Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Battle of the Blades is gearing up

Pairings chosen for pro skaters and celebrities; tickets on sale


Battle of the Blades contestants Megan Thomas, left, and Maggie Acker, right, have fun during a lesson with Sun Valley figure skating professional Anita Hartshorn at the Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink on July 16. Thomas commented that Hartshorn’s lessons and advice have been “amazing.” Courtesy photo by Robin Sias

One word describes contestants participating in this year’s Battle of the Blades fundraiser for the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club.
    That word is dedicated.
    Or maybe it’s competitive.
    But in any case, the nine local celebrities—each tapped to perform with a professional skater beneath the spotlight on the night of Friday, Sept. 5—are hard at the task and taking their training seriously.
    Find them on any given day at the beautiful outdoor Sun Valley rink. The contestants are Maggie Acker, Zach Crist, Christine Davis-Jeffers, Emilie duPont, Chris Koch, Bob Polk, George Rizzo, Scott Slonim and Megan Thomas.
    They wear elbow and knee pads and even helmets. They’re learning the basics of figure skating so they can perform before thousands of spectators.
    Professional skaters and coaches have volunteered hours of time to help make the event bigger, badder and better than even the sold-out shows of 2011 and 2012.
They are turning the inexperienced group into ice-dancing stars.
Small group lessons have coaxed the novice skaters onto the ice. They are being taught the necessary skills like stroking, turning and the all-important one called stopping.
Contestants are in great hands.
    Lessons have been offered by Lisa-Marie Allen, co-artistic director of Battle of the Blades along with Gia Guddat, U.S. silver medalist, Olympic and World competitor and U.S. professional champion.
    The lessons are being provided by Anita Hartshorn, who dazzles in Sun Valley On Ice and in shows around the world with her partner of more than 20 years, Frank Sweiding.
    Celebrity skaters are being guided by Judy Blumberg, five-time U.S. Ice Dance champion, three-time world medalist and two-time Olympian; as well as by Dawn Peterson, U.S. Figure Skating gold medalist and national and international competitor.
    Also poised to teach is Michele Monnier, U.S. Figure Skating gold medalist in figures, freestyle and dance and U.S. national competitor.
    Chris Koch, competing for Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center, has taken advantage of many group lessons and has even shocked himself with the progress he has made.
    “The group lessons have been awesome,” Koch said. “I have learned to swizzle, twirl and stop. What I have been most impressed with is how helpful all of the professional skaters and coaches at the rink have been.
    “Even when I’m not in a lesson, everyone has nicely come over to give me encouragement, corrections or suggestions. It’s the friendliest group as a collective I’ve met in a long time. I’ve lost weight and gained coordination. I feel really confident.”
    The next step for the contestants is to begin skating with their partners. This year’s just-announced electric pairings, with the pro skaters followed by celebrities, are:

  • Darlin Baker and George Rizzo.
  • Brent Bommentre and Maggie Acker.
  • Ashley Clark and Zach Crist.
  • Ty Cockrum and Megan Thomas.
  • Joel Dear and Emilie duPont.
  • Stephanee Grosscup and Chris Koch.
  • Jonathon Hunt and Christine Davis-Jeffers.
  • Kim Navarro and Scott Slonim.
  • Natalia Zaitseva and Bob Polk.

    All the couples will compete for local nonprofit organizations that include: the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, Camp Rainbow Gold, the Community School, the Flourish Foundation, the Hunger Coalition, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation and Swiftsure Ranch.
    The top three finishers’ chosen organizations receive a cash donation. Skaters receive scores from a panel of celebrity judges and via an “applause-o-meter” that gauges audience response. Each component counts 50 percent of the final score.
    Tickets to the event are now on sale online and only online at Organizers expect the event to sell out.
    Prices range from $15 for student general bleacher seating to $200 for VIP tickets. All proceeds benefit programs offered by the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club, celebrating its 75th year this summer. The battle is on!

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