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Skaters out to heat up the ice

A two-day competition at an Oldsmar rink draws skaters from as young as 5 to as old as 50 and it's free to spectators.

Published July 28, 2006

OLDSMAR -- There's no slacking off during the summer months for Kimberlee Dowling, 15.

Every weekday morning, she wakes at 5 and leaves her home near Brandon to travel to the Tampa Bay Skating Academy, Florida's first twin rink, located in Oldsmar.

"It's about an hour, hour-and-a-half drive depending on traffic," she said.

Once she arrives, Kimberlee skates two 45-minute freestyle sessions, where she is perfecting two triple jumps - a salchow and a loop.

Kimberlee will be one nearly 250 amateur athletes to participate in the 15th annual Orange Blossom Open, a figure skating competition today and Saturday at the Skating Academy, 255 Forest Lakes Blvd.

The two-day event, an icy blend of thrills, chills and spills, is free and open to the public. It is hosted by the Tampa Bay Skating Club.

Kimberlee, like many other highly dedicated skaters, is training for that big day when she might be lucky enough to skate on Olympic ice.

"After that I'd like to travel with the figure skating shows," she said.

She has a babysitting job to help pay the skating bills. Then after work, she takes jazz, hip-hop and ballet classes - to help with her artistic style - or works out at the YMCA. Sometimes, she runs or bikes.

"I'm working hard to reach my dream," she said.

While the heat may be on Kimberlee and other figure skaters to perform well, spectators can sit on bleachers and chill in one of the two 58-degree rinks. Just bring a jacket, sweater or coverlet.

The skaters registered in the competition come from Florida, the Southeastern United States, and as far away as Boston. They range in age from 5 to those in their 50s and all hope to impress an impressive panel of judges.

"This is one of the skaters' favorite competitions to come to because we have high-level national and international judges," said Lyn Edens, club president.

The competition starts today with compulsory moves and short programs. Most of the more entertaining events are slated for Saturday afternoon and evening in the South Rink, when the skaters present their long programs and showcases - lighter programs performed with props.

Depending on the type of program, costumes may be funny, clever, or lavishly decorated with sequins and beads.

When it comes to spins, spectators should look for speed, body positions and centered rotation. If the skater travels over the ice while spinning, that will be a deduction. Sit spins should have a deep knee bend and straight back. Camel spins are performed from the arabesque position with a straight leg and the skater looking out, not down. Watch for showy laybacks, flying camels, and various combinations.

Jumps are often the most thrilling part of the program. To get credit, skaters must land on one foot and on the back outside edge of the blade. Skaters jump either using an edge or toe pick to launch themselves into the air. Jumps are often named after their inventors, like the lutz, axel, and salchow.

Emily Buell, 10, of Palm Harbor has been skating and competing since she was 3. She loves the costumes and choreography, but most of all the camaraderie.

"It's fun and sometimes I get nervous," she said. "But then all of my friends are there and we cheer each other on."

If you go:

WHAT: The 15th annual Orange Blossom Open figure skating competition will be today and Saturday at Tampa Bay Skating Academy, 255 Forest Lakes Blvd., Oldsmar. It is free to spectators. Bring a jacket or coverlet.

HOURS: Today from 8 a.m. to 9:15 p.m., and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

BEST TIME TO WATCH: Saturday afternoon (children's showcase) and evening (women's free skate).

SCHEDULE: To see a complete schedule, visit the Tampa Bay Skating Club Web site at


Care to take a spin?

If figure skating moves you, you may want to sign up for group classes offered to ages 3 through adult at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy in Oldsmar. The 10-week sessions are $162 and include skate rentals. Call (813) 854-4010 for more information.

Lessons are also available at the Skating Academy's sister rink at Westfield Countryside mall, 27001 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater. Call (727) 723-7785 for more information.

[Last modified July 27, 2006, 22:59:10]

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