MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — The only parts of the routine that make Kamden Black nervous are when he lifts his sister or throws her into the air.
If he releases her at the wrong moment or sets her down at the wrong angle, she could fall. The ice below them is cold and hard.
Kayla Black doesn’t get nervous about it. She trusts her brother. He won’t drop her, she said.
Kamden, 13, and Kayla, 10, practice figure skating six days a week at OlympicView Arena in Mountlake Terrace. They are preparing for a national competition.
In January, the siblings from Snohomish are bound for Kansas City, Missouri, for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. They are the only pair in the juvenile category from Washington to qualify, and one of only a dozen juvenile pairs in the country going to the championships. The competition starts Jan. 14.
Kamden and Kayla got into figure skating thanks to their older sister. Karissa Black, now 15, started skating when she was 7 years old. Karissa is “an amazingly smart and talented person who also happens to be autistic,” mom Kendra Black said. Kamden and Kayla started skating after watching her, and when Karissa’s interests shifted from skating to writing music and fiction, her younger siblings stuck with the sport.
“It’s fun to practice because I can be fast and free, but I get nervous in competition,” Kamden said.
“You shouldn’t be,” Kayla told him.
Kayla’s favorite move is called the death spiral, where she gets low to the ice and Kamden spins her around. Kamden likes the jumps. He’s working on jumping higher.
“Learning something new is the hardest because you have to overcome your fear to practice it,” Kayla said.
For Kamden, the biggest challenge in training is the off-ice conditioning he does in order to be able to jump high and lift or throw Kayla. He does upper and lower body workouts, including squats, push-ups and running. Sometimes, on the weekends, he and dad Kevin Black will run for miles.
At competition, the hardest part is smiling the whole time, he said. They’re expected to show emotion and enthusiasm, and it’s tough to keep his face from slipping while he concentrates on the routine.
Kayla has no problem smiling. It’s her default expression.
“I’m always smiling because I’m always happy,” she said.
She’s bubbly, energetic and carefree. He’s quiet, though it’s not because he’s shy, he said. It’s intensity.
“I’m focused on lifting and throwing and turning,” Kamden said. “She smiles in the middle of a jump. I don’t know how she does it.”
She doesn’t care how she places in competition, as long as she has fun, Kayla said. That mentality helps her stay upbeat.
Kayla is in fourth grade in the Snohomish Parent Partnership program. Kamden is in eighth grade at Valley View Middle School.
“It’s hard because I’ll be on the ice and get into my groove, and then I remember I have homework,” Kamden said. “And then I really don’t want to get off the ice.”
They’ve made friends through skating, but there aren’t many boys Kamden’s age who figure skate, he said. In elementary school, students picked on him for his choice of sport. Meanwhile, he was getting up at 6 a.m. to skate before class, then heading straight back to the arena after school for more practice. Now, he has more support. His teacher and friends in band at Valley View gave him a competition send-off before winter break.
Barbara Murphy, a figure skater from Poland, has been coaching Kamden and Kayla for about four years. She’s like their second mom, Kayla said.
“They’ve improved a lot, but there’s still a long ways to go,” Murphy said. “They’re hard workers. They’re motivated. They have good personalities.”
At practice earlier this month, Kayla took fearlessly to the ice, a shiny black bow in her blonde hair. Kamden moved with control and grace as he warmed up. They spun in sync, hands out to their sides. They jumped, turning in the air before landing back on the ice and circling the rink.
Kamden lifted Kayla by the waist and threw her. She touched down without stumbling. Kamden was by her side as they glided over the ice.
Kayla hopes to someday become a figure skating coach. Kamden thinks he’d like to be an orthodontist, but he’s agreed to help Kayla with her coaching when she needs him. There’s no one she trusts more, she said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.
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