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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!

GRRR!!!

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!

SHEESH!!!

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".

HUH?!?

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 G├Ęsu. "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!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekend lessons

A few months ago, someone made the observation that there were NINE coaches conducting lessons at the same time. This was on a Saturday morning, where most of the part-time coaches (like yours truly!) come in to coach.

With the two new coaches, it is likely that there can be more then TEN of us vying for space! And this is during public session, when lessons are conducted in one-third of the rink, which is not even a full-sized rink!

This afternoon, we had, all in the lesson area,
  a lady working on the flying camel
  my student working on the loop
  another student trying the double toe, and
  yet another student working on the sit spin
- all within a few feet of each other.

At some point, we had gotten into some kind of time-sharing rhythm where the skaters manage to do their elements one after another, with sufficient time in between for explanations. It was kinda cool!

On a more serious note, under such a system, is it any wonder that skaters may have the elements, but lack the skating skills and presentation that ought to go along with it? I recall how shocked I was when I first returned from the US to find skaters landing doubles but having what I thought was weak basic skating. Now I understand why!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Coaching in Singapore

When I started coaching, it was like jumping in the deep end and trying to stay afloat! Luckily for me, I had bits of advise from my coaches, my experience as a skater, and some teaching experience (in the classroom) to fall back on. I quickly got into the swing of things.

Until now, there is no coaches' training course in Singapore. There are no required qualifications to coach... sorry, my mistake there is one requirement - that the rink will take you in.

So, it is good news that the Singapore Ice Skating Association (SISA) is trying to start a practical training for coaches. This would be part of the Singapore Sports Council's (SSC) National Registry of Coaches (NROC) requirements - that coaches fulfil a theory and a practical part for each level. The SSC will also recommend that schools should only use NROC coaches for their activities.

Unfortunately, it is not easy getting coaches' buy-in. After all, SISA does not have jurisdiction over who can or cannot coach at the rink right now. On top of that, bringing in overseas trainers to conduct the practical training is costly, and of the few coaches currently available, even fewer would see it worthwhile to fork out a few hundred dollars to do the training.

Honestly, much as I would like to do the coaches' training, I still cannot justify why I would spend the money on that, rather than as a skater in the seminar. After all, I am still actively skating, and coach only part-time!

Prelim dates for adult competitions in 2007

Preliminary dates for the competitions 2007 are announced:

18-19 May 2007
Vana Tallinn Trophy (Tallinn, Estonia)

24-26 May 2007
ISU Adult Competition (Oberstdorf, Germany)

1-3 June 2007
Mountain Cup (Villard-de-Lans, France)
[There is also a camp planned for 28-30 May.]

The announcements for these competitions will be out later in the fall.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Flip Flop Camel

(uh, the title should read change-of-edge camel spin!)

My first foray into the change-of-edge spins in the camel position was early this year, from a flying camel. I thought it'd be worth a try the change-of-edge... after all, so long as I stayed on my foot, the worst would be looking stupid.

BUT I did not stay on my foot. The next thing I knew, I was sprawled face down on the ice... eeks!

Didn't try that again. Instead, I moved on to trying change-edge back sit and change-edge back upright, both of which were slightly more successful.

This morning, my coach asked me to do a forward camel, with change-of-edge. Well, actually he asked if I could change to outside, then change back.

I replied, yes, of course I can change to the outside edge, but I don't think I can change back, 'cos I would probably be on the floor by then!

He must have either not heard or chosen to ignore my later statement, as he went ahead and made me to it. Surprisingly, it wasn't all that difficult, and I managed to get a few revolutions in before I totally flipped over on my back on the ice.

I tried a few more times, then gave up (oh actually it was the end of lesson). Anyway, I suppose my next project will be trying to figure out how to get that! Haha!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Oympic Dream Seminar 2006

The Singapore Ice Skating Association is organising the "Olympic Dream Seminar" later this month. More info on the SISA website.

The seminar is over 4 evenings (6-10pm) and cost $500 for skaters. There will also be a coaches' practical training going on at the same time, which would cost $300.

Unfortunately there hasn't been any information on the agenda or training schedule for coaches, so I would rather pay $500 as a skater! Then again, that is assuming that I can attend - there is no way I can make it from work to the rink by 6pm on the weekdays!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Ice Skating Rink in Singapore - Update

My previous post "The Ice Skating Rink in Singapore" might have hinted at a certain eventuality.

However, after some clarification, what I can tell right now is that the rink is staying open. There may be renovations, but it is not yet confirmed when it will be. We will get more info as we go along. Meanwhile, life goes on as usual...

ENJOY SKATING!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How fast do I skate??

For so many years, it never crossed my mind to wonder what speed I skate at... until today.

When we say a figure skater "skates fast", how fast is that really? When we enter a jump, at what speed are we really hurling ourselves into the air? Haha, that does sound scary!

Where do I start?

Well, speed skating is the closest relative, and a little search throws out the fact that a speed skater "may reach speeds as high as 30 mi (48 km) per hr" (reference: infoplease.com).

I doubt figure skaters attain the same high speeds. Even if we do, it will not be maintained (and certainly not for jumps!!). Perhaps an average speed would be good... So how do I estimate that??

Well, I tried using my program - the one I did at O'dorf.

The rink is 60m long and 30m wide.

When I make 3 lobes down the length (e.g. serpentine spiral sequence), a lower-bound estimate is to assume each lobe is a semi-circle with 20m diameter. Hence each lobe will cover a distance of 10m * PI = 31.4m (using PI=3.14)

The first 38s of my program consists of a total of 5 lobes:
I start 2/3 of the way down, make 2 lobes in preparation for & execution of the Axel combination, which is then followed by the serpentine spiral sequence which is 3 lobes back down the rink.

Hence, the approximate distance covered in 38s is 5 * 31.4m = 157m.
=> average speed = 157m / 38s = 4.13m/s = 14.868km/h (~9.3mph)

Conclusion: My average speed in the first 38s of my program is 14.9km/h (~9.3mph).

[PS: I'm now too lazy to figure out the rest of my program. The reason is that the rest of my program is not in well-defined lobes, and also include spins, which should then translate to rotational speed rather than translational... oh what the heck!]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Quickstep - the bane of my dances!

With the restructuring of the ISI dance tests 2 years ago, the Quickstep is the one dance remaining for me to pass Dance 8. The whole process of trying to test this dance constitutes an entire story in itself, which I am not about to relate here.
Last week, I started lessons with a new dance coach. Aha, now I once again have a freestyle coach and a dance coach! Somehow, the first lesson wasn't as exciting as I would like it to be. He wanted to know what I wanted to do, and I explained my problem with the Quickstep.

So, these two lessons, we have been working on the Quickstep. Yes, just the Quickstep! He was focusing on how deep the edges should be, where I ought to be heading... how I had to start with the progressives closer to the wall, then the swing for the choctaw heading more into the center... how the free leg on the two forward inside edges have to be extended, etc. It almost seemed like I wasn't doing any step correctly!

Mid-way through our first lesson, he said, "your pushes aren't real!". I was dumbfounded.
"What do you mean - not real?"
"Well, you are not really pushing, just stepping and gliding. You have to push, see there's so much space here. You are not using the rink!"
Oh, I am so embarassed - the rink is small, yet I'm not making full use of the space?!?!

The second lesson, he made another comment that stopped me in my tracks. "Do it slower first. You can go faster later with more powerful push and more knee bend."

Uhh... wait a minute, you first told me to push, yet the push shouldn't make me move fast?? What logic is this?

But I found out that it is possible to push just enough to cover the ice, and yet not go too fast. And it was easier to concentrate on the thousand-and-one other things I have to think of on every step when I'm not trying to think about power from each push. Maybe it does make some sense after all!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Ice Skating Rink in Singapore

Figure skating is not an easy sport to maintain in this little tropical island of Singapore.

There is the obvious "cooling problem" - much energy is required to maintain the ice. One would wonder if solar panels can do the work!

There is also the "land issue" - Singapore is a tiny island, not much land to build on, and whatever is available is costly.

And of course there's the "kiasu syndrome" - few locals would pay a fortune for their kids to skate. After all, skating is not going to make them a living!

Even with all this, it has been very encouraging that the one and only rink here right now has survived more then 10 years. However, it sounds like we might face the prospects of it closing soon.

The building this rink is in was recently bought over by CapitaMall Trust. This company is aggressive, and has, to its credit, done well with various shopping malls in Singapore, and made positive changes to this building in the last year.

The rink's lease is up in September. It is highly likely that CapitaMall will up the rental beyond what the rink can commit to. Until now, we have not heard anything... except for a few rumours...