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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.