International figure-skating coach visits city
Candi Diaz has been coaching figure skaters for three decades.
As she stood beside the rink in the Janesville Ice Skating Center on Saturday morning, Diaz looked at the dozens of girls—some as young as 5—that were gliding across the ice.
"There are a lot of athletic kids here in Janesville," said Diaz. "A lot of athletic kids."
Diaz, who moved here 10 years ago from Chicago, takes a few of the more talented skaters in the Janesville Figure Skating Club to the Ice Castle International Training Center Ice Skating Rink in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., for a training camp in July.
One of the coaches there is Rafael Arutyunyan. The native of Russia is known around the world in figure skating, having coached five-time World Champion Michelle Kwan, who is a native of Lake Arrowhead.
His recent trainees include Canadian native Jeffrey Buttle and Mao Asada, who claimed the 2008 Men's and Ladies World Champion titles, respectively.
Arutyunyan was standing just a few feet away from Diaz. Arutyunyan flew to Wisconsin to conduct a seminar for young skaters, who came from as far as Chicago on Saturday.
"Normally I don't do seminars," Arutyunyan said. "I'm am so busy with my skaters. There is no time."
But because of his friendship with Diaz, he agreed to come to the Midwest on Saturday to hand out pointers and discuss skating during the five-hour seminar.
Arutyunyan, who has been coaching for 35 years, moved to the United States just before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
He says a good coach must be able see both positives and negatives in skaters, and be willing to work around the clock.
With the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver just concluded, outsiders might consider this a down time for figure skaters. Just the opposite is true.
"This is the most important time," Arutyunyan said. "This is the preparation period. Everything starts right now, and then you just slide into everything.
"Four years is a very short time. We don't count like three months or two weeks. No, no, no. It's years and years of training."
Elite skaters have to have exceptional ability to start with, and have to get on the ice when they are 4 to 5 years of age, Arutyunyan said.
"It's fun and work together," Arutyunyan said.
The Janesville Figure Skating Club has one 12-year-old member from Madison who is training in Salt Lake City after winning the Upper Great Lakes Regional title this year.
With the dozens of youngsters who were participating in the Learn to Skate program Saturday morning, there could be more of those coming out of the Janesville Figure Skating Club.