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Lake Placid skaters shine on home ice

November 7, 2019
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Competitive adult figure skaters from the Skating Club of Lake Placid had strong showings in multiple divisions on their home ice Oct. 14-19, at the ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition at the Olympic Center.

The competition, taking place in the 1980 Herb Brooks arena, boasted 250 skaters, 157 of which were from the United States. All competitors were required to be age 28 or older, and were divided into categories based on technical ability and age class.

This event marked the first time the U.S. hosted an ISU International Adult competition. Other ISU International Adult competition locations include Vancouver, Canada and Oberstdorf, Germany, the latter having hosted an ISU Adult Figure Skating competition annually since 2006. Lake Placid was chosen to host because of its importance in the adult skating community.

Article Photos

Lake Placid Skating Club members from the left: Gina Jadwisiak, David Kobe, Christie Sausa, Carly Brox, Hannah Walton, Karen Kan and James Gann gather on the ice at the Olympic Center’s 1932 Jack Shea Arena.
Provided photo — Christie Sausa

"Lake Placid is an ideal host for this competition because it's a town that's rich in elite skating history," Adult Skating Committee Chair Aviva Cantor said. "Additionally, Lake Placid has hosted the U.S. Adult Championships more than any other host city. It feels like home for many adult skaters."

What sets adult competition events apart from open amateur events is the level of support and camaraderie, which includes the tradition of "tossie throwing," in which audience members give each competitor various small gifts of candy and novelties. At some competitions, these are thrown on the ice, but in Oberstdorf and in Lake Placid, baskets were carried throughout the audience to collect the gifts, lending a festive and congenial atmosphere. Every skater, no matter their age or level, received tossies and generous applause, and even competitors in the same group cheered for each other. Even those who were competing volunteered for the Skating Club of Lake Placid. Unlike most other competitive sporting events, adult figure skating events are characterized by fun and encouragement among competitors. For most, this was the best part of the event.

"The highlight (of the competition) was the camaraderie that comes with most adult skating competitions. This one was different from all of the previous United States Adult Championships we had attended because of the opportunity to meet skaters who are passionate about the sport from numerous countries around the world," said Skating Club of Lake Placid member David Kobe, who with his wife Gina Jadwisiak competed in the Gold Free Dance event.

"I (was happy) to meet adult skaters from around the world, and practice my French and German," added SCLP member Karen Kan, who with husband James Gann, skated in four events between them, medaling in all.

Approximately 10 countries were represented in the event, and included Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, and Hong Kong, China.

Ten competitors from the Skating Club of Lake Placid enjoyed their expereince being part of the action. Although the competition's international nature required them to represent their home country rather than their home club, the club members were tight-knit teammates, supporting each other during their events and soaking up the experience of skating on home ice. Together, they represented nearly every competition category from Bronze to Masters, competing in artistic, free skating, pairs, and ice dance events. For all except Karen Kan, this was their first adult International competition.

Appropriately, a Skating Club of Lake Placid member opened the competition as the first skater in the first event. Hannah Walton, skating in Bronze Ladies Artistic Class I to Ciara's "Paint it Black," placed second at her first ISU adult competition.

"It was nice to be able to compete on home ice, especially since I probably wouldn't have done the international adult competition for a few years otherwise," said Walton. "Medalling for me was definitely a highlight. I didn't have any expectations for placing, so you can imagine my surprise when I found myself on the podium receiving a medal."

Walton hopes to compete more in the future and will no doubt use this experience as inspiration for future events.

"My main focus right now is continuing to work with my coach to develop my skills and athleticism as a skater, as well as be able to skate freely and do programs I am inspired by," she said.

Skating in Bronze Ladies Artistic III, Marjorie Wengert, originally of Jamesville, placed fourth. She also placed in the top 10 in the Bronze Ladies FS Class III event.

SCLP member Valerie Jahn, who lives in Mahwah, New Jersey and frequently trains in Lake Placid, placed fourth in the Silver Ladies Artistic Class I event, and felt proud to do so well in her first ISU competition.

"When I first stepped out onto the ice it gave me the chills. But the good kind," Jahn said. "I loved every minute of skating on home ice."

After this event, Jahn hopes to compete in the 2020 ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Oberstdorf, Germany May 17-23.

Versatile skaters Karen Kan and James Gann chose to skate in singles, artistic, pairs, and dance events, making for a busy but successful competition. Kan, a spiritual teacher, and Gann, a Wing Chun instructor and CrossFit athlete, had competed at other adult competitions, but this was their first ISU event as a team. Individually, Kan and Gann won bronze and gold in Silver Ladies Artistic Class III and Silver Men's FS Classes II and III, respectively. Gann was especially grateful for his experience and hopes to compete in Oberstdorf, Germany, as his wife Karen Kan has done.

"I like skating with adults. It's incredibly supportive, and I was a lot less nervous skating at home," Gann said. "(My goal) is maximizing my IJS score through stronger technical elements in all my programs so I can skate well and win in Oberstdorf, Germany, in the future."

As a team, they placed second in the Intermediate Pairs Artistic, and won gold in the Bronze Free Dance. In all of their events, they skated clean, meaning no mistakes were made. The free dance was especially poignant as their former coach Jack Devitt and his daughter Ruthie travelled to Lake Placid to watch the event, which they dedicated to Devitt's late wife, Joan, who had always encouraged them to ice dance. Having been coached in pairs skating by Jack Devitt for many years, they were happy that he was able to attend the event.

"We dedicated our pairs artistic free skate to Jack and we won silver in that event so we're thrilled," Kan said.

Overall, they were very happy with their experience at the competition.

"Highlights for the event included skating three clean programs, winning medals in all three, and having the officials come up to us afterwards and tell us they 'loved' our free dance. Our goal is always to tell an interesting story on the ice and to make the audience feel good watching us skate," explained Kan.

Also skating in multiple events, Gina Jadwisiak competed in Silver Ladies Artistic Class III, placing in the top 10, and later in the week competed in the Gold Free Dance event with husband David Kobe, where they won the bronze medal.

"We met our goals of getting new personal best scores and we were very excited to get level 3 marks with a positive grade of execution for one of our lifts," said Kobe.

Jadwisiak and Kobe will be next be training for the U.S. Adult Championships in Newark, Delaware April 14-18 2020.

Skating to "Puttin' on the Ritz", Pat Cannamela competed in Gold Ladies Artistic Class III.

"All the skaters were so friendly and supportive which made it a terrific experience. Home ice was great for my first competition because there was a comfort level already there," said Cannamela. Moving forward, her goal is to continue to improve.

In Masters Ladies Artistic Class I, Christie Sausa skated flawlessly to "Time to Say Goodbye" by Sarah Brightman, earning her first adult and ISU adult gold medal. She also competed in Masters Ladies FS Class I, placing fourth.

Carly Brox, who divides her time between her home in Waterloo, Ontario and Lake Placid, enjoyed the support from her fellow Skating Club of Lake Placid members and Canadian friends.

"I was a bit nervous but mostly excited to compete. I had so much fun. I skated a clean program and got a new personal best and placed fifth out of 20 skaters," said Brox. "Also I had a lot of fun meeting skaters from other countries. This was a great experience for my very first ISU adult international competition."

The message of the ISU International Adult Competition was that skaters of all ages and abilities can still compete and excel. Although the event was hosted by the International Skating Union (ISU), Adult Skating Committee members from US Figure Skating were there in full force to support and participate in the event. US Figure Skating has even started an Adult Skating initiative, Adults Skate Too, in which the point is made that skating is not just a sport for children or teenagers.

Perhaps the spirit of the Adults Skate Too movement was best summed up by Karen Kan.

"I'm inspired watching other adults over 50 skating technical programs," she said. "I'd like to improve on my technical skills and endurance so that I can win medals in freestyle singles and pairs events. The older I get, the better I'm going to skate."

For more information on the event, including results, visit



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