Every four years, fans of the Winter Olympics await with great anticipation the beginning of figure skating competition. It’s a sport which seamlessly blends grace and athleticism, beauty and strength, finesse and explosive movement, and holds a special place in the hearts of fans around the world.
The stories of these athletes often involve time spent away from family and home, sacrifices made in the name of success.
But in Fort Wayne, the possibility of training for national competition is in the heart of the city. A new ice skating performance and demonstration called Winterfest provides ample evidence of the talent being produced locally, but it’s an opportunity available to anyone with the heart to pursue it.
From Russia to Fort Wayne
Alena Lunin, skating director for SportONE Parkview Icehouse, was only four when she began skating in her native Russia. She discovered quickly that she enjoyed it and had a possible future in the sport.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Lunin said. “But since I enjoyed it, I gradually increased the number of hours I’d practice. I knew I had potential, and I knew it meant I could travel and see the world. Knowing that I had those opportunities motivated me the most.”
Lunin competed for 10 years as a professional, and once her competitive career ended, she began coaching along with her husband, Alexander. Twenty years ago, the couple moved to the United States, first settling in California.
“We first went to the San Francisco Bay area, and our son was born there. But California was too expensive after we had a new baby, so we moved to Washington State. We were there 10 years when I found out about this ice rink in Fort Wayne and the opportunity to be skating director. I was here when we opened this facility on February 1, 10 years ago.”
Lunin enjoys working with the skaters but has also enjoyed bringing a new culture to Fort Wayne.
“I enjoy providing opportunities and experiences for the local community,” Lunin said. “I have a lot of experience in a field that hasn’t been in Fort Wayne’s mind before. People who come here do it mostly for fun, but I’ve coached everyone from beginners to national champions.”
Those who want to move toward the champion end of the spectrum can expect to put in many hours, but the good news is the rink is available and ready for them.
“If I start to see potential in my students, I have a talk with their parents about it,” she said. “But they have to be here skating a minimum of five days a week, three to four hours a day. It’s hard to make people understand, but in Fort Wayne we’ve had national champions and have been very successful. There’s a lot of opportunity here.”
Lunin has coached four national champions, including her own son Sasha, and thinks the talent on display at Winterfest will provide a chance for the community to see how much has already been accomplished at the Icehouse and how much is in store in the future.
Lunin said there are a number of programs for skaters which provide everything from fun on the ice to professional training. The opportunities include programs, camps, and daily training for competitive level skaters, Excel National Series competitions and training, Recreational-Beginner programs and camps, Annual Ice Shows, and a Theater on Ice program.
She also emphasizes that, despite the rigors of the competitive training, there are plenty of opportunities for those to have fun on the ice.
Her desire to bring skating of all kinds to the area includes some big plans for the skating program’s growth as she does for the future of Winterfest which this year features skaters from Lunin’s Fort Wayne Ice Skating Club, the Trine University Synchronized Team, the Tiffany & Co. Dance Group, and a hockey skills demo, sure to entertain the legions of Komets fans in the area.
“The skating club was very small when we came here to the new facility,” Lunin said. “We started small but began to grow very quickly. Now we have up to 500 skaters per session, and our local figure skating club has grown to 100 members.
“I see Winterfest as growing in the same way, similar to what I was able to bring to Washington State. I want it to grow bigger and bigger each year and hope to take Winterfest to the Coliseum in a couple years. I eventually want to collaborate with other organizations in town like Fort Wayne Ballet, gymnastics schools, dance schools and classes, and bring in singers and bands. I really want to be part of the community and highlight all of the youth groups in the area while providing a celebration for the holiday season.”
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