Community Sports

After earning gold medal certification, local figure skater looks to future

Bellingham High School freshman Abby Chase performs a catch foot layback spin during ice dancing practice at the Sportsplex on Thursday, Feb.27, 2014 in Bellingham.
Bellingham High School freshman Abby Chase performs a catch foot layback spin during ice dancing practice at the Sportsplex on Thursday, Feb.27, 2014 in Bellingham. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

It took seven years of hard work, but on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the United States Figure Skating Test Session in Everett, Abby Chase completed the final test to earn her gold medal certification. With this award, Chase can now advance to bigger international competitions and maybe even achieve her ultimate goal of skating in the Olympics.

Chase, 14, moved to Bellingham from Seattle to be closer to Vancouver, B.C. for skating lessons. She trains three days a week at the Vancouver Ice Dance Academy under gold medal ice dancers Aaron Lowe and Megan Wing, and two days each week at the Bellingham Sportsplex with skating coach Katrina Stewart.

“I’ve been working on junior moves, special twizzles and footwork you have to do to get to a certain level,” Chase said in a phone interview, describing the most difficult moves she has been practicing. “Twizzles are moving spins. They are important moves in skating because they get you a lot of points. I’ve been working on them for awhile, but I need to get faster.”

Chase started skating when she was just 2 years old, following in the footsteps of her mother, Coleen, who did some adult figure skating competitions.

“I always wanted to go with my mom (when she would practice), and when I got to try it I fell in love,” Chase said.

After competing in some figure skating competitions when she was young, Chase tried ice dancing, which she described as skating and connecting with the music to tell a story. Music is one of Chase’s other passions, as she is involved in choir at Bellingham High School, participating in musical theatre at Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth.

“I did freestyle (singles’ figure skating) until I was 10, but I stopped because I prefer dancing to the music over jumping,” Chase said. “I’ve always loved music; I love telling the story and performing for the audience."

Chase took the first of her 23 tests to earn the ice dancing gold medal certification when she was 7 years old. Over the next seven years she completed the other tests, but each one was more difficult than the rest. Each time, three judges watched Chase to see if she was using her edges, skating to the music and skating along with her partner.

Despite the long process to finish the certification, Chase remained focused on her goal, a quality she attributed to her parents.

“My parents are both really dedicated in everything they do, and I think I learned from that example,” she said. “I used all my energy to get there and will continue to do that.”

For competitions, Chase helps her coaches pick the music for her routine. Her coaches are the main choreographers, but she inputs her own ideas to personalize the routine.

“I tend to veer toward latin or broadway music,” she said. “(In choreographing) I can chime in with ideas and it turns into a great project that is a team effort.”

Chase plans on doing some small competitions this summer to stay in practice, all while continuing to train for sectional championships in the fall and some international competitions at the Junior level.

“Internationals can spring up really fast and you have to be prepared,” she said.

For the time being, Chase is searching for an ice dance partner. She has held a few tryouts and has a couple of leads on finding a partner but is continuing to search. She thinks a hockey player could convert to ice dancing and be a good partner.

“It’s hard to find a partner because there aren’t many guys who continue doing ice dancing that are tall and strong,” Chase said. “The top two in the world, Scott Moir and Charlie White, came from hockey and did both for a long time. They both have won a gold medal in ice dance.”

Chase would like to work with her future partner to eventually compete in the Junior Level Grand Prix held in a different country every year, she said. She sees that as the next step in her ice dance career, but she also wants to save some time for her musical theatre passion.

Her ultimate goal is to perform at ice dancing’s highest level internationally, and even enter the Olympics, but for now she is focused on the next small step to that final prize.