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Belgium Olympic Pairs Skater and Olympic Coach Rounding out her coaching team is a group of up-and-

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Hockey Ice Skating paula wagener ice factory

Ice Factory director trying to put figure skating on the map in Osceola

Calla Urbanski works with a student at the Ice Factory.

News-Gazette Photo/Nancy Brigham

Ice skating is a winter sport popular only in cold-weather states, yes? No!

 Many Osceola county residents whose primary exposure to ice sports is perhaps watching elite athletes on television, as they compete on the national and world stages may be surprised to learn that the sport, and all its facets, is available to everyone at The Ice Factory of Central Florida in Kissimmee.

Paula Wagener, director of figure skating at The Ice Factory, is working with the venue to get the word out that ice skating is a sport that is accessible - and affordable - for both children and adults, whether one aspires to compete in the Olympics, or is just looking for a fun and recreational way to escape the Florida heat for a while.

Wagener, a PSA (Professional Skater’s Association International) master rated choreography and style coach, hails from Chicago, and has been with The Ice Factory for two years, during which time she has been using her experience and expertise to build and expand its skating program.

She has a professional background in dance. As a child, Wagener was introduced to ballet by her mother, a ballet instructor, became a ballet dancer, and then a choreographer. Later, while working in gymnastics as a dance trainer and style coach with the Mid-America Twisters in Northbrook, Ill., she was introduced to a world figure skating coach who needed a ballet teacher for off-ice training for her skaters. This led to her being mentored by Evy and Mary Scotvold, who coached Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan. Wagener tells of how the Scotvolds taught her skating, and how to adapt her choreography to skating. She was later mentored by famed skating choreographer, Ricky Harris, whose clients included Olympic gold medalist skater Scott Hamilton. Thereafter, she worked for Advanced Arenas managing skating programs for several skating rinks. She is the author and creator of the Learn to Skate “Artistry in Motion” program, the U.S. choreography and style program recognized and used by U.S. Figure Skating (the national governing body for figure skating). She remains active with U.S. Figure Skating and commutes to New York to work with the Skyliners, a synchronized skating organization with whom she is on staff.

Since joining The Ice Factory staff, Wagener said she has been assembling a skilled and experienced team of skating coaches to help her expand the venue’s skating program, including:

• Calla Urbanski - PSA Level IV Master Rated Coach and 1992 U.S. Olympic Pairs Skater

• David Aretz - PSA Level III Rated Coach, U.S. National Coach, and International Pairs Skater

• Jean Claude Detre - PSA Level VII Ranking, Belgium Olympic Pairs Skater and Olympic Coach

Rounding out her coaching team is a group of up-and-coming coaches she calls the “next generation” that she and her colleagues are training and mentoring. These coaches are becoming PSA members and are pursuing continuing education, including participating in the statewide coaches’ seminar being presented by U.S. Figure Skating in March 2020, which will be hosted by The Ice Factory. Wagener said that this seminar will provide the coaches with instruction to help them hone their teaching skills for the Learn to Skate USA program.

 Learn to Skate USA is a core program at The Ice Factory. Wagener states that it is the only instructional program of its type endorsed by U.S. Figure Skating, U.S.A. Hockey, and U.S. Speed Skating. It is available to skaters ages 4 to adult. The program is offered in eight-week sessions for $125 (plus required $17 annual membership fee with Learn to Skate USA). This program has classes for skaters of varying abilities. The public is invited to come to the rink on Wednesdays, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. or on Saturdays, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for a free group trial lesson. No reservations are required. The hour-long class is comprised of 30 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes of practice. Wagener says the trial lesson is absolutely free and includes skate rental.

Whether learning to skate for recreation or competition, Wagener said all students will get high level training.

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