I get some funny responses when friends and family at home find out that my kids took up figure skating after we moved to the desert. Ice-skating in the UAE? Is it for real? I can assure you that there are hundreds of kids of all ages throughout the region donning long pants and sweatshirts every day, even in August, and taking to the ice. But, you don’t have to take my word for it: this Spring, figure skating in the region takes centre stage in Dubai with two competitions to be held at Al Nasr Leisureland.
The first is the 2012 Golden Cup of Dubai Figure Skating Championship on April 28 and 29. Open to the public, and hosted by Queen of the Ice World, a Dubai-based figure skating academy, the competition will feature nearly 100 skaters from fifteen countries across a range of events.
‘The Championship will follow the rules of the International Skating Union, and will be evaluated by master coaches and judges from Europe and the USA,’ says Kristina Azurra, the academy’s managing director.
Locally-based British figure skating brother and sister, Emilia and Henry Drury took part in last year’s Golden Cup and say they’re looking forward to the competition again this year. The two take skating seriously and are home schooled in order to free up their time to practice. Emilia, 10, explains how she practices every day but is struggling with her double salchow as she tries to perfect it for the competition. ‘I like the Golden Cup because there are so many competitors from all over the world and I have never seen them skate before,’ she adds.
Her brother Henry, 12, is in the next level up from his sister, and will have a short and long programme to perform during the contest. He explains the challenge: ‘You have the technical elements as well as quite a lengthy programme, you have to work on your ice coverage and speed, interpretation of music and how you present it. You have to jump up into the air, squeeze yourself half to death for the rotation and then actually absorb the impact in your knee upon landing. I have been working really hard at my double jumps: if you don’t jump high you cannot rotate 720-degrees in time, but then if you don’t make it you hit the ice hard! In other words, it’s easier said than done.’
Two weeks later on May 11 and 12, Al Nasr Leisureland will host the UAE Open Figure Skating Championship. The competition will feature nearly 100 skaters from teams representing Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Oman and Qatar. ‘It is a wonderful supportive atmosphere and a good chance for skaters to show off the hard work they have been putting in at the rink all year,’ says event coordinator Luda Kalenuk. ‘It is a minor sport in the region and this is an excellent opportunity for us to come together.’ Skaters will compete in a variety of categories including technical (which shows what they can do within their level), artistic (which shows off what a skater can do overall), and the lighter spotlight categories (where skaters can team up with a friend or family member and skate to fun music and carry props).
Emilia and Henry will compete in this competition as well. ‘This event is fun because you are a part of a team with your friends and at the same time competing against them,’ Emilia says.
Abu Dhabi Figure Skating Team (ADFST) head coach, Noemi Bedo says, ‘We are taking 24 skaters from the ADFST and look forward to the opportunity for our team members to display what they have been learning. It also gives them competition experience that they can use at the international competition, called the Desert Open Figure Skating Championship 2012 Second Edition, which we will be hosting in June in Abu Dhabi.’
For my own family, the UAE Figure Skating Championship will be both of my daughters’ first competitions. They are nervous but eager for the experience. ‘I’m curious to see if I win any prizes,’ says Jania, seven, who will skate to a song from Tarzan.
‘I can’t wait to wear my new sparkly dresses!’ chips in fashion-victim Lolita, eight, who has chosen Zippedy Doo Dah as her theme song. They are currently skating four days per week getting their routines prepared for the Spotlight and Technical categories they will compete in.
Spectators are welcome both days at the Championship but Luda suggests: ‘The best day for spectators is the second because it is the artistic contest which will be less technically-oriented and of a higher level and thus more interesting to watch.’
Come and see for yourself, at the least it will cool you and your family down on a hot day!