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Monday, July 31, 2006

Met a new adult skater

Earlier last month, I noticed a new face at the rink. She had come one day for an introductory lesson, after which her coach said to me, "hey, she's not a beginner!".

I wouldn't be surprised if the rink didn't tell her that their "introductory lessons" was supposed to be an introduction to being on the ice, rather than an introduction to the coach. In either case, it doesn't quite matter to me...

She signed up for lessons and has been coming quite regularly on Sunday afternoons. She is working on double jumps & flying spins, and often a time I felt sorry for her that it was so crowded and there wasn't much space to do anything. Nevertheless, I appreciated her courage and persistence.

I hardly saw her speak to anyone. Not so surprising, as there are no adult figure skaters around at that time, nor are there other skaters at her level. I usually don't like to stay long after coaching on Sundays, so I never spoke to her either... until yesterday.

It must be lonely skating around and practising on your own when there is such a crowd of strangers. So yesterday, I decided it would be nice to be friendly. After all, it was next to impossible to do anything, and I was spending too much time standing around watching which way the crowd was going. I said hi to her and introduced myself.

She moved to Singapore 2 months ago. She has been skating for quite some time before, but hardly has time to skate more than one day a week. That's a shame, 'cos I'm sure she'd be making much faster progress if she skates more. But good for her, she's keeping it up! :-)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lutz - the double?

No not yet. Actually, not that I was thinking of the double Lutz to begin with, but I suppose my coach thought it'd be nice to give it a try. On seeing the single flutz, he had second thoughts!!

This is a really frustrating problem that I have been working to get rid of. Sometimes its ok, sometimes I feel constipated, sometimes its just a huge flutz. However, everything seemed to click today, when he said, "don't rush to pull your feet together".

Strange statement, but on the take-off, that was what made the flutz. Pulling the feet together just before the take-off would change the edge
  - unless I was picking waaay across...
  - but I wasn't supposed to pick so far across...
That was the dilemma I had! Why didn't I think of this earlier?

Still, its not easy to describe how it "should" be. He had me doing the Lutz backspin for a while, it was slow, but it was ok.

At the end of it, he said, "Work on the Lutz-backspin for now. There's no hurry to do the double."

I retorted, "It is not me in a hurry for the double. It is you."

Did I mention that he must have relished that lesson when I lost my voice and couldn't talk back?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Kuma Kuma

When my grandmother passed away, one of my students gave me this to cheer me up:

It is a little turtle with a big head and a little shell in the back (which can't be seen in the picture), and it is really cute!!

I'm going to name it "Kuma Kuma", since that's what the tag says. :-)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What would you do if you found you had a fracture in your spine?

I was sort of in a daze the rest of the day, it was a good thing I had sick leave and didn't have to go in to work.

What did I do? In chronological order, I...

  • Called my mom, and a friend

  • Wrote in my blog about it!
    That was when I wrote the entry "Fracture in the Spine?".

  • Showed my sister and brother the x-rays.
    Thought I'd get second (and third) opinions. Fine, that's only because they are doctors! My sister was very curious, held up the x-ray and exclaimed, "oh my god! LOOK!!" and my brother said, "see this... and oh, you have scoliosis!". Eventually, they concluded that the fracture, and even the scoliosis wasn't threatening and there wasn't much that need be done about it.

  • Went back on the ice to work on that double toe!
    No, of course not that very day - I still had a sore throat and wanted to sleep. But I later figured, I wouldn't have done anything different if I hadn't asked about the x-ray results!

  • Resumed dance lessons
    The reasoning is, if I eventually really can't jump, dance would be about the only thing I can do, right? First lesson today, I promptly kicked that extra inch at the back of my freestyle blades in a cross roll, and down I went.

Well, I'm still waiting for the clinic to call me about my appointment with the specialist. If they are as delinquent about this as they were about calling me on the x-ray results, then I will be waiting 'til next year!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shut up and skate!

Ok, he didn't quite say it that way...

This morning I had lesson, but after that sore throat on Friday which lasted throughout the weekend, I have lost my voice. All I could manage was a hoarse "I can't talk today... cough cough cough".

So my coach said, "don't talk!"

Well, it must be the first time I had a lesson without all my protests and clever reasons why I couldn't do what he was saying. Several times, I started to say something in protest. He said, "just keep quiet, you can't talk anyway!"

I skated better than I did last week. Must be the result of actually thinking about skating rather than thinking up smart excuses. And my coach must have relished being able to complete his sentences without me interrupting!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Decided to dance again

Last week, I made the decision:
I will start dance lessons again, with a new coach.

I told my coach I would take lessons with the new coach. He asked, "so you will do dance with him and freestyle with me?" I said yes. He was non-chalant about it, and advised me to reserve the lesson time quickly before others get in on it.

I told the new coach I would take lessons with him. He said, sure, he didn't think there was anyone at that time right now. I told him I wanted to do dance. He gasped. I asked if he didn't want to teach dance either. He quickly said no, its alright, depends on what you want to do.

Today, I went for lunch and joined my coach who was already chatting with yet another coach. I sat down, and my coach acted like I wasn't there.

Have I just stepped off the deep end?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Arakawa on the Catwalk!

Shizuka Arakawa has made a drastic change in career - modelling!
She has this regal, "don't-mess-with-me" look on her! ;-)

Source: MSN Mainichi Daily News

However, being a celebrity is putting a strain on her family:
Report on MSN Mainichi Daily News

Fracture in the Spine?

It was in March last year that I had very bad back problem. I went to a local clinic and the GP sent me to get an X-ray. When I called the clinic, they said that it would take a few days for them to receive results.

I started going to a physio, it got better, and I prepared for my Europe trip in May that year. That was last year!! More than a year has passed, and with my physio, I have been managing the problem. I didn't think more about the X-ray.

Today, I went back to that same clinic because I was ill. Thought I'd just ask about the X-ray. Turns out, the report said there was an indication of an "old fracture". The GP will arrange for an appointment with the specialist.

The first impression was that it must have been one of those falls on the ice, but really, figure skating is not the only sport I have ever done...

When I was in high school, I did high jump for a while. We had thick foam mattresses on the other side of the bar for us to land on. One day, I missed the mattress and landed on the ground - yes, on my back. It hurt a lot. I could see everyone crowding around me, asking if I was ok. For two seconds, I couldn't move or speak. I was scared. Suddenly, everything snapped back to normal, and I began to laugh, and joked about having jumped too far.

I was back to normal the next day. It was as if nothing had happened. I continued with high jumping and playing basketball, (uhh, I wasn't skating then yet!) and dismissed the incident - until now...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Figure Skating Clubs in Singapore

There is one association in Singapore, and by regulation from the Singapore National Olympic Council, there has to be at least 5 clubs under the association.

Perhaps that makes sense for any other sport... but for figure skating, when there is but one rink in Singapore, and just a handful of serious (and semi-serious) figure skaters, this is really stretching it.

Hence, clubs are hard-pressed to provide benefits for members. The one and only rink is not controlled by us, nor the association. Booking ice is way beyond our budget. Hockey is the one given priority (and discounts), anyway. Further, we are all trying to recruit the same few figure skaters... and the even fewer who are willing to volunteer on club committees. How pathetic.

I had turned down a request to step up on the Association executive committee as Assistant Director of Training and Development (Coaches & Skaters). It was on the realisation that there is so much conflict of interest, being the president of a club, a skater and a coach all at the same time.

In a recent meeting with some of the Association exco, it feels that there is indeed some conflict of interest when an Association exco is also on a club committee. The discussion evolved to revolve around events being organised by a particular club (not mine), and that club should do a recruitment drive at the same time...

Wait, why was I spending my time in that meeting? I thought I was volunteering to serve the Association, not other clubs!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Buckeye Adult Open Announcement

The Buckeye Adult Open will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio on 7 October. The announcement may be downloaded from here.

I just noticed that this is the exact same time as the Russian Open - I suppose it has to be one or the other...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Slow entry into jumps

I used to pooh-pooh the notion of slow entry into jumps. Waltz jump from standstill was perhaps manageable, Axel from standstill, NO, NO, NO! Double toe going slow? EEW, NO WAY!

I loved to enter the loop with speed, to get a nice, high, big jump. A nice, high, big single loop I did get... BUT what I did not get was the control and the air position to turn it into a double.

It was only today that I realised the logic.

I realised why my coach wanted me to enter the doubles slow - that is when I have to concentrate on control and getting into the right position for the jump.

I also realised why I never liked to enter jumps slow - I did not yet have the right position to land; I was scared.

And this is having the most impact on my flip. Not that my flip is bad, but it wasn't the prettiest, and I knew I wasn't moving my weight over to the right for the rotation. I didn't really think I would do a double - at least not yet.

For my latest program, I had not much power pushes before the flip, and so have been forcing myself to land a slow (single) flip, however tired I was. That forced me to consciously pull up into position.

In lesson last week, my coach asked me to do a double flip. I stared at him like he was crazy. He said, just try.

This evening, I thought I'd try the double flip. I wasn't falling left, right and center like I did when I first tried the other doubles. I'm sure it was under-rotated, but it felt straight, it felt landed, it felt right, AND the take-off felt just like when I made myself do the slow flip!

So, to those headstrong, power-skaters out there, if your coach wants you to slow down to work on a jump, do it!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pair Shopping

This morning, my sister and I were on the ice when a skater's mother came up to me.

Skater Mom: You two are wearing the same shirt!

Me: Yes, my sister and I were out shopping, and these tops were going at 2 for $39.

Skater (comes over): I thought you were going to do pair skating.

Me: No, but we did pair shopping!

Yah, I know, silly joke, but that's about what you get at the rink these days...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Combination spin

After returning from the competitions in Europe, I have been experimenting with the "backward entry" for spins.

The back camel is one spin that I never could enter. I would fall one side or the other, or get too far on the toe... I always wondered how others could so it so smoothly, and so I set my mind to try it.

But of course I would get utterly bored just working on the back camel alone, so I came up with a combination to justify the effort... so here goes:
Start the back camel, into a back sit (change-edge, if possible)
change foot into a forward sit, change position to broken leg
change foot again into a forward upright - in the OPPOSITE direction!

My observations:
  • getting speed on the back camel is still as $^&*#$ hard as ever!

  • the back spin to forward spin transition really isn't all that hard

  • OPPOSITE spin is easy if your brain and body don't get muddled up

  • the exit on the other foot feels awfully strange!!

But after 3 weeks' of working on it, I occassionally manage to get through the entire combination feeling ok.
Practise makes perfect, right?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Coaching Experience

I have always been upfront with my coaching experience (and inexperience). Years ago, when I first started coaching, I told my first student, an adult beginner, that she was my first student. Erm, bad move - instead of going "oh cool!" she went straight to the office to ask for someone else...

Well, at least I never had to tell anyone that again.

It is still important to me that student and coach start off with the same understanding. One of my student's father asked me how far I could bring his child. I replied that I was, at that time, comfortable with up to (ISI) freestyle 3, but I would grow with my students.

And it is exactly that - coaching has made me a better skater, and skating has made me a better coach.

Through coaching, I become more analytical and more aware of each skill. Having to demonstrate each move has made me more conscious of what I was doing and where each part of my body was.

Such awareness translates, thus to my own skating. No more blindly flinging myself into each move, as I did years ago, when I was in college, giving A. 'heart attacks' with all my falls. Every step, every move is deliberate and controlled. I start to get the "feeling" that has been eluding me all these years.

As I progress with my own skating, I gain confidence to move to a higher level with my students. I know that what I tell them is from experience, not just from imagination.

Monday, July 10, 2006

To dance or not to dance

Further to all my dance woes... (see entry And so it happens...)

I am now trying to decide what to do. My coach is being laissez-faire about dance. While he insists that he would not refuse to coach dance, he is not taking any initiative in that area. I tried it out - last week, I said I wanted to dance. He asked, "are you sure?" but didn't refuse.

We managed to spend a grand total of 10 minutes on the Viennese before he asked
"What do you want to do next?"

I wasn't prepared for this - at least, I had wanted to work on the Viennese, but didn't think of which other dance. So, I said,
"Well, anything, I suppose... what do you suggest?"

He answered,
"If you can't think of another dance to do, let's do some jumps"

I quickly said,
"Ok, let's try the Argentine... "

I spent the rest of the lesson trying not to crash into the boards.

That made me ponder over the weekend. The "Top 8 reasons..." in my previous post had been done half in jest, half in philosophical reflection. However, it started to dawn on me that perhaps they are really true - reflections of my own issues with dance!

Some of the reasons listed are very real problems I am facing or have faced. but most prominent was reason #1 - it is indeed too damned difficult. Too difficult to dance and free-skate at the same time!

Why do I say that?
Because I feel that I have improved significantly in freestyle over the past 8 months - and that was 8 months without dancing!

It is definitely easier to focus on one discipline. While dance has built up my basics, it has also distracted me from freestyle. It takes up time I could have used to work on freestyle. It saps the energy I could have put into freestyle. It uses different muscle groups, different posture and I would have to re-adjust each time I get on the ice.

And all this for what? I still don't have a partner, I still spend entire lessons trying not to run into the boards, and I still am not getting anywhere in dance.

I am starting to think maybe my coach is right - there is no point in dancing solo, at least not right here, right now. I can still have my occassional dance lesson when I feel like it, and that should suffice.

But... there is this part of me that does not want to give up!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Top 8 reasons why ice dance in Singapore has not taken off

#8. Cannot find a partner - though this is also prevalent in any other country I have been to, it is worse in countries where skating is starting up.

#7. Even if a partnership is formed, it is impossible to find a common time to train, since Singapore kids have an inane amount of school commitments!

#6. Culture - ice dance is modelled after Western dances, and may not appeal the locals, or the locals do not feel up to it.

#5. Compulsory dances don't fit in the rinks here - the compulsory dances were created for a full-size rink. Until we have a full-size rink here, it is going to be really tough to do them.

#4. How to train? Most skaters are able to practise only during public sessions. Unless you are really really lucky, you will have to avoid someone or stop after 2 steps. Impossible to complete any part of any dance.

#3. Ice dance lacks the immediate "wow" factor that jumps and spins provide.

#2. What for? - AHA! Only a handful of local skaters have figured out the addiction of ice dance!

#1. Ice dance is simply too damned difficult! - The next realisation for those who have figured out the addiction of ice dance!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Project Runway's Skating Fashion

Last night, the local station aired the Project Runway Season 2 Episode 7: "On Thin Ice". Ok we get all shows waaay late in Singapore, so this topic should already have been beaten to death 6 months ago... (this was first aired on Jan 18, 2006) Funny, though, that I never heard anything about it on the mailing lists & news groups - or I must have been too busy and missed the discussion!

Anyway, since I was home last night, I thought I'd just take a look to see what the designers would come up with...

Goodness gracious, what are figure skating dresses doing on a runway? I was kinda surprised they didn't make the models come out in skates as well! It would really have been interesting to see how much more creativity there would be in designing right down the tights to the boot covers!

Emmett's design was offensive... do non-skaters really think a little frilly counts as a skirt? Santino's design was completely impractical, though I must say, under all the feathers and ruffles, the bodice does look kinda neat.

One major thing that has been overlooked in these designs is that many of the free-skating elements requires rotation - none of the dresses look like they'd spin very well!

Seems like designing figure skating dresses requires some different skill, and knowledge of figure skating! The look goes beyond just parading the dress around - the design has to be elegant and practical. Not restrictive, not bulky, not heavy, not too many things hanging...

It was cool that they got Sasha in as one of the judges. The design she chose was just about the least of all evils. Good for her!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Spread eagle? Ina Bauer?

Recently, I have noticed that my coach is making all his kids doing some spread eagle or ina bauer. I knew it was just a matter of time that he would get round to me... and it didn't take long.

In lesson yesterday, he asked if I could do a spread eagle. Of course he didn't say it, he just asked, "can you do this" and showed me what "this" was.

This is something I tried and given up and never thought to try again. After all, I was finding more fun doing flying camels than getting my heels stuck on the ice. Besides, I told him, I have closed hips and when I did try to stretch it years ago, I ended up with lower back pain.

Well, he didn't insist, though he said, as a matter of fact, that it is all a matter of stretching!

I have always been envious of those who could do spread eagles and ina bauers. Although I convinced myself I don't need it to do a good program, its as if there's something missing from my repetoire. However, I am very hesitant to try again, for fear of exaggerating my back problem...

Dune of Flanders Cup Announcement

The Dune of Flanders Cup will be held at Dunkerque, France, on 8-10 Dec 2006.

However, Sally's email doesn't seem to have the announcement attached, nor a site to get the announcement... Looks like we will have to email Sally for more information.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Peach Classic Announcement

The Peach Classic will be held in Atlanta, Georga on September 2 - 3, 2006.

The announcement may be downloaded from the Peach Classic website.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New coaches at the rink

When I returned from my long Europe trip, I found that the "new" coaches are here (refer to entry Once again, coach hopping). They started coaching that week.

Well, ok, they're not all that "new" as they have been in Singapore, but at another rink - which closed, and they left and... its a long story. In any case, I have always been on ok terms with them. After all, I was also at the same other rink they were at until it closed. I think their arrival is a positive change...

What is not so positive is the whirlwind that seems to come with every new arrival.

It is absolutely understandable that some of the skaters who were training under them before would like to return to them. However, I had heard (and I'm not sure how accurate this is) that the rink office had also been "advertising" their arrival, telling skaters who were struggling to find time with their current coaches about "new coaches" who are "very good" and they could pre-book desired times on their schedule.

What's more interesting is the coaches' reaction.

One coach told his students to "go ahead, switch coaches, but don't think of coming back". While this may seem rather harsh, it simply points to the fact that the coach does not believe he would work well with the new coaches. Which is also understandable. And it is fair that this is made clear to the skaters at the beginning.

On the other end of the spectrum, another coach told his students, "Go ahead, take lessons from them, BUT you cannot stop lessons with me!". What kind of philosophy is this? Aren't skaters free to make decisions? They may decide to train under one coach and not another. They may decide to change coaches *knowing* they can't change back. They may, if opportunity allows, decide to train under two coaches. How many of them were aware when they started with this coach that they were bound for life?

No, you cannot leave!!