Article by Georgina Cammayo | Owl Staff
A breakup. That is what ultimately led me to sign up for figure skating lessons again at 26.
In my quest to find a positive outlet to keep myself busy and not overly emotional, I rediscovered a hobby I had forgotten over the years. Captivated by the sport once more, I began skating frequently and discovered I was not alone. Other adults on the ice inspired me, as they all have stories to tell.
Stephen Kavanaugh, 41, is often seen doing laps in his military uniform during public sessions in Ice World, Abingdon. He has been skating for over twenty years and has taken adult hockey instructional lessons in several duty stations throughout his career. “I love the sport,” he says. “I love just skating out on the ice. It’s something to teach my kids and it’s just overall fun.”
Another Ice World regular, Alicia Orlando, is a tennis instructor who playfully refuses to give away her age other than being over 60. She circles the rink week after week, taking small strokes at a time. She remembers skating on cleared frozen ponds while music played in the background. “We never had rinks when we were growing up,” she shares. “That’s how I met my husband. We were teenagers on a frozen pond.”
In addition to recreational skating, the sport also offers opportunities to perform. Fine Wine is an adult performance troupe composed of about 15 adults mostly in their 30’s-60’s at Mt. Pleasant Ice Arena in Baltimore. Artistic Director Jeffrey Nolt creates original pieces twice a year for shows at Mt. Pleasant. “A lot of adults never want to join because they’re scared of skating in front of people,” he says. However, members learn to face their fears and insecurities regardless of skill level.
Heather Piepenburg, Figure Skating Director of Ice World, has been skating since she was seven years old. “I really enjoy it because you feel free,” she says. “You can just take your mind off everything else…and really enjoy the jumps and the spins and feeling like you’re a kid again.”
She encourages adult participation because “it’s a great way to meet other people. It’s also a great way to motivate yourself because there’s always a goal. You’re always working towards getting to a higher level and learning new skills.”
Like Heather, Dennis Glorioso’s involvement traces back to childhood. The 57-year-old was pulled into the sport early on but was forced to withdraw after suffering hearing loss in his late teens. It wasn’t until 13 years ago, when he got his cochlear implant that he started skating consistently again and began training for adult competitions. “Skating with a hearing problem sometimes is a challenge,” he says. “But I keep working at it because I love it. I like to keep challenging myself to do better and be stronger.”
For Barclay Gibbs, 32, skating was a childhood dream that she put on hold until later. “I loved watching skating on TV when I was little,” she says. “But I was really focused on pursuing ballet as a profession. I was dancing every day, so I didn’t have time to take skating lessons too.” Now as Artistic Director of Dance Conservatory of Maryland, she finds figure skating offers an exercise that is “way more fun than going to the gym and running in place for an hour.”
Suzanne Himmerich, also 32, is a medical sales representative who began taking lessons at 17. She was 27 years old when she competed and won gold in her first Adult Nationals, a competition for skaters 21 and over at a variety of levels. “I think skating is fun,” Suzanne says. “It’s a stress reliever. It always seems that you come here, and you skate and you just forget about anything going on in your life. You walk out of here kind of renewed and you feel fresh and happy.”
Apart from figure skating, hockey is another popular ice-skating sport for adults. According to Ed Slusher, Ice World’s Hockey Director, adult hockey participants include those who engage in competitive sports, those who play recreationally, and those who are still getting to know the sport through the adult instructional program.
“I offer most adults the advice of just coming out to try skating before getting started with hockey,” Ed says. “For adults that are able to skate already, I offer them an adult instructional option or a power skating class to brush up on their skating before we involve pucks.”
Various adults come together in the rink for a multitude of reasons because ice skating goes beyond the technical aspects of the sport. The skating motto “Fall, get up. Fall, get up” teaches that a hobby is more than a pastime. It also helps form character and instill a life lesson applicable to a person of any age, and one that I was lucky to come by at a time when I needed it.