Skating circles around their foes

Parkland’s Briana Bajic loves the feeling she gets when she is skating on the ice.

She felt even more thrilled following her recent performance in a prestigious state attraction.

“It’s amazing,” said Bajic, 16, who placed third in the Novice Ladies Long Program and fourth in the Novice Ladies Short Program at the Orange Blossom Skating Competition in Oldsmar. “You can do whatever you want on the ice, and it is just pure happiness.”

She’s among several Broward skaters who have recently excelled at state and national showcase events. Bajic, who is home-schooled, competes for the Palm Beach Skating Club at the Palm Beach Skate Zone in Lake Worth. She’s long had aspirations of skating in the Olympics.

“I love how you are able to express yourself in any way and you can just have fun with it,” Bajic said. “You feel like you are free.”

Bajic knows what it takes to be an Olympic-level figure skater, having trained on the same ice with former Olympian and 2006 World Champion Kimmie Meissner.

“I thought, (‘Wow), I am skating with an Olympian,'” Bajic said. “As you get to know her, you realize she is just one of us. It was so much fun.”

It also gives her hope that she can someday skate on the biggest of stages.

“I started thinking about the Olympics when I saw Michelle Kwan skating, and I was just amazed by it. I was thinking, ‘I want to do that one day,'” said Bajic, who competed in this year’s South Atlantic Regionals and won a silver medal in the Novice Division of last year’s Miami Open.

Alexa Brooks, 15, of Fort Lauderdale, is continuing a family tradition. Her mother and grandfather also skated, and Alexa first hit the ice at age 3.

A sophomore at Cardinal Gibbons High School, Brooks skates out of the Glacier Ice and Snow Arena in Pompano Beach and represented the Palm Beach Figure Skating Club in recent competitions.

She captured a gold medal in the Pre-Juvenile Silver Footwork Division and a bronze medal in the Pre-Juvenile Silver Solo Division during the recent State Games of America competition in San Diego.

She went on to win three gold medals and a silver medal in the Miami Open in Kendall Aug. 19-21.

“This has been one of my best years skating,” said Brooks, who spent some time away from the sport to try horseback riding when she moved to New York. She realized, however, that she missed skating.

“Winning is so good, but it doesn’t stop there. I will always go and buy the (competition) video and watch it to see how I can improve and if I am doing anything wrong,” Brooks said.

Brooks also has Olympic aspirations and would like to be in the Disney on Ice show. She knows it will take dedication and hard work in addition to good grades.

“I like how this is an individual sport, and I don’t have to rely on anyone other than myself,” Brooks said. “It’s very difficult. I train six days a week, and sometimes seven, for about 3.5 hours a day and then off the ice (I work on) jumping, running and spinning.”

Palm Beach Figure Skating Club Coach Calla Urbanski took seven girls to the State Games of America event. There were five girls from the Palm Beach Skate Zone and two from Glacier Ice. “This was the first time they went to the State Games of America (event in California),” Urbanski said. “It was very much like the Olympics. It is not about winning; it is about participating.”

Urbanski said the skaters work hard and are typically on the ice by 5:50 a.m.

“They need to embrace that training is hard,” Urbanski said. “There is always a challenge, and when they get to a new level, they have to step up to that challenge because it will help them grow.”

Urbanski’s skaters were involved in a series of exhibitions locally prior to hitting the road for the bigger competitions. “If you can do it in front of your peers, it is easier for you to do it in competition,” she said.

Urbanski enjoys working with the skaters.

“I love it. There is a lot of energy that you can feel among the skaters, and to be able to share (that enthusiasm for) the sport is great,” Urbanski said. “(Skating) is a healthy thing to do. … There is a lot of glory in it, even without the medals. You get out there and do your absolute best and walk away feeling good.”

Gary Curreri can be reached at SportsCom5@aol.com.

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/parkland/fl-cnsp-centerbr-0904-20110904,0,7622815.story?track=rss

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