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Ballast Point

Tampa ice skater, 10, to compete abroad

Olivia McNamara is the youngest U.S. competitor selected to skate in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2003

A young figure skater from the Tampa Bay Skating Academy will compete internationally in the Netherlands next month.

Olivia McNamara, 10, of Ballast Point will be the youngest of 10 skaters from the United States competing March 29 and 30 in the Young International Competition Program's Hertogstadbokaal 2003 in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.

"It's quite an honor for her," said Olivia's coach, Pauline Gasparini, 51, of Palm Harbor. "It's a fantastic opportunity for someone of her age, with the limited experience she's had in the sport, and we're hoping she will have a good experience and good exposure."

Linda McNamara, Olivia's mother, said the entire family is thrilled, including Olivia's father, Patrick McNamara, and brother Griffin McNamara, 6. "We know this will be something Olivia will remember and appreciate for the rest of her life," she said.

Olivia is in the fourth grade at Academy of the Holy Names Catholic school.

She started figure skating five years ago and takes three lessons a week with Gasparini. She also takes ballet and one lesson a week with Jim Millns, winner of the 1976 Olympic bronze medal for ice dancing, who coaches her in ice dance.

"Ice dancing teaches power, edges and musicality, and Jim is a wonderful motivator," Linda McNamara said.

Olivia has competed all over Florida, as well as in the Northeast, Atlanta and Texas, but this will be her first international competition.

"She was surprised," McNamara said. "We were very excited that she was chosen this year and able to participate at this young age."

At a lesson Wednesday, Olivia listened to her coach's instructions and skated away on the ice with grace. She repeatedly circled the rink, practicing double jumps and returning like a homing pigeon to Gasparini.

Olivia does a freestyle figure skating program for three minutes and a short program for a little more than two minutes.

"She works very hard," said Gasparini, who has gone to three Olympiads as a coach. "She has done remarkably well in a short period of time."

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