Eyes on Turin, feet at rink
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Eloise Aguiar
No Hawai'i resident has ever competed in Olympic figure skating events.
Easy access to the sun and surf may have something to do with that.
But every time the Winter Olympics get under way, the Zamboni at the Ice Palace skating rink goes into overdrive and local TV ratings for skating competitions go through the roof.
For 10-year-old Crystal Nguyen, all this means her dream of someday being the next Sasha Cohen — or the first Olympic figure skater from Hawai'i — may not be so far-fetched.
And she's not alone.
Nguyen, a fifth-grader at Kapalama Elementary School, said she is watching the Olympics each night with her family and studying the athleticism and artistry. She even has a motto for herself: "Never give up."
Nguyen was one of several skaters at the Ice Palace yesterday who were practicing before settling in to watch last night's competition. KHNL News 8, the local TV affiliate televising the games, said Hawai'i's viewership for the Winter Olympics is higher than most anywhere on the Mainland.
"Olympic games telecast in Hawai'i have traditionally gone anywhere from 35 percent to 75 percent higher than the Mainland rating," said John Fink, KHNL station general manager. "People in Hawai'i love the Olympics."
The games also benefit the ice skating business, said Corinne Beck, manager for Ice Palace.
"Every Olympic year we get a major influx and it's not only in classes, it's general interest in ice skating," Beck said. "We have a lot of people who come down just to see what it's like."
Samantha Stevens, 10, said her mother was going to make popcorn and have ice cream ready for last night's women's figure skating event, the long program. Japan's Shizuka Arakawa received the highest score and won the gold medal. Both Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya fell during their programs, dropping from 1-2 rankings after the short program to silver and bronze.
Hours before the broadcast, Samantha, a fifth-grader at Honolulu Waldorf School, was practicing her own jumps and spins.
Stevens said it takes determination and passion to become a good skater but that's not all.
"My mom really helps me a lot" as an enthusiastic supporter, she said.
Part of the reason the rink was so busy yesterday was in preparation for an upcoming figure skating competition here. Several skaters poured their energy into routines they'll perform in the Skate Aloha competition, set for 2 p.m. March 9 and 2:30 p.m. March 10 at the Ice Palace. Admission is free.
"The motivation from watching such good skaters is helpful," said Asia Nakakura, a 19-year-old University of Hawai'i student. "It's like giving you extra drive when you're practicing."
Nakakura, a senior-ranked skater who has been lacing-up for 16 years, will compete against dozens of skaters from Hawai'i and the Mainland in the event.
Another Skate Aloha competitor, Dennis Dunn, 58, said his tot class, for children ages 3 to 8, swelled from 10 to 30 after the games started earlier this month.
"We've been overwhelmed," said Dunn, who took up the sport at age 50 when his daughter started. "It seems to start before the Olympics with the promotional buildup."
Dunn said skaters will likely spend a lot of time scrutinizing Olympic technique and flair.
"When you see them do it you have an opportunity to examine ... how it's done in a more concentrated way," he said, adding that much of what he's seen on TV validates what his coaches are telling him.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at firstname.lastname@example.org.