CLINTON — The week of Jan. 27 was a big one for members of Clinton Figure Skating Club.
Not only were they hard at work sharpening their splits, spirals and flip jumps for competition on Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 in Lake Placid for the 2020 Empire State Winter Games, but they also had the opportunity to experience the games’ Olympic-style Torch Relay.
The games’ torch — or torches — followed two routes. One originated in New York City, and another began in Buffalo to help with week-long festivities to kick off the games, with small-town celebrations during stops along the way. And it was the Buffalo torch that made its way to Clinton Arena during its travels on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Figure skaters welcomed the arrival of the torch at the Clinton Central School campus, with a few team members running the torch up to the arena where it was greeted by a crowd of excited young skaters, their parents, coaches and community members.
Skaters, as well as some members of Clinton Youth Hockey, then had the rare opportunity to take turns skating with the torch around the rink. The torch visited the arena for between 30-45 minutes and was off to its next stop — Oneida — the following morning, said CFSC Board of Directors Vice-president Pete Potasiewicz.
When skaters arrive to Lake Placid, they would have the opportunity to watch the torch be carried up to the podium during opening ceremonies.
“They treat it like the actual Olympics,” explained CFSC Communications Chair Michelle Batson.
Prior to the games, Batson said 13 skaters would compete in 17 events at the ESWG that included free-style and ice dancing. And just like the Olympics, gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to young athletes in each event.
Skaters Ellie Batson and Clara Kelly shared that they have been competing since 2015. At the ESWG, each skater said they would be scored for different elements in their routines, which would be performed to popular songs from Disney’s Aladdin to the musical — now movies — “Mama Mia.”
“Our synchronized skating team has been award-winning for the last decade,” said Batson. “For about 4-5 years” participation waned, “but then it got a big following again, and they have a lot more fun.”
Batson said their time in Lake Placid during the games would be hectic, with skaters traveling between three separate arenas for different competitions.
“The kids will be running back-and-forth and in between competitions, they’ll go watch and cheer for each other in different events,” she said.
CFSC starts its season at Clinton Arena in September, but Batson said skaters skate all year round, with Whitestown Community Center icing up their rink even during the summer months.
“There’s always skating,” added Ellie Batson with a chuckle.
Coach Nicole Goodelle said CFSC has sent skaters to the ESWG since she can remember, and she’s been a member of the figure skating club since 1986.
“We’ve always had skaters go to the games,” Goodelle said. “Maybe for 8-10 years you had to qualify, but now they’ve opened it up” to all levels, “which is nice. That way you get to see younger skaters go.”
The coach further explained there are intermediate to senior-level competitions at the games.
“We always had an individual and synchronized skating team compete in the upper levels,” Goodelle said. “And our synchronized team has always done very well.”
This year everyone has “worked hard and they’re ready to go,” she added.
As a CFSC member, Goodelle was a gold medalist in freestyle and moves in the field and a silver medalist in dance and figures, competing in several North Atlantic Regional championships, and was an ESWG novice ladies bronze medalist. She has now coached for the last 12 years and is a member of the Professional Skaters Association.
Asked to compare her competition days to her coaching years, “I think it’s more nerve-racking being a coach,” Goodelle laughed. “I know what the skaters are capable of and I want to see them seize their moment, but I also want them to have fun.”
The Empire State Games, “It’s good to go back,” she said. “It’s just a great atmosphere. The best thing is the opening ceremony when you get to see all the athletes in one place.”
Then Potasiewicz explained the youths are scattered throughout Lake Placid and the surrounding area, as all events are held in different locations.
“Athletes will be all over the whole town,” he said. “Like a lot of the hockey events, for example, I don’t even think they’re held in Lake Placid. I think the majority are held in Saranac and the Tupper Lake area.”
But what will be special for each competitor, no matter what sport they’re competing in, is the “thrill” of feeling just like an Olympic athlete, Potasiewicz said.
“A lot of kids have never seen anything like this,” the vice-president said. “This is their chance — there’s no bigger thrill. This year is Clinton Figure Skating Club’s 70th anniversary, and this is the 40th year of the Empire State Winter Games, and I don’t think there’s a better way to celebrate both milestones.”
Next up will be CFC’s annual Fantasy On Ice show to be held March 29 at the arena. Potasiewicz said the “Platinum Show” will feature music “geared toward” the decades CFC has been in existence.