The Olympic flame is going out in Pyeongchang, but on ice in Everett there’s quite a spark. As the 2018 Winter Games end with Sunday’s closing ceremonies, young skaters here glide on, inspired by role models they saw perform dazzling programs in South Korea.
“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing,” said 16-year-old Nira Barlow, a member of the Everett Figure Skating Club. “If I made it to the Olympics, it would be my dream come true.”
Throughout the Olympics, when she couldn’t watch on TV, the Tulalip teen kept up with skating events using an app on her phone. Mirai Nagasu, a U.S. figure skater from California, is among her favorite Olympians.
In November, Nira competed in U.S. Figure Skating’s Pacific Coast Sectional Championships in Spokane. At the junior level, she’s among the top 36 skaters in the nation.
On Thursday at Xfinity Community Ice Rink, Nira was surrounded by a dozen or so younger members of the Everett Figure Skating Club. All are coached by Susannah Hall McAllister, skate director at the Everett rink.
Ryan Hart, Angel of the Winds Arena’s director of marketing, said Friday that for now the rink retains the Xfinity name. In December, it was announced that the Everett Public Facilities District and Spectra had reached a 10-year arena naming rights agreement with Angel of the Winds Casino Resort.
Ponytails and braids were flying Thursday afternoon as girls practiced spins, jumps and free skating before their weekly class with McAllister.
Mia Matson, a 15-year-old sophomore at Edmonds-Woodway High School, said that with all her studies, skating practice and competitions, there’s little time for goofing off with friends. “It’s so worth it, the fun of going out to center ice to start your program,” said Mia, a skater for nine years.
During the class, some girls used a harness suspended from the ceiling to safely perfect their jumps.
McAllister, 33, has taught skating in Everett for 10 years. She competed in U.S. Figure Skating competitions up through sectionals before moving into coaching. She believes there’s an “Olympic effect” that boosts enthusiasm for winter sports during the games.
“I absolutely see an increase in our Learn to Skate classes,” she said. “I see an increase in attendance in our public skating sessions, too. You see kids out on the ice trying to emulate the moves they have seen on TV.”
Snow skiing may also grow in popularity during the Winter Games, but that increase could be caused by good snow.
Francine Long is co-owner of Clancy’s Ski School at Stevens Pass, and a ski instructor. She also works at Westra Sports, a ski and snowboard shop on SW Everett Mall Way. “I don’t know if it’s the Olympics, the snow this winter or the economy. We’ve had a lot of rentals,” she said.
Long’s three grown children were ski racers at Stevens Pass, and a middle son, Brian Long, raced in Europe.
“Nobody said it’s the Olympics, but in the last few weeks we’ve never seen so many people who have never skied before,” said Long, adding that her ski school has 400 to 500 people taking lessons this season, ages 3 to 65.
Moms watching their daughters skate at the rink Thursday said the sport becomes a family affair, as kids spend hours on ice and travel to events.
Stephanie Anderson, who works at the rink, said her 16-year-old daughter, Kaysa Anderson, is involved in both figure skating and ice hockey. “She plays with Washington Wild, an all-female hockey team,” said Anderson, of Lake Stevens. Kaysa was awake in the wee hours Thursday to see the U.S. women’s hockey team win gold in Pyeongchang.
“These girls get skating in their blood,” said Marysville’s Melanie Moore, whose 10-year-old daughter, Maddie Grace, won the 2018 Pacific Northwest Regionals at the Pre-Juv level.
Moore said her family has recorded Olympic broadcasts, then fast-forwarded through them to watch “skating only.” She sat with other moms watching Thursday’s practice.
Shannon Stulc, of Stanwood, was there with 8-year-old Ashley and Megan, 10. The girls’ father has been a hockey player, Stulc said.
Tippi Mathison, president of the Everett Figure Skating Club’s board, said her daughter, 13-year-old Riley, broke a front tooth while skating. And Megan Stulc suffered a bump on the chin.
“She chose glue over stitches and was back on the ice the next day,” Stulc said.
“These girls are tough,” said Moore. “Skating teaches them about perseverance, no matter how far the sport takes them.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Xfinity Community Ice Rink has scheduled a free skate 6-7:15 p.m. March 5, with no charge for admission or skate rental. Anyone signing up for Learn to Skate sessions that evening will get 10 percent off lessons. The rink is at 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett.
Skaters with the Everett Figure Skating Club are scheduled to perform during the first intermission at the Everett Silvertips hockey game Friday. The game starts at 7:35 p.m. at Angel of the Winds Arena.