Town competition a main event for local ice skaters [SLIDESHOW]

Last Sunday, as many of the world’s premier athletes were busy wrapping up the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, a host of local skaters were engaged in staging their own dramatic on-ice showdown at the Dorothy Hamill Rink in Greenwich.

This popular annual event, reputed to be an important kickoff for up-and-coming competitors around the New York metropolitan area, drew more than 120 skaters from Greenwich, Fairfield, Westchester, and Putnam counties and was a veritable success on all fronts.

Chock full of excitement, energy and surprise, it drew more than 300 people, including a host of regional, sectional, national, and world-ranked coaches and officials as well as parents, family friends and volunteers, all of whom were on hand to help support and cheer on the skaters throughout the day.

“These kids seem very focused and driven, but at the same time, they’re also having fun,” said Toni Curcio, a Greenwich coach and original member of the Hamill-based Windy Hill Skating Club, host of the event, when it was first formed back in the early 1980s. “At the same time, it wasn’t just about winning for them.”
In this year’s town competition, Nicole Huber placed first in the Alis W. McCurdy Cup standings. Caroline Park took second and Julia Freedman netted the bronze.

In the Dorothy Hamill Cup, Sophie Abrams finished with the gold, while Tiffany Penella grabbed silver and Taylor Olender finished third.

For the Haggerty Award, Taylor McDonald came away with top honors, while Caroline Carey took second and Allyson Fox took home the bronze.

According to its organizers, the success of this year’s competition was largely due to the fact that is an Olympic season.

That, coupled with the notion that there has been an increased number of young people who have taken up the sport in recent years indicates, on all accounts, that figure skating’s popularity is on a definite upward trajectory both here in Greenwich and around the area.

“There were more people in the stands than there have been in a number of years,” said Chris Abbott, president of the Windy Hill Skating Club. “I think the Olympics definitely were a factor since everyone watched the skating and had a real appreciation for it, but it’s also a very popular sport.”

The coaches agreed.

“It’s exciting for the skaters to be here, as well as everyone else,” said Curcio, who performed with the legendary Ice Capades skating troupe during the late 1990s. “I also think with it being an Olympic year, that made it electric.”

Most of the skaters turned on the power at this event.

Representing the Greenwich Skating Club, Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich and Hamill Rink along with arenas in Stamford, Darien and Norwalk and in Mamaroneck, Elmsford, Katonah, and Brewster, N.Y., they performed with the focus, mind-set and attitude of seasoned competitors and reflected much of the spirit, philosophy and intent of the Olympics.

“The judges were impressed with the level of skating and also commitment of the skaters here,” said Abbott, whose daughter, Brooke, was a member of the Skyliners junior team and a competitor at the junior world synchronized championships in Helsinki, Finland. “The skaters were focused, got along great and were terrific in regard to how they handled themselves.”

Throughout the event, skaters performed at either near or close to their optimal peak right from the basic skills through the highest senior levels, demonstrating much of the superior standard that has come to define American figure skating as a worldwide force in the sport.

“This competition attracts serious skaters who use this as a means to grow as they strive to compete at regional and ultimately national events,” said Abbott. “In many ways, this represents the future for them.”

No doubt, this event, held at the same rink named for the 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill, who grew up in Riverside, serves as an important stepping stone for skaters looking to fulfill their dreams.

“It’s a great first competition for the season because the skaters get to try their programs and all of their elements,” said Gilberto Viadana, a New York-based coach who represented Italy at the 1998 Olympics and International Skating Union technical specialist. “This is a very important event because the skaters see their strengths and also what they need to work on.”

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