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Holmes brings wide-reaching experience to Figure Festival

August 27, 2015
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Not many skaters can say that they not only competed in the Olympic Games, but also starred in the Ice Capades and in three seasons of a popular television show.

Julie Lynn Holmes is one of those people. The 1972 Olympian went on to become an Ice Capades star and cast member of the "Donny and Marie" show.

Holmes will be in Lake Placid for the World Figure Championships and Figure Festival, a first-year event celebrating the discipline of school figures. The Festival began Tuesday, Aug. 25, allowing skaters to take figures lessons from the top authorities in the world.

Article Photos

Julie Lynn Holmes
Photo courtesy of Julie Lynn Holmes

The championship is scheduled for Aug. 28-29, with elite skaters like Olympian Sandy Lenz and international competitor Shepherd Clark competing in the event. There will also be special events such as: a presentation by legendary ABC producer Doug Wilson, a screening of two-time Olympic champions Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov's best performances and an art show by well-known skater and coach Tommy Litz.

Julie Lynn Holmes is joining an illustrious judging panel that includes 1972 Olympic champion Trixi Schuba, 1972 Olympic bronze medalist Janet Lynn, two-time world champion Don Jackson and many more skating legends.

Julie Lynn Holmes skated alongside greats like Schuba and Janet Lynn while impressing the world with her excellence in figures.

"The technique and the foundation that school figures gave me in teaching (skating) - I've been a teacher now for 40 years - I just rely on those basic foundations," Holmes said. "I would find it hard to comprehend how I could teach some of these difficult jumps and spins that they are doing today without that basic knowledge and basic foundation."

Holmes has been involved in skating for 60 years. After retiring from competitive figure skating, she stayed active in the sport as a coach, parent and as a technical specialist. All of these distinctions were at a national or international level.

Her first coach was Nancy Rush, who also coached skaters like Olympic bronze medalist and national champion Barbara Roles-Williams. Later in her career, Holmes was guided by legendary skating coach Carlo Fassi, who had briefly located to Lake Placid at one point after being based in Colorado Springs for many years.

"Of course, having the groundwork from my first coach Nancy Rush, who taught such great technique, I really learned to put my brains in my body so to speak - to feel positions and feel body parts. I think that's so important for living and being an athlete, knowing your body," Holmes said. "Carlo fine-tuned everything in the later years of my career. I had the great opportunity to train at the Broadmoor and in Lake Placid the last winter before the Olympics. I had great ice time provided, and all of Carlo's knowledge was just the icing on the cake."

Fassi's tutelage helped her to qualify for the World Championships and Olympic Games later in her career. In 1971, she came to Lake Placid after training with Fassi in various other locales, including Colorado and Oklahoma.

"I trained with him the last four years of my career, so he got me to my first world championship in 1969, and then took me to two more worlds," Holmes said. "(Fassi) moved to Lake Placid in the fall of 1971, so I trained there for the 1972 Olympics."

Holmes trained in the 1932 rink with Fassi from October of 1971 to January of 1972, and has fond memories of the village.

"I will never forget, I don't know which airport I flew into, but the drive to Lake Placid, I had never seen anything like it. It was just so beautiful," Holmes said.

While in Lake Placid, Holmes skated alongside Dorothy Hamill, who was there training with Fassi as well. She remembers that Hamill was very welcoming to her.

"She trained with Carlo that same winter, and (in her most recent book) she talked about Thanksgiving when she had myself and I guess Carlo and all of us over," Holmes said. "We had just sort of uprooted and moved for those few months. So she and her mom invited us over for Thanksgiving, which brought back some nice memories as well."

Holmes recalled participating in a Sports Illustrated photo shoot on the Olympic Oval shortly before the Olympics.

"I remember it was very cold, they had us out there all day doing pictures and poses for Sports Illustrated before the Olympics," Holmes said. "My husband is amazed, him coming from Chicago, that I've never been on natural ice, so I think that was probably neat because it was as close as I got (to skating on natural ice), being outdoors there."

Before coming to Lake Placid to train for the Olympics, Holmes has another fond memory tied to Lake Placid, when she won the 1965 Novice National Championship.

"It was the second nationals I had ever attended as a competitor," she said. "Then to win the Novice Ladies competition just made it really special."


Entertaining years

After a successful career as a two-time world medalist, 1972 Olympic competitor and four-time U.S. Senior Ladies silver medalist, Holmes became a professional skater and toured with Ice Capades as a professional performer while also appearing in commercials and movies.

After three years touring, she decided to go back to her home state of California to stay in one place. That's when the opportunity with the Donny and Marie show arrived.

"It was probably the most normal job I had. I would drive to Hollywood to KTLA studios, where the Osmonds were filming, and we would rehearse pretty normal hours, and then I would commute back home and we would tape the shows on Friday," Holmes said. "It was nice, it was relaxing. It wasn't anything I had to take home and stress about. They were a delightful family to work for in the entertainment business. They had great morals and very kind, fun-loving family, so it served its purpose."

Performing on the "Donny and Marie" show for three years alongside approximately 10 other skaters, Holmes had the opportunity to not only skate but dance and perform in skits on the show, even performing in water ballets, an homage to Esther Williams production numbers. She also remembers performing alongside many special guest stars.

"We did so many, and every week was kind of a different theme, but I think I really enjoyed doing the dancing numbers, probably more than the skating because the skating was a tank rink; it was so small, and there were so many (maybe 10 to 12 of us on the rink). Occasionally, I would get a standout solo, but generally it wasn't a lot of skating," Holmes said. "I think I liked performing in some of their skits and dancing, which was new to me. I was just kind of pushing it a bit, but it was fun. And they always had different guest stars: Paul Lynde ... Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Tom Jones."

Holmes decided not to renew her contract when the Osmonds moved production of the show from Hollywood to Provo, Utah. She did, however, attend the "Donny and Marie" show reunion approximately two years ago in Las Vegas, where she was able to reunite with fellow former cast members.



Figures played an important role in Holmes' in her life throughout her career. Like many other competitors at the time, she spent a significant amount of training time practicing figures, which accounted for 60 percent of the score at competitions.

"I would spend about five hours a day just doing school figures, and actually learned to enjoy them as I got older and a little more mature," she said. "I appreciated the challenge of drawing this fine intricate artwork on the ice and just tracing it. It's very unique."

Although figures could be challenging, Holmes stated that she enjoyed it for the feeling of accomplishment they could provide and the precise nature of the practice.

"I was just talking to my skaters about this; they are curious now because they know I am going to be judging this competition and want to learn more about what school figures were," Holmes said. "I was just relaying to them yesterday, the feeling after doing an hour patch. And certainly each moment you're trying to feel positions and trace perfect tracings, and when you would finish the hour and stand back and gaze upon these beautiful formations you made. On a good day, they were neat and tidy and traced. It was really a pretty sight and one I would take pride in. I thought it was very rewarding and certainly if you could do the same nice tracings under pressure in competition that was always a good feeling too."

As a coach, Holmes instills these same skills and techniques in her students. Figures can be described as the original language that figure skating is based upon, and without it, Holmes believes, freestyle skating can be even more challenging.

"I use the technique and the words that my coaches Nancy Rush and later Carlo Fassi gave me, so I want that language to live on," Holmes said. "I use (that language) all the time in trying to describe a landing position or a takeoff position. I think the focus and the connection that school figures gave me is so important for today's skater to be able to really feel positions on their takeoffs and on their landings, and obviously in mid-air jump positions as well.

"I think the tricks that they are doing today are so incredibly difficult, I totally respect what the skaters do today, they have to do what we do and make more difficult variations or more revolutions and still make it look good. II think the basic knowledge, that basic foundation is more important than ever, so they aren't hurting their bodies, and understanding the technique to do these hard tricks is very important."

Holmes is thrilled to be in Lake Placid again for the inaugural World Figure Championship & Figure Festival.

"I'm so looking forward to LP because JoJo (Starbuck), Janet (Lynn) and myself were such good friends back when we competed and that friendship never died. Even though we didn't get to see each other very much it was always the same, we pick up where we left off, and I think it just created such a unique bond, skating seems to have done that, it is almost a universal language," Holmes said. "I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and fellow skating enthusiasts. It should be wonderful for the sport and for Lake Placid"

For more information on the World Figure Championship & Figure Festival, go to



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