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Editor’s note: Next spring, adult skaters will celebrate a major milestone when the 25th annual U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships is held in Salt Lake City. Hundreds of skaters from across the country will take part in the competition, which has evolved dramatically since the fi rst event was held in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1995. It will undoubtedly be a memorable event for those who have competed or attended all 25 championships and for the individuals who helped to create the adult skating movement from scratch. In the issues of SKATING leading up to this historic event, Lexi Rohner will discuss the many changes that have occurred in adult skating, and share the history of those individuals who have played a major role in the growth of adult skating.


In the beginning ... Finding a club in the late 1980s and early

1990s that allowed adults to skate freestyle sessions or on club ice was diffi cult. “T e attitude at that time was that adults

were OK for dance,” said Joe Kaplenk, chair of the Adult Skating Athlete Advisory Committee (ASAC) in 1992.

While information was minimal and the

Internet new, the conversation about adult skating grew louder. Many adults expressed that they felt ignored by U.S. Figure Skating, while others dismissed them for a lack of quality during sectional competition. Kaplenk held discussions with Carolyn

Kruse, Debbie Storey, Bob Mock and Jack and Eleanor Curtis, who encouraged adult skating. Turnout for a meeting was high, and a list of recommendations and an informal committee eventually became the ASAC, under U.S. Figure Skating President Claire Ferguson. In the now-discontinued publication titled

American Skating World, the magazine’s editor Bob Mock wrote of the sad state of adult skat- ing and the need to organize and present ideas as a group. Online, Kaplenk created the Adult Skaters

Forum, which grew rapidly to include more than 200 adults. “We were determined to see adult skating

progress, with or without offi cial support,” said Kaplenk, who formed the group with Sue Chapman. “One day I got a call from Rhea Schwartz, off ering to help in any way she could.”

Schwartz became vice president, eventually becoming the chair of what is now the Adult Skating Committee. In an article written for SKATING mag-

azine in March 1994 titled “An Introduction to the Adult Skating Advisory Committee,” Kaplenk touched on skating’s history, noting that it was an all-male sport until the early 1900s. Sonja Henie dazzled the public, and “as year-round ice rinks became widespread and training techniques were perfected, it became easier to develop advanced skating skills in younger skaters.” In the early 1960s, adults participated in standard track competitions, which led to


age restrictions, and nothing but recreational skating for adults. In the late 1980s, an adult competed at the juvenile and intermediate championships, resulting in competitive limita- tions for adults below the novice level. A 1993 proposal from Kaplenk and his

group to the U.S. Figure Skating Governing Council requested that a task force be formed to study the viability of an adult national competition. Noted points from this document included: • 280 adult skating starts in the 1992–93 regional and sectional competitions

• A 1992 survey of 300 adults showed 83 percent favored a qualifying adult national competition, with 88 percent desiring fi gures to be a separate event

• Competitive adults commit the same fi nan- ces to skating

• One-third of those surveyed had interest in serving the skating community as volunteers

• Adult skaters serve as excellent role models for younger skaters Subcommittees provided input to related

U.S. Figure Skating committees and offi cials to prove the seriousness of their objective. Some adults wanted inclusion at the U.S. Cham- pionships; others desired their own national event. Under Ferguson, Kaplenk modeled adult skating levels from roller skating, and in 1993, presented to the Governing Council on behalf of ASAC, requesting an adhoc commit- tee. At the 1994 Governing Council, Kaplenk announced the fi nal proposal for the concept of adult nationals, which was accepted by the Board of Directors. “T ere was quite a lot of applause,” Kaplenk said. “T e following year the Compe- titions Committee and Rhea worked to devise a competition.” Kaplenk’s involvement ceased after this, though he continued competing and advocating on behalf of adults. In Kaplenk’s absence, Schwartz became

an even more serious adult skating advocate. Her presence at the annual Governing Council meetings always led to discussions of adult skat- ing. Although many were not interested, others, like Phyllis Howard (2000–03 U.S. Figure Skating president), were supportive. Schwartz was fi nally heard, and U.S. Figure Skating

Visionaries and perseverance led to creation of adult skating BY LEXI ROHNER

sanctioned a developmental competition. On April 20, 1995, the fi rst competitor,

Lynne Kuechle, took the ice at the U.S. Adult Championships. Five years of relentless eff orts had paid off and even exceeded expectations in Wilmington. Schwartz, Howard and organizers thought the turnout would be roughly 200 competitors, but 421 skaters and twice that many starts were the result. Not knowing what was next, but celebrat- ing that this competition was a wild success, the U.S. Adult Championships, aff ectionately known as adult nationals, was born.

Joe Kaplenk

Rhea Schwartz

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