The Inside Edge: Hamilton stays heavily involvedOlympic legend to emcee 'Skate for Hope,' develop skating school
Scott Hamilton and Sarah Hughes will be the guest emcees for this year's "Skate for Hope" cancer fundraiser taking place May 3 in Bowling Green, Ohio.
"It's kind of a trifecta," said Hamilton, who was raised in Bowling Green. "It's Bowling Green, it's skating, and it's to fight cancer -- that's as good as it gets. I lost my mother to cancer; I've survived cancer. Anything I can do for cancer, I'll do. It's become kind of my number one goal: to do everything I can while I'm living to fight this disease."
As always, the show was organized by "Skate for Hope" founder Carolyn Bongirno. Stars expected to be in attendance include Max Aaron, Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, Rachael Flatt, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Emily Samuelson, Caitlin Yankowskas and Hamish Gaman, Dan Hollander, and Emily Hughes. (Hughes and her mother Amy, who is a cancer survivor, will be at the show for the 10th time).
This year, proceeds from the event will benefit the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative. To date, Skate For Hope has raised more than $500,000 for breast cancer research; Bongirno said that her goal is to raise another $500,000 in the next five years.
"'Skate for Hope' is profoundly honored that one of our sport's greatest icons and legends will join us," Bongirno said. "As a cancer survivor, I am most grateful for Scott's dedication to create funding for cancer research."
Bongirno admitted that it has been hard to book guest skaters in the post-Olympic season.
"We booked our date before the Stars On Ice tour was announced, so our show does occur the same day as SOI in Chicago," she said. "While we will miss many of the skaters that have joined us in past years, we look forward to having them back in 2015 and welcoming many new skaters to the SFH family. We are tremendously grateful to each athlete that has graced our ice since we began in 2004."
Hamilton, meanwhile, recently announced the formation of the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. Hamilton will serve as an active principal in the academy, and he told us his involvement might eventually be very hands-on.
"I'm thinking that I'm being drawn into a more established identity in coaching," he said. "I want to get this off the ground first. We'll see what works, what doesn't work. We'll create something that's fun, that's inviting, that makes skating a destination."
Hamilton said he had been thinking about starting a skating school for years. If the school flourishes in Nashville, he is considering expanding.
"I've talked about it over the years -- I just never made time for it," he said. "I've done a lot of the 'all about me' stuff for a long time. I feel like now is the time for me to roll up my sleeves and do what I can. We're in the process of hiring the director. I've talked to a few potentials; I want to bring someone in who's been successful somewhere else. The possibilities for growth in this market are pretty strong. If I feel like it's where I want it, I might consider taking it out to other rinks."
The new Ford Ice Center is a component of a public-private partnership between the Nashville Predators of the NHL and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Hamilton said the hockey team wanted to bring figure skating into the rink, and turned to him to make it happen.
"I want to make skating more exciting for boys to get involved with," Hamilton said. "Every kid who's going to be involved in the hockey program is going to go through the learn-to-skate program first. Maybe they'll think, 'I like all the jumping and spinning. Maybe I'd like to give figure skating a try.'"
Hamilton is hoping to make the program appealing to dads as well as moms, so they'll get their kids involved at the Basic Skills level. And he hopes to make skating fun and cool, so that boys will want to participate.
"If we can make it fun enough, teach them some things, make them excited about the possibilities in figure skating, that's great," he said. "It's easier for a dad to look at a learn-to-skate program if the director is a guy who's been successful. The guys will come up and say, 'I'm a football, baseball kind of guy.' And I'm like, 'You're who I've been skating for!' It's the guys sitting back in their chairs with their chins down and their arms crossed. They were my test market; they were the ones I was going after as a performer."
Plans are in the works for some hockey tournaments at the rink, and Hamilton feels that figure skating competitions will eventually be in the picture, too.
"Nashville has hosted nationals; it's very dynamic, very diverse," he said. "I imagine that once we've built the skating program up, once we have an idea of what we are, attracting competitions to Nashville is a no-brainer. It's in a great part of Nashville, right off the interstate. We want to create our own space and get people on the ice who may not have had access before."
The Ford Ice Center is scheduled to open in August 2014.
Kaitlin Budd and Matthew Blackmer, who won a U.S. bronze medal together as intermediates, have reunited as a pairs team after splitting with their previous partners. They skated together from 2007 to 2010. Blackmer later paired up with Britney Simpson, with whom he won the 2013 U.S. junior title. Budd and partner Nikita Cheban were the 2013 U.S. novice silver medalists and finished ninth at the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Blackmer, 22, has been looking for a partner since he and Simpson split last December.
After reconnecting with Budd in Detroit this spring, he invited the 17-year-old to come to Colorado Springs, Colo., for a week-long tryout with him.
"The first day we skated together, I was like, 'This is it,'" he said. "The second we started skating together, Dalilah [Sappenfield] perked up right away. There was such ease to our movement together."
"I'm glad I found Matt," Budd said. "We've both grown a lot since the last time we skated. It's amazing how much we've both improved."
As they moved on to lifts and throws, the two skaters were delighted to find that their timing came right back and everything clicked.
"The technical aspect was unparalleled," Blackmer said. "We had two throw triples on the second day. The lifts were all good: lasso, star, overhead. Dalilah called me right after I left the rink, and she was like, 'We need to talk. This is the girl!' For her to get that excited was really something special. And I felt it too; I felt that natural ease, that connection."
"We already have a connection," Budd added. "Usually when you first pair up with someone, it's kind of awkward. But we already have that."
As well as coaching the new team, Sappenfield will choreograph both of its programs. She has already chosen the music, and the short program will refer to the team's past together.
Budd will move to Colorado Springs permanently after her high school graduation in June. Budd and Blackmer hope to compete over the summer, with the goal of competing at sectionals and perhaps even at an international.
"We're going to try and get out as many times as possible to give ourselves as much mileage as possible, with the ultimate goal of competing internationally this season," Blackmer said.
Congratulations to two-time U.S. pairs medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim on their engagement.
Watch for our "Person of the Year" piece, coming soon.
Sarah and Drew
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