Over 10 days, campers from ages 7 to 25 from Brazil and Chile hit the ice to improve their techniques and confidence.
Written by Kimberly Marselas – Reading Eagle correspondent
The ice at Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex had some South American flair last week, as 13 figure skaters from Brazil and Chile hit the rink to improve their techniques and their confidence.
Over 10 days, campers from ages 7 to 25 used two official-sized rinks, learned from American professionals and trained on agility equipment and devices designed to boost skills and stamina.
Body Zone Ice Skating Instructor Andrei Lavrentiev organized the camp in conjunction with Cristina Garcia, director of figure skating for Brazil. Lavrentiev is an advisor, trainer and coach for the country’s International Skating Union and has previously taken American skaters to Brazil to grow the sport’s popularity there.
While Brazil formed its Ice Sports Federation in 1996, most of the nation’s rinks are too small for competitors to build up the endurance needed to compete a 4-minute free skate on a 30-meter by 60-meter rink. Between the coaching and equipment available in Berks, the South Americans made strides in just a week and a half.
Most of our skaters are just beginning their international experience, Garcia said. I could have chosen anywhere in the world. The people and the resources here make it possible to have a well-rounded athlete.
One new opportunity for several skaters was using a skating harness to practice faster rotations with better positioning and less fall risk.
They got stronger and more flexible, Lavrentiev said. All of them were working very hard. Some did jumps they have never done before.
Lavrentiev and Body Zone Director of Skating Programs Audrey Turner coached for up to four hours a day, while South American coaches assisted with translation.
Some skaters stayed at the Homewood Suites, while others roomed with local skaters. Dina Magistro and her husband hosted two young skaters and the Brazilian coaches at their home in Spring Township.
Magistro is a student of Lavrentiev’s who started training as a figure skater in 2006, after her children left for college. She’s gotten to know Garcia and her husband, fellow coach Eduardo, through Lavrentiev and their Disney on Ice connection.
Cristina wants to encourage skating in her country, Magistro said. What’s she done with them is really incredible.
Most of the visitors’ time was spent working. But highlights also included a presentation by Wyomissing’s Joan Gruber, an Olympic figure skating judge, and a trip to see Disney on Ice featuring Body Zone skater Leocadia Lellig.
Two of the South American skaters planned to audition for Disney themselves before heading home, hoping the endurance they built over 10 days on a full-size rink would give them a competitive boost.
The group planned to spend three days in New York City before returning to South America on Tuesday.
Garcia said she hopes to run another camp at Body Zone next year, though finances create a challenge for the skaters and their families. All except one sponsored athlete paid their own way to the U.S.
Contact Kimberly Marselas: [email protected]