Local skaters sparkle through precision, speed
College students excelling on synchronized team; teen traded hockey rink for oval
CAPITAL REGION Sochi isn’t the only place where exceptional athletes are competing on ice.
A handful of local skaters are making names for themselves at the national level. They include collegiate-level skaters Amie Skoda of Glenville and Colleen Somerville of Loudonville, both members of SUNY Oswego’s Ice Effects synchronized figure skating team. The 16-member team, ranked 10th in the nation, competed at the Eastern Synchronized Figure Skating Competition Feb. 1 in Hershey, Pa., and will travel to Colorado at the end of the month to compete in the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships.
Also turning heads is Amie’s brother, speedskater David Skoda. The Niskayuna High School sophomore recently won silver and bronze medals at the junior nationals competition in Milwaukee and has set his sights on becoming part of a junior world team.
Amie Skoda started her career on ice as a freestyle figure skater, winning medals at a young age.
“Everywhere we went, she’d get gold medals and stuff, but then just one day she said, ‘I don’t want to compete anymore,’ because she didn’t like the stress of individual competition,” her father, Spencer Skoda, recounted.
Still interested in being on the ice, Amie decided to become part of a figure skating team. At age 8, she joined the Saratoga Stars and has been participating in synchronized skating ever since.
She was a member of the Albany Figure Skating Club’s Achilles Edge synchronized skating team as a high school sophomore. That year, the team took first place at eastern sectionals.
“That was probably one of the biggest points of my life when it comes to figure skating,” the college freshman said, predicting that this year’s trip to nationals will be added to her list of most memorable moments.
Amie and her Ice Effects teammates practice two days a week on-ice and one day off-ice, perfecting their three- to four-minute-long routines.
“It’s kind of like watching the Ice Capades,” her father explained. “They’re all in sync and they do these intersections where they almost collide and everything, so it can be a little exciting.”
Fellow team member Colleen Somerville has been skating since age 3.
“She was watching Sarah Hughes in the 2002 Winter Olympics and told her dad, ‘I want to skate like her,’ ” her mother, Maureen O’Brien, said.
Colleen set out to do just that.
“It was just so exciting. She caught on so fast,” her mother recalled. “The first competition she was in was in Lake Placid and she won a gold medal in the very first competition.”
Since then, the 20-year-old has competed in three Empire State Winter Games and won a gold medal each time.
Skating with Ice Effects can be both fun and frustrating, Colleen said.
“We are all working towards the same goal, so we are very focused and we all want to do well. We have to be very good at taking criticism,” she said.
A member of the Lake Placid Figure Skating Club, she spends her summers in Lake Placid training with the “Litz Team,” which includes 1964 Winter Olympian Thomas Litz.
The Shaker High School graduate has skated alongside top athletes including Dorothy Hamill, Johnny Weir and current Olympian Jeremy Abbott.
Skating has been a big confidence-booster for Colleen, who one day hopes to coach.
“I used to be a very shy kid, but once I get out on the ice, I just let it all go,” she said.
Speedskater David Skoda started out as an ice hockey player but soon tired of putting on all of the heavy pads necessary for the sport.
“It was just so bulky and he liked going up and down the rink really fast,” his father recalled. “He saw the speedskaters getting on the ice in Clifton Park and he said he wanted to try that.”
A long- and short-track speedskater, David now skates with the Saratoga Winter Club. He trains four nights a week near home and at the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid on weekends. In addition, he travels to competitions.
All of that skating cuts into the 10th-grader’s school schedule.
“The teachers give me work to do while I’m away so I can keep my grades the same,” he noted.
Just back from junior nationals in Milwaukee, David is taking a short break before heading back there for the Am Cup speedskating finals.
“The Am Cup is a national event. All the best of the country will be there,” Spencer Skoda said.
David said he enjoys the traveling and excitement that comes along with the sport. He’s not ruling out a run for the Olympics, but said he’s taking it one stride at a time.
“I’m just trying to keep working and trying to build different goals, like within the next two years, I want to try to make a junior world team or something like that,” he said.