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Adult skaters reunite in Lake Placid

August 30, 2019
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid has been a center for adult skating for decades, hosting skating camp weeks catering to skaters 21 and older and previously hosting several U.S. Adult National Championships at the Olympic Center.

With the ISU Adult Competition coming Oct. 14-19, the adult week Aug. 19-24 became even more popular, with several participants attending to prepare for the event.

The first formal Adult Skating Week in Lake Placid was created in 1996, when then-ORDA figure skating program director Karen Courtland-Kelly, of Peak Edge Performance, designed the program with a complete on- and off-ice curriculum for the summer of 1996. At this time, Courtland-Kelly was revamping the entire summer program. Shortly after, two full weeks of adult skating, including well-rounded training in June and August, were added under Peak Edge Performance's contract with ORDA at that time.

Article Photos

Adult camp participants pose for a photo with Oleg Protopopov on Saturday, Aug. 24, following the Adult Skating Show in the 1932 Rink at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. 
Provided photo — Christie Sausa

By taking advantage of at least six hours of ice and 10 hours of group class instruction daily, along with off-ice classes such as yoga and dance, and elite private instruction from coaches like 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie, adult skaters can make great progress during the Adult Skating Week or Weekend. Although the format has changed over the years, with an Adult Skating Weekend offered in June and the full week remaining in August, the program continues to attract skaters from all over the world who wish to improve their skating skills and enjoy skating in the historic Olympic rinks.

Andrea Hillyer, a 54-year-old skater from Rijnsaterwoude, Netherlands, attended Adult Week this summer for the fourth time.

"The amount of ice time and the company of the other skaters (keeps me coming back)," Hillyer said. "My favorite parts of adult week are seeing old friends, making new friends, (performing in the) final show and the post-show reception."

For Helmi Churcher of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, it was her first time at the Lake Placid Adult Week.

"It was a pilgrimage of sorts for me to skate where my idols have," she said. "It's been 25-plus years in the making. Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov and Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov mean the world to me. I see them like a big sister and brother and parents, respectively. Besides making me fall in love with pairs skating through their perfection, I'm so grateful to them for making me believe in love, for showing me a man using his strength to honor a woman and for making me excited about what's possible in life.

"This week, at the end of a class, when Paul Wylie had us skate in a circle holding hands, acknowledging Sergei as Stars On Ice had, I barely held back tears as my heart overflowed with thankfulness."

Churcher was happy to say she met all her goals at the camp, and was grateful for the Adult Skating Week for furthering adult skating.

"I wanted to learn everything I could to improve my artistry, technique and confidence, and to meet Oleg Protopopov. Mission accomplished," she said. "I think this camp is so precious and vital to the preservation and growth of the sport, the quality of life for adults and the fostering of community. Please keep it going and growing! A big thank you to all involved."

Some Skating Club of Lake Placid skaters participated in the Skating Week also.

Hannah Walton, who lived in Maryland and London, England before coming to Lake Placid, enjoyed her time at Adult Week.

"This was my first year really experiencing Adult Week. I really enjoyed the camaraderie, as well as the opportunity to work with adult skaters of different ability levels," Walton said. "I've only been skating for a little over a year and a half, and being able to attend adult week classes and work closely with coaches has helped me advance several skills I've been working on, like my toe loop and sit spin, very quickly."

SCLP member Nancy Cox, who has a home in Lake Placid and also lives in Baltimore, Maryland, has attended Lake Placid adult weeks for six years.

"I only started skating seven years ago, so this has been an important part of my skating journey," Cox said. "I love reuniting with other skaters and coaches who attend most years. ... It's a reunion for sure."

This year, Cox felt she made good progress at the camp, enjoying practicing on-ice, including daily 50-minute lessons with her coach Mimi Wacholder. She also took off-ice classes, which she considers a "best-kept secret" and attributed to helping her get through the long, strenuous week of skating and training.

What seems to attract so many skaters to keep coming back to Lake Placid is the opportunity to meet other skaters, especially those new to the sport.

"It's particularly nice to welcome new skaters to the camp," Cox said. "It's so impressive to hear their stories: how and when they got into skating, and where they skate during the year how they've overcome injuries and challenges is also inspiring. The entire experience is motivating."

For more information on Lake Placid Skating programs, including Adult Week, go to



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