Ice skating's Olympic effect


February 28, 2002|By Megan Watzin and Jamie Smith Hopkins | Megan Watzin and Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

This is ice skating's magic moment.

Without warning or reservations, people are swarming into rinks everywhere with new skates and fantasies of jumping gracefully into the spotlight. The pros haven't seen anything like it - for four years.

That's the power of the Olympics.

"The whole thing sells," said Pat Muth, who has taught at Columbia Ice Rink since 1971 and has seen the quadrennial trend again and again.

"The clothing sells, the lessons sell - [our] phones are ringing off the hook because they've been watching the television," Muth said.

About 500 people have enrolled in group lessons at the Columbia rink, up at least 200 from last year, Muth said.

A hundred extra people are showing up for public sessions at Mount Pleasant Ice Arena in Baltimore.

Nationwide, all the ice sports benefit, not just figure skating but also speed skating and hockey. Still, the jumps and spins are often what get the most attention.

"People see it on television and immediately know that their child can do that," said Patti Feeney, managing director of member programs and services for the Ice Skating Institute, an international organization based in Dallas.

"It really seems in reach. ... As soon as they see that 3-year-old pirouetting around the living room, they're sure that's natural talent," she said. "There's an Olympic star born every hour."

Muth is seeing the signs. One little girl showed up this week for her first foray onto ice - wearing a skating skirt and tights.

"She was freezing," Muth said. "But that was all she talked about at home: being an Olympic skater."

Competitive figure skaters such as 13-year-old Ashley Brooks have thrown themselves into practice with renewed vigor.

"During the Olympics I could hardly tear her away from the TV - she loved it," said Ashley's mother, Laure Brooks, watching the skaters twist and turn on the Columbia ice. "I think everyone here has been energized."

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