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Central Park's Synchronized Skaters Glide to East Coast Championships

By Julie Shapiro | January 30, 2012 3:31pm

MANHATTAN — It takes more than a couple broken bones and a wardrobe malfunction to stop the girls on the Central Park Ice synchronized skating team.

In the midst of a challenging season, the team of 11-to-17-year-olds rallied this weekend and made it to the final round of the highly competitive Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships for the first time.

"They've worked so hard for so many years," said Ashley Walker Green, the team's coach, who has been teaching some of the skaters since 2003. "To see it recognized is really special for them."

With a jazzy ice dance to an instrumental piece from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," the Central Park Ice Open Juvenile skaters wowed the judges in the first round of the Hershey, Pa. competition last Friday, placing fourth out of nine teams.

Central Park Ice's Pre-Juvenile team.
Central Park Ice's Pre-Juvenile team.
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Central Park Ice

Central Park Ice then went on to the championship round on Saturday and ultimately placed 11th of 26 teams from all over the East Coast, the best they've ever done since beginning to compete in 2007.

"We were just beside ourselves," said Elizabeth Williams, a Financial District resident whose 15-year-old daughter, Samantha Borri, is on the team.

"We struggled this year, [but] they really pulled it off. We're all thrilled."

The team's difficulties over the past couple of months included a skater who broke a finger and another who broke a toe — both injuries occurred off the ice, unrelated to skating — and then the team also had to contend with a scary wardrobe mishap during a competition in Massachusetts on Jan. 7.

As the girls moved through their nearly three-minute routine that day, one skater's tights slipped and became hooked to her opposite leg, severely limiting her range of motion.

"She skated the whole program with her legs attached," Walker Green said, adding that the other girls kept going as well, even though they were afraid they would all tumble to the ice together.

"That exemplifies their spirit and can-do attitude," Walker Green said.

Unlike most of the teams that competed in last weekend's sectional championship, Central Park Ice practices on an outdoor rink, where the young athletes face must learn to deal with unpredictable weather and ice that is often not uniform.

Wollman rink is also irregularly shaped, unlike the standard oval rinks used for competitions, which means the Central Park Ice girls must learn to adjust their routines to a different setting, Walker Green said.

Since Walker Green started taking Central Park Ice's Open Juvenile team to competitions in 2007, her synchronized skating program has attracted a growing interest, and now she coaches two teams of younger girls as well.

Walker Green sees synchronized skating, in which the skaters move together in lines, loops and spins, as a positive alternative to the often unkind world of individual figure skating.

"Figure skating can be such an isolating sport," Walker Green said. "It's a lot of cold hours, and it can get very catty. Synchronized skating gives them the opportunity to be part of a team."

Central Park Ice's Open Juvenile team will hold a free public exhibition show at Wollman Rink, in Central Park near 63rd Street, on Feb. 5 at 11:45 a.m.