through plateaus
All too often we hit a plateau in skating. It happens to the best. Having a coach will help the skater through such times. I find that the occassional lessons when I'm overseas offers a new perspective which helps - even after I get back.

Progress and results
Figure skating is not a static sport. There is always room to improve, and here is where a coach helps. Learning new moves, and perfecting them... there is so much more to achieve in figure skating it would be rather presumptious to say I know it all and can go it alone.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sit spin, change-edge, fall !!

The stupidity of it all... it has been a long time since I have fallen on a spin. Ok until that last time when I tried change-edge camels... and then again this morning.

Lesson this morning was good. The double Sal and double toe are coming along ok, though they could be better. I also did some decent under-rotated double loops...
- Decent because I stayed upright, on one foot
- Under-rotated because... well, it was definitely under-rotated
- but still more decent than those that flop everywhere

Towards the last 5 minutes of lesson today, my coach wanted to see the change-edge sit spin. I spent more time rolling on the ice than spinning! He got me to do the change-edge upright. To my surprise, it worked! Back to the sit spin... plop on the ice again! ARGH!!!

He asked me to not sit so low... umm... funny how its so hard to hold a high sit spin once you're used to getting down!

Next time, I will try: sit spin -> broken leg -> change edge in half-sit position. Next time...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another shot at dance?

I have been trying to talk my coach into partnering with me for the dance event in this upcoming competition. Our first conversation on Monday went something like this:
Me: why don't you partner me for dance at the competition?
Coach: there won't be time to practise.
Me: I have 2 lessons a week, I'm sure we can put that double loop aside and dance for a while.
Coach: I will get tired, how will I continue to coach after that?
Me: well, you have some free time after my lesson. Take a rest!
Coach: well, I have turned others down, I cannot promise you...
Me: its different, right?? (I was cracking my head trying to think of which other lady would have asked him to partner her for this competition)

The next day, I went to skate and he was coaching someone else. I skated by him and asked, "so, will you dance with me?" He said, "Ok." I could not believe my ears. It was too easy to be true. But he was in the middle of a lesson, I was practising, not a time to chat.

The following day, I was coaching and so was he. We happened to stand close by at one point in time, and I asked again, "you will really dance with me for the competition?" He replied, "yes"

On Friday morning, I had a lesson. I asked what we were doing, and he said "jump, what else?"
I responded: but you are going to dance with me, when can we practise?
He said: did I say I was going to dance with you?
I was taken aback. "Yes, in the competition, right?"
He said, "oh yes, at competition, not now!"

YOU!! You were toying with me!! I spent the next two hours fuming over that.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When a friend quits

Chatting with a friend last night, she disclosed her decision to quit skating. Not just quit skating, but also letting go of all involvement in the skating scene.

She has her reasons. Disillusionment, lack of motivation, lack of inspiration... While there has been indications in previous conversations, I wasn't prepared for such eventuality. I knew she had goals and aspirations, and to quit would be to give those up. She knows that too... but passion cannot be forced.

After our conversation, I wondered if I should have persuaded her to keep skating. I got to know her through skating, and it would be a crime to let her stop mid-way. However, I realise that our friendship has gone beyond that, and I respect her decision. There is more to life than skating (yes, certainly!) and whatever she decides, we will still be friends.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Artistic Program

Somehow, I managed to let my coach talk me into entering the Artistic event. In ISI competitions, this is an event that is judged on - yes, exactly that, artistry! Oh and of course innovative moves, interpretation of music, etc. Just not necessarily jumps and/or spins.

I have never before entered an Artistic event myself, partly because I was always so focused on my freestyle program. This year, I was bemoaning the fact that I can't do a half-loop... the ISI Freestyle 6 program requires a combination jump, specifically the Axel - half-loop - flip. That was the last thing I could put up with. I refused to test the next level because of others

So, my coach had suggested to not enter Freestyle and do Artistic instead.

I watched Mao Asada's short program at Skate America 2006, and marvelled at how she made her entire program look light and effortless. It is such a pity she didn't pull her long program through the same way!

That made me think more about expression and extension when choreographing the Artistic program this evening. Somehow, that seemed easier when I do not have to squeeze in all the required elements. Perhaps entering Artistic instead of freestyle is not that bad an idea!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Introducing skating to schools

In the past few weeks, there have been various school groups coming to the rink. They would descend in hordes, sometimes over 100 kids at a time.

This is part of the enrichment programs that schools organise, to fill the void after exams are over, and before holidays start. (In Singapore, the school year ends in Nov/Dec.)

It is an exciting experience for the students, many of whom are trying out ice skating for the first time.
It can be quite scary for figure skaters who are used to a relatively quiet morning at the rink.
It is also very encouraging for the sport. Having schools include skating as an enrichment activity make the sport visible, and seed the interest in potential champions.

The only question I have is whether anyone is following up on those interested to pursue this unusual sport seriously.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

To compete or not to compete

This time every year, I come upon this dilemma -
shall I compete in the local ISI competition?

This time every year, I would crack my head over
whether to compete, how many events to enter, and which ones!

This time every year, I would decide to enter anyway, and always the same events!

This year is no different!! Yeah, so much for a dilemma.
[Oh but right now I'm only at STEP #2. Have not decided yet.]

So, should I compete?

Well, why not?
It is a local competition after all. No travel required. I am already working on a freestyle program, which is of the right length and easily adapted. Other events like solo compulsories, figures and dance don't need anything new programs. Yet others like footwork have been known to be made up during the competition.

My freestyle program I have choreographed for Gold ladies' has to be changed. Previously, it was not that hard - just remember to change the step sequence, add a split falling leave, single the toe loop and do not do that flying camel. This year, I will have to re-choreograph quite a few portions of it... bother!

Ok, fine, I think I will enter!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Korean Dream Program

For the last three years, the Singapore Ice Skating Association has been invited by Korea's Gangwon Province to participate in its Dream Program.

The Dream Program is part of PyeongChang's effort towards its bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The June 2005 issue of the Korea IT Times reported an interview with Han Seung-soo, Chairman of the 2014 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, where he said,
The goal of 'Dream Program' is to allow young boys and girls from each nation in the world where winter sports are not developed, to experience winter sports and to promote cultural exchange and international friendship. The Dream Program will operate over 7 years from 2004 through 2010 as 100-200 players as well as coaches from 20-40 countries every year are trained free of charge in 6 sports such as alpine and cross country skiing, snowboarding, speed skating, short track, and figure skating. Gangwon Province has already fixed 15 international matches under the program.

More information can be found on the PyeongChang 2014 website.

For the 2007 program, I will be going as the team manager of the Singapore team, which will consist of skaters Anja Chong, Annika Nyberg and Sarah Paw. Yes, I will be going! How exciting! :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

U.S. Figure Skating Webcast

U.S. Figure Skating will webcast all 2006-2007 U.S. qualifying competitions from the juvenile level through adult, with the exception of the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships, via a media player accessed through U.S. Figure Skating Online or directly at

Full story on the US Figure Skating website.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Save-the-date" for competitions in February

Some save-the-date notices for upcoming competitions:

Washington Figure Skating Club's
6th Annual New Year's Invitational Adult Competition
February 3-4, 2007
Ashburn, Virginia

The Pond Classic 2007 Adult Skating Competition
February 25-26, 2007
The Pond Ice Arena, Newark Delaware
(home training site to 3 time national champ Johnny Weir)

Star of Texas Open 2007

Iceland Figure Skating Club will be hosting

Star of Texas Open 2007
January 13 & 14, 2007
Sharpstown Ice Center, Houston TX

Competition announcement and other information can be obtained from the Iceland Figure Skating Club website

Monday, October 23, 2006

Q: What to do when there is haze in Singapore

A: Go to the skating rink!!
After all, it is indoors, is air conditioned, and provides a form of leisure and sporting activity.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fabulous Cup 2007 Announcement

Fabulous Cup 2007 will be held on April 27th - 30th, in Cologne, Germany.

You can find everything about Fab Cup in the internet:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Murphy, Finagle and Hanlon

The well known Murphy's Law is most commonly stated as
Anything that can go wrong, will.

There is a corollary of Murphy's law, namely Finagle's Law
Anything that can go wrong, will - at the worst possible moment!

Finally, Hanlon's Razor, a corollary of Finagle's Law, states
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Needless to say, ALL these laws apply in figure skating too!
  • It is all-clear as you are setting up for the most perfect Lutz - then there will be someone in that corner when you get there!
  • It is only in front of an audience that you forget to take off your guards before stepping on the ice.
  • Whatever you are working on feels good, except in front of your coach!
  • When you are all dressed and ready to get on the ice, you realise that you desperately need to go to the bathroom.
  • Little kids on push bars are always attracted by spins - the one that draws them closest is the camel spin.
I am compiling a list of them, if you have any to contribute, do leave a comment or drop me a note!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I went to the rink this evening, presumably for a lesson...
my student did not show up (turns out, she is ill)
she was the only one scheduled this evening
it was pretty much a wasted trip
I skated myself!

even so, skating with the crowd this evening, I had to watch out for public skaters, avoid killing anyone, stay away from holes & ruts in the ice and try not to fall in pools of water.

There were some other figure skaters in the same predicament.

One of them was my ex-student. "ex" because she could no longer make it on weekends, and preferred weekday afternoons. She's coming along quite well, though I prefer to see her less stiff.

Another was a teenage skater who had been agonising over her sit spin last month. She has awesome low position with a straight free leg, and it is looking much better now than it did last month.

The mother of a younger skater approached me to ask about lesson fees. I initially did not know she was already taking lessons. Then she asked about entering the competition. If needed, I won't mind taking her on to prepare for competition, but she really should speak to her coach first.

I now find out that my student is ill, and had called the rink office yesterday to reschedule. This is not the first time I don't get informed about cancellations! I should have known the risk when I agreed to come in for just one lesson...

When will I ever learn?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Salchow : Double Salchow as Waltz jump : ??

This morning, one of the little girls at the rink asked me,
"are the salchow and double sal the same, like this?"
She proceeded to do the 3-turn entry to the salchow.

I was caught off-guard. "Huh?" I said.

She repeated, "are the salchow and double sal the same, but double sal has one more rotation?"

"Oh yes, of course!" I replied, "If the double sal wasn't the same, it would have been called a double-something-else"

After a moment's hesitation, she asked,
"Then why isn't the Axel called the triple Waltz jump?"

"Uh, I don't know!!"
Normally I would have a clever response, this time I just wasn't on top of it. Blame it on jet lag!

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Spiral Sequence

With Lauren's help, I now have a new spiral sequence. It consists of

1. Change-spiral
RBO "reverse" spiral (on RBO edge, with L foot in front), or as Lauren calls it, "upside-down spiral", then changing into RBO spiral. All without holding the free leg. While working on this, I have realised that it is important to maintain a very strong lean into the circle throughout the change!

2. LFO spiral
For now, this is just the plain ol' spiral. I might try a lay-over, but that feels too scary right now.

3. LBO "half-bielmann" spiral
The LBO spiral, pulling the free skate with one hand so that it is higher than the head. I'm still trying to get it higher, hopefully without triggering my back problem again...

4. RBI spiral
This is just a plain ol' spiral, which right now feels constipated. Must be because I keep having to look behine to make sure I'm not chopping anyone's head off!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fee Revisions

This month, the rink is revising its fees. Entry fees, lesson fees, rink booking fees, all of it!

I suppose anyone could have seen it coming. After all, prices have been the same for the past 11 years.

At the same time, the management has also taken the opportunity to restructure the skating school. They will implement different prices for different levels, and different coaches.

So, the new structure admits 3 tiers of coaches. In principle, I think this is an excellent idea. More experienced & more qualified coaches should be able to command a higher price. From a skater's point of view, I don't see why lessons with a junior coach, should cost the same as with a senior coach. At the end of the day, skaters will select coaches based on their level/needs and what they can afford.

In theory, this is all well and good. In practise, however, there is much resistence. Why? Because the lesson fee for the highest level coach is more than double the original fee!

Solution #1: There is no coach in the highest level.
This probably was not what the management intended or expected. However, I hear that none of the coaches wanted to put themselves in the highest level, because it would be "too expensive" for the skaters.

Already, parents and skaters are complaining about the high price. Some will reduce the number of lessons. Some will quit. Some will find other innovative means, like taking group lessons instead.

Solution #2: Will the rink back off and revise the prices down?
We still don't know. Or perhaps we will know soon. I cannot disagree that the new fees are quite high, but it is a business decision on the management's part. Still, it would not make sense to charge so much as to lose business...

I certainly hope that a middle-ground can be found. It would be a shame to lose existing skaters, even more so if potential skaters are being discouraged to even start!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Observation of skaters

On Friday, I skated my last session at Ice House. I mean, last for this trip, of course! I'll definitely go there again when I am back in NJ... but for now, no more beautiful ice and large rink.

In this one week here, I made some observations about skaters.

Adult skaters skate because we love it. We may not be the most impressive, but we are willing to try and work at it. AND we have a tendency to plan work schedules around skating! I also find that adult skating in the US has gained much respect, and more popularity.

I was also on some sessions when Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman practised their programs. It was a pleasure watching them, but more impressive was how it looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves!

There are different types of little girl skaters, from those who throw tantrums, to those who argue with every instruction, to those who obey every word... Oh well, not so different from in Singapore.

I was impressed by one girl. She looks barely 12, yet I dare say she seems more sensible than most of the teens I see at home. I skated on a couple of sessions when she was having lessons. She listened and performed - difficult variations, repetitions of the same moves, improvements to the moves... everything. And she communicated well with her coach, showing an understanding of what was required. It must be wonderful to teach her. :-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lessons at Ice House

Still in NJ and skating at Ice House.
Had two lessons with Vladimir Kaprov.

First lesson was yesterday. I didn't know what to expect, and I suppose he didn't either. At the start of lesson he asked if there was something specific I wanted to do. I told him I'm working on some double jumps and would like to work on that.

We started with some rotation exercises, rather similar to what we did with Michael Pasfield during the seminar. Then we went through the Axel, d Sal, d toe, d loop, and even the d flip.

It was a good lesson, and this morning, I had some decent d Sal and d toe just before lesson. We went straight to d loop and d flip. He got out his video camera, and showed me exactly what was wrong. *sigh* yes, I can see what's wrong but its not like its so easy to fix it!

Anyway, he seemed to like what I can do at least...

What did I get from this? Some things I realised I should work on or concentrate on:
  • rotational exercises, concentrate on the "right feeling".
  • combinations/sequences - loop-d loop, salchow-d loop, salchow-d flip, axel-d toe, 3 axels in a row, etc.
  • bring R hand to L shoulder for rotation.
  • jump up, rather than turning L shoulder around!

PS: Posted on 4 Oct at 10:00PM EST (that's the time in NJ now!)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Skating in New Jersey

From LA, we flew across the continent to the East Coast. In New Jersey, we are just 10min from the Ice House.

Last Friday was the first session I went to. The ice was beautiful - nice and soft, great for spinning, and yet hard enough for fast speeds and high jumps. The rink, though, is cold... I mean, it isn't too cold, but just cold enough that when I took off my sweater, my arms were freezing!

For some reason, the rink makes me feel small & insignificant, and a little lost. It is normal size - ok, it is larger than the rink in Singapore, but then I had been skating in LA last week, so that's no excuse.

After Friday's session, I decided to get my skates sharpened. I went to the pro shop, and found that I was incredibly lucky. Jim was there, and had time to do my skates while I waited. I hear that we usually have to make an appointment with him to get skates sharpened.

Jim has done a wonderful job with the blades. I went on the ice this morning, forgetting that my skates were sharp. I didn't remember it until an hour later! The blades felt good, not too sharp to affect my skating in any way!

Today's session was fun. Early in the session, a lady came up to talk to me. Turns out, she's from Singapore, and had read my blog. That's sooo cool!
(Hi Nancy, thanks for introducing yourself, maybe I'll see you again tomorrow!)

Later, I tried to lay out my new program (yes, I'm still in the midst of that! argh!). I also tried spiral sequences that Lauren had suggested to me when I was in LA. I think I can probably work something out from that!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Skate Asia Winter Classic

ISI Asia has awarded Fuji Ice Palace the right to host

Competition dates: 30 Nov - 3 Dec, 2006
Venue: Fuji Ice Palace, SINGAPORE
Entry deadline: 30 Oct 2006

Looks like this is set to be a huge event. I hope we get a good turnout!

Information is available on the Fuji Ice Palace events site

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Blind Skate" in LA

Visiting LA.

As usual, I try to find other adult skaters in the area - through the mailing lists I am on. Lauren responded. We had never met before, and since I'm here only for a few days, we arranged to meet the very day I landed.

She offered to get me from the hotel. We went to the rink in El Segundo, and skated the afternoon public session. Yes, after a 20-hour flight...

It wasn't too bad. It was quite fun, actually. Lauren has many wonderful ideas, especially for spiral sequences for me! And for stretching after skating.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Skate Singapore Competition

For the past ten years, Fuji Ice Palace has organised a competition, Skate Singapore, every year in November or December. Local skaters have come to expect it and plan for competition early.

Hence, it is quite unusual that this year, we have not yet heard anything about Skate Singapore 2006.

So, what is the deal?

The last I heard, there will still be a competition around end of Nov to early Dec, but it may not be called "Skate Singapore". It will be more exciting, hopefully will attract a larger pool of competitors. So, keep a look out for the announcement.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Backflips and Tornadoes

Ok, I know what a backflip is. Most figure skaters know what it is, but not many dare try it. After all, it is an illegal element as far as ISU is concerned.

In skating, the backflip takes off quite like a flip (or a lutz), except that the rotation is on a horizontal axis rather than the vertical one. Meaning, you pretty much go head-over-heels. Surya Bonaly is one of the rare ones who can still land this on one foot. Most others land on both feet.

But it was only today that I found out there is such a thing as a tornado in skating, and Michael Weiss has been doing it since years back! This is a backflip, with a twist - on revolution on the horizontal axis, together with one revolution on the body axis... all done in the air!
[Weiss did it in an exhibition program from 2003 on YouTube]

I classify such things as - "only the survivors are known to do it"!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Missing Items

I lost my mobile phone at the rink (or on the way out the rink to my car) on Monday. I was halfway to work, couldn't find my phone and turned back to the rink to search for it. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found.

I suspended the SIM card, and had a new card delivered to me that evening. I didn't think too much more about it, as the phone is already almost 3 years old, and was starting to have problems with its screen display.

Today, I was told that another lady had her purse stolen at the rink! This also happened on Monday, in the morning (this lady was putting on her boots when I left the rink). Good for her she did not have much in it - just one credit card, $10, lipstick and a brush.

We are all used to locking up our valuables, keeping just a few bare necessities with us just in case. However, those of us who skate early (before public session) tend to leave our bags on the benches around the rink, somewhat carelessly. There had never been a problem, since there usually aren't too many people around, and those who are there are skaters or parents whom we all are familiar with.

The fact that two items were lost on the same morning is rather shocking to me. I had assumed that my lost phone had probably dropped on my way from the rink to the car. Now, perhaps it happened differently...

A friend of mine asked, could it be the janitor?

Much as I don't like to think that way, he is indeed the one difference - he started work just a few weeks ago. I wonder if the rink is going to investigate.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Balance and the eyes

Today, a colleague of mine was describing an exercise in his yoga class:
  - stand on one foot
  - pull the other foot up to mid-thigh
  - hold the hands, palms together, above the head
  - hold the position for 5 seconds, then close your eyes
Apparently, it was supposed to be "difficult to balance" with the eyes closed. Sure enough, the eyes are commonly used as one of the auxiliary instruments of balance.

The eyes observe where the body is in space (i.e., upside down, right side up, etc.) and also the directions of motion.

From BBC's Science & Nature,
To keep your balance, you don't only rely on the two sensory organs in your inner ear. Your eyes also deliver important information about your body's position, as do receptors in your muscles and tendons.
[Reference: BBC Science & Nature: Human Body & Mind.]

Much of skating, it is about being able to "feel the balance". That means, training the sensory receptors in our muscles and joints to play a larger role in balance. We should be able to look anywhere (or even shut our eyes) and still be aware of where we are and where we are going.

How many times have I been told (and told my students) not to look down?
We look down because it helps us observe where we are and where we are going. It give us comfort. It gives us immediate reassurance that we are still standing! Forget the fact that it is not necessary - we have gotten so attuned to it that we do it.

Really, it is just a bad habit!

It is really not so much about "not looking down" as it is about "keeping the head up". Keeping the head up maintains the alignment and posture that makes it easier to balance.
Remember, the ice is less forgiving than the ground!

PS: For the record, I did keep my balance in that yoga pose.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Direction of circular footwork sequence

Is there a benefit in doing a circular footwork sequence in the "other direction"?
Some definitions of what I mean:
"benefit" = something that increases the program's score
"other direction" = direction opposite to the usual direction of rotation

I posed the question on one of the mailing lists I read.
->   does it contribute to the difficulty level of the sequence?
->   does it contribute to the "skating skills" component, since "multi-directional skating" is listed under it? (refer to ISU summary)

IMHO, the difficulty level ought to depend on the actual steps and turns performed within the footwork sequence, rather than the general bearing of the sequence. Also, I don't see how doing a footwork sequence the "other way" can substantiate "multi-directional skating" if it is not already demonstrated in other parts of the program.

So far, I have not found, or known anyone to have found, any regulation pertaining to this issue. A judge I asked about this said,
now, even if the sequence goes in the counterclockwise direction, they must incorporate turns in the clockwise direction to get the higher levels. i have not found anything that says a skater can "up the level" by doing the circular sequence in the opposite direction.

Any clarification or confirmation would be of interest.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Video resource for Adult MIF

Yesterday, the US Figure Skating released
new educational resource material geared exclusively toward the adult skater.

This is a set of videos of the Adult moves-in-the-field tests. I'm sure many of us will find it useful.

Link to: 
    ->   News story
    ->   Video resource page

Ballet Jump and Toe Loop

For a while now, I have fancied the ballet jump as a pre-cursor to the toe loop. That is part of the reason I willingly teach it to my skaters, even putting it in combination with the Waltz jump.

Today, it become clear to me why it is.

I generally teach the ballet jump from back crossovers, to BO edge, pick and jump. What I stress is the check for the take-off. This includes the position at take-off, position of arms and position of toe pick. This same take-off is required for the toe loop to work well.

Position at take-off
The ballet jump must take off from a backwards glide. Turning forward before the ballet jump will make it over-rotate and impossible to control the landing. This habit, brought over to the toe loop, will avoid the toe waltz.

Position of arms
In the set up for a ballet jump, I advocate keeping the free arm in front and the skating arm at the side, slightly behind (sort of a 4 o'clock position). This is equivalent to the quick, strong check for the pick and release into the toe loop.

Position of toe pick
In the ballet jump, the toe pick is slightly turned out, and placed on the ice behind the free shoulder - never crossed behind the skating foot. This is the same for the toe loop.

Finally, in the take-off for the ballet jump, the turn in the air is executed with the free leg stretched back. The toe loop takes off similarly, but with the free leg quickly kicking through.

I am now convinced that there is a reason to learning the ballet jump. Now somebody tell me the reason to learn that bizarre half-toe-walley!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So much for dance lessons

I had scheduled dance lessons with the new coach on Wed mornings. Managed to get through 4 lessons over the last 2 months, with frequent interruptions because of unforseen incidents.

Today, the rink office had given up the time slot with this coach to another skater!

Worse, I found out that it was not like I had it to begin with - the office had asked yet another skater to give up that time slot for me, and she expects to have it back next month.

Maybe this is fate's way of telling me:
Just concentrate on freestyle!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Freestyle lessons again!

My freestyle coach is back! He went home for 3 weeks, and during that time I haven't really seen his students around. So, it is not surprising that he assumed that none of us practised...

My first lesson with him last week was also his first. I didn't think I skated much different from before he left, but his words at the end of lesson were, "from the looks of your skating, you must not have been practising!"

The discouraging thing is, I have been practising!! ARGH!!!

Ok, perhaps not as much as I should have been... When I thought more about it, I realised that:
one: I was spending time choreographing a new program, rather than working on elements
two: I had been skating in the evenings, since I was too lazy (and there was no motivation) to wake up early
three: trying to practise during public session is 20% as effective for me, as I have to stop frequently to avoid accidents

Well, at least now I have a new program - which he hasn't bothered to look at.

And I am still convinced that while away, he must have dreamt up perfect doubles for me! That is why he is so disappointed...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Adult skaters

During the seminar last month, another coach mentioned, with reference to one of the adult skaters in the seminar, that "she is doing pretty well for an adult skater". The skater in question is working on her doubles.

As an adult skater, I was, for a moment, unsure whether or not to be offended. I'm certain it was meant to be a compliment, but the comment reflects a widespread ignorance towards adult skating - that adults "can't ever be as good as the kids".

I am not going to dispute that starting as an adult is often more difficult and slow-going. Many of us have work and family commitments, and we cannot run away from the realities of physical limitation. Nonetheless, the adult skaters I have met are motivated and determined. They will perservere and succeed - not so different from the young'uns, just on a different time scale! ;-0

With the introduction of adult competitions in the 90s, and the first ISU-sanctioned adult figure skating competition in 2005, adult skating is slowly gaining popularity in more countries. It is inspiring to see adult skaters doing the double axel - and even some triple jumps from a couple of the younger ones.

I wonder myself, if I would be working on the double axel when I am 40.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Running into people

I hate running into people (or more literally, skating into people). Not that I do so intentionally - I usually keep a lookout for other skaters, so much so that I end up not doing much myself during a busy session.

However, when I'm concentrating on a program, and especially when skating backwards, those eyes on the back of my head don't work as well.

Earlier this week was one of those times. It must have been the first time that I skated into a skater when I didn't have my program playing.

We were both skating backwards, and I was about to step forwards when I realised she was right there. I tried to stop, almost tripped and must have pushed against her. She fell hard.

I apologised, asked if she was ok, and she said she was fine. She is direct, and would say immediately if things were not ok. She would not try to hide it if she was offended.

Still, I felt bad.

It was good that everyone is ok. But, what if things were not ok? So what? What does an apology do? Should I feel bad the rest of my life?

That brings to mind Karla's accident at O'dorf during practise ice, when she collided with another skater and hit her head on the ice. Nobody attributed fault to either party - they were just concentrating on their skating, and happened to be at the same place at the same time!

I suppose I should take it in perspective. Accidents are accidents. They will happen even if all skaters are careful and take precautions. The only thing I can do is to do my best to ensure safety.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

MK will skip 2006-07 season

A US Figure Skating news article, "Michelle Kwan To Skip 2006-07 Competitive Season" reports that Michelle Kwan has decided to take a year off skating and pursue her studies.

She is an inspiring skater with impressive accomplishments. I hope she will come back!

Halloween Classic Announcement

The 3rd Halloween Classic will be held in Aston, PA, on November 4-5. This is an all-adult competition hosted by the IceWorks Skating Club.

The announcement is on the Halloween Classic Website.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Spin entry

When I teach spins, I used to always have the skaters keep L arm in front and R arm & leg back during the LFO edge entry to the spin, then bringing the R side around all at the same time when initiating the spin. [for CCW rotation]

Of course I was horrified to see on video that I don't actually do that.

During the seminar last week, MP suggested a radical change - keep the right arm and shoulder pressing forward and around on the LFO edge. Throughout this edge, the R leg is still kept back, creating a twist in the body. This twist is released upon initiating the spin, as the R leg is brought to the front and the R arm pulled back, making the spin go faster.

Ok, since I never actually did what I preached, I found that this radical change wasn't quite so radical for me... until I tried the spins in the opposite direction!

Now I'm trying the opposite camel-upright. It works occasionally...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sit spin - get it lower!

ISU has a statement clarifying the sit position in spins:

A sit position is obtained when the angle of the skating leg in the knee is not more than 90°; if this angle is more than 90°, the position is considered as an upright.
If the buttocks are higher than the knee, there must be a GOE Reduction from -1 to -3 (depending on the height and the duration of such position).

(quoted from ISU communication 1396, available at the ISU Website)

I recall this was explained to us at the post-competition dinner of the last ISU Adult Competition, unfortunately, after many adults had already been disadvantaged. While a 90°-at-the-knee requirement does sound reasonable, this poses a problem for many adults who really cannot sit that low.

So now, I've to work on getting a lower backsit. Years ago, my coach had been trying to get me to wrap my free leg a little (apparently my free leg is way way way too straight!). Recently, a post on the mailing list suggested to not turn out the free hip. Perhaps I ought to try that...

Wonder if there is a GOE Increment if your buttocks are lower then the knee!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Learning to Ice Skate

Ice Skating requires specific skills and beginners are often at a loss as to where to start. Beginner questions I have encountered include: At what age should I start my child? Am I too old to start? Should we take lessons? Do we need to buy our own skates?

I think that as long as one can walk, one can try ice skating. Whether you are "young" or "old" is irrelevant. I have taught kids as young as 3 years old. I know friends who started as old as 60. Just be young-at-heart!

If you want to do more than cling on to the boards, do consider lessons. Generally starting with group lessons is less costly and more interesting, but as the skater progresses, private lessons will be more useful and effective.

Anyone interested in skating seriously should invest in a pair of skates - the sooner the better. That said, it is not harmful to start off with rental skates for a short period of time.

The Recreational Figure Skating FAQ gives an excellent archive of information.

Learning to skate in Singapore:

There is currently ONE rink in Singapore - Fuji Ice Palace, and it runs a skating school. First-timers may start with an introductory lesson. This is meant for beginners to try out the ice before deciding to sign up for regular lessons.
[Update 13 June 2008: There is now a rink open at Kallang as well.]

Lessons may be arranged through the rink's office (phone number 6565 1905). As a coach there, I also help to make arrangements for potential students who contact me directly.

** Update to this post
Kallang Ice World began operation in 2007, at the new Kallang Leisure Park building. The contact number for Kallang Ice World is 6348 1123.

Fuji Ice Palace has closed at of Oct 2008. We are awaiting a promised full-size rink in the new building where Jurong Entertainment Center once was.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pics from event at Oberstdorf 2006

I was looking video clips from Oberstdorf this year and thought I'd cut out a couple of image files:

Sit spin - a part of the combination spin during my program

Split jump - this was during warm-up

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Lutz Jump

In an earlier post "Lutz - the double?" I mentioned about not rushing to pull the legs together on the Lutz take-off. Now, I've received another tip - jump to the left! (for CCW rotation)

This was what we were doing in the seminar - just a subtle sideways movement, not large nor obvious, then pull in for the jump. Some exercises we did at the seminar (all described for CCW rotation):

Against the boards: Stand about one foot away, with the board on the left, pick in and pull the left foot sideways to hit the board.

On the ice, stand on both feet. Pick in with R toe and jump to the left.

LBO edge pulls: like power pulls on L foot, but concentrating on the pressure on the outside edge.

LB power pulls into lutz: change-edge pulls (LBI-LBO-LBI-LBO) toe in and jump.

toeless 1/2 lutz (or full lutz): lutz entry, but jump without using toe.

Mohawk-and-cross entry: LFI Mo RBI XF LBO and toe in to jump. I kinda like that now, and this morning decided to use it in my program ;-)

No wonder MP was saying that skaters either have a good flip and a flutz, or a good lutz and a ... what do you call a flip that takes off from the wrong edge??

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Coach's Seminar

We are now in the midst of the "Olympic Dream Seminar 2006" mentioned in an earlier post.

It was after much deliberation that I signed up for the coach's training which is held in conjunction with this seminar. Indeed, we still did not have the agenda, or even the times for coach's training, until 2 days before the seminar started! But this is, after all, the first time SISA is organising a coach's training, and there is a lot of administrative and scheduling issues to work out...

In any case, I am glad I'm attending this - not just because it is sort of interesting, but also because it gave me the opportunity to talk with some of the other coaches on a different level. Granted we see each other all the time, but we are always busy, never having time to chat... or maybe its just me, since I'm not a believer of wasting time chatting in the rink!

Another positive point: it is encouraging to see some of the adult skaters attending the training and showing interest in coaching. I believe that we should encourage more participation in figure skating, and to do that we need more coaches!

Lastly, the suggestion to get the coaches together in a social gathering once in a while is a brilliant one! The only problem I can forsee is to find a time that everyone can make... We all have such erratic schedules!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sit Spin Variation

A variation of the sit spin was discussed on some message boards. The skater grabs the free blade, and sits back, as shown in the pic:

Tried it tonight, but can't understand why I kept getting on my toe pick! I think I need to:
    - get into a really low sit spin and grab the blade
    - dare to lean back!
    - stretch free leg so that knee stays below skating knee
    - dare to lean back!
    - sit lower to keep butt close to ankle
    - dare to lean back!
(get the idea?)

Actually, I think a more impressive variation would be to keep the free leg and body parallel to the ice ~ like a parallel spin in sit position!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Three not-so-skating-related incidents

When I got to the rink tonight, and the cashiers handed me a note which was neatly folded and stapled. I chipped my nail trying to get the staple off, so I asked one of the guys at the skate rental if he had a nail file. He asked if scissors would do. When I shook my head, he pointed to the skate-sharpening machine!


After skating, I changed out of my boots, stretched, picked up my skates to go home, and promptly twisted my ankle - by stepping on the edge of the rubber mat!


As I was walking to the taxi stand, there were two ladies walking in front of me, and nobody at the stand. Now, taxi stands here have metal bars demarcating where the queue should be. And we had to walk around to enter the stand and get to the front of the queue.

The first lady one had a bunch of flowers (the 'flower lady'), and she walked around to enter the stand. The second one was talking on the phone (the 'phone lady'), and just walked straight up to where the front of the queue would be, and stood beside the bar. Of course, the phone lady, not having had to walk around, was already there before the flower lady got to the front.

I followed the flower lady, stood behind her, and wondered if the phone lady was really waiting for a taxi. When the flower lady got into the first cab, the phone lady was utterly disgusted, claiming she "got there first".


Anyway, skating was still fun this evening, though I don't really like to skate in the evening 'cos I am already tired from a day's work. Maybe I have gotten used to skating when not yet fully awake!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Figure Skating - our unusual sport

Figure skating is an unusual sport.

Any child can kick a football.
Any group of children can get together and play a game.

Any child can run.
Any group of children can get together have a race.

Any child can put on skates and step on the ice...
BUT not many attain figure skating skills that would allow them to skate a program. At least not immediately.

Figure skating competitions are highly structured. Test levels are created to place competitors in the "right skill level". Lower-level competitions impose restrictions on what elements competitors may do, as skaters are judged not just on how well elements are performed, but also on the difficulty of elements successfully performed.

Imagine a tennis competition with a category where "no topspin is allowed" so that beginners not adept at hitting the topspin would not be disadvantaged.

Or a basketball competition where 3-point shots are not allowed...

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Footwork Sequence

In the midst of making my "draft" choreography of my program last Monday, I had left out details of the footwork sequence. Or rather, the footwork sequence I had in mind didn't quite fit, so I left it out for the time being.

Yesterday evening, I went to the rink and made up a new footwork sequence, this time a circular one. This is the first time I'm putting a circular footwork sequence in my program!

So here goes...
  - first RFI into CCW twizzles, then LFO into CW twizzles, and then a RFO rocker, XF to LBO-RFI choctaw sequence.
  - this is followed by a lunge, into a RFI3 and those little hops as you turn around... whatever you call it!
  - after that, a RFI bracket, step, XF, then RBI rocker to LFO bracket, then step to RBO-LFI choctaw sequence.
  - at the end, are mohawks (RFI-LBI-RFI-LBI) and immediately after, the flip-loop!

By the time I got to the flip-loop, I had barely any speed! Gotta work on that!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back cross rolls

Cross rolls are a lot harder than they look! I mean, if you really want to make it truely outside-edge-to-outside-edge and make it look effortless...

Long ago, some pointers given to me included:
  - the free blade slides across the ice close to the skating foot
  - keep the blades are perpendicular
  - free blade is placed on the ice as it slides by the skating foot

What is important is the change of weight onto the new skating foot - this must be done with the correct timing and position!

When I did back cross rolls yesterday morning, dance coach told me that I was jumping them! Sheesh, was I? Indeed, I must have been waiting too long before changing my weight, allowing myself to fall back on the new skating foot and hence the hop.

Two other things, he said, keep the knee bent, and keep the knees open on the transition. Must have helped, as he seemed satisfied after that.

Oh and one more observation he made, my back rolls has a much stronger push on one side than the other!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Travel restrictions

It has been 4 years since I brought my skates on board with me when I fly. And I thought it was bad for us skaters...

Until today, when I read an article in the New York Times about the problem orchestras face:

The violin virtuoso and conductor Pinchas Zukerman said security officials had even asked him to remove the strings of his 1742 Guarneri del Gèsu. "I've had unbelievable discussions at certain airports," he said by telephone while waiting at the Atlanta airport for a flight with his wife, the cellist Amanda Forsyth. "They want to stick their hands in my instruments, and they say, 'It's my job.'"

[Quoted from "Tighter Security Is Jeopardizing Orchestra Tours" in The New York Times]

I can't imagine security asking me to remove my blades... though they're welcome to stick their hands in my boot if they like!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Skating Alone

No, this is not a sob story about losing a partner or anything like that...

Rather, I was the only person on the ice this morning, because the coaches who would have been there are out of town for the Skate Asia competition - and their students didn't come either.

I took the opportunity to bring my new program to the ice, without having everyone else trying to play their music at the same time. I had cut a piece of music and done a "paper choreography" for the program, but had not yet tried it out for real.

Horrors, I realised that combination spins and step sequences in the head take way longer than they do on the ice! I also found that my imagination can hold beautiful spiral sequences much longer than I actually can!

Being able to play my music over and over, I managed to change the program a little to fit in the 6 jump elements, 3 spins, one footwork sequence and one spiral sequence (all in 2min 38sec!)

BUT, after hearing my music repeat over and over again for a whole hour, its now stuck in my head the entire day! EEW!