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Fenczak’s influence growing in the North Country

November 1, 2018
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Skating coach, former national level ice dancer and current world figures competitor Marc Fenczak has always been drawn to Lake Placid.

"From the time I first drove into Lake Placid I knew I belonged there," Fenczak said. "Seeing all the venues - from the ski jumps to the Olympic Center - it was all so majestic and a great place to train,"

The New Jersey native has indeed become a well-known figure in the North Country skating community where he coaches for both the Skating Club of Lake Placid and on staff at the Lake Placid Summer Figure Skating camp in the summer. During the winter months, you can see him either coaching on SCLP ice or sharpening skates for local skaters; either way, he enjoys supporting local and visiting students.

Article Photos

The creative figure that won Mike Fenczak the gold medal at the 2018 World Figure Championships.
Photo provided by Mike Fenczak

Fenczak started skating at 3 years old after watching the 1980 Olympics on television. He started competing several years later, and moved to Lake Placid in the 1990s after being accepted to train with Natalia Dubova, one of the two best Russian ice dance coaches in the world at the time. Fenczak trained alongside such skaters at Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin, Shae Lynn Bourne and Victor Kratz, and several other well-known ice dancers. The group was afforded 12 hours of ice per day, and champions were made on the Olympic Center's several ice arenas. The experience left quite an impact on Fenczak.

"I was there training alongside the best ice dancers of the '90s, surrounded by these great skaters and coaches," Fenczak said. "More than one skater, I idolized the whole program because that training atmosphere encouraged everyone to excel."

The hard work paid off. Fenczak and his partner Rebecca DeWitt qualified for Nationals in both the Junior and Senior levels. Their last National Championship was in 1998 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

At age 21, Fenczak returned to Lake Placid, to be a coach on staff at the Olympic Center. Even when he returned to New Jersey during that time period, he coached every summer during the summer camp.

He currently teaches a variety of local skaters.

"I teach all levels from Basic 1 to gold dances, and teaching adult skaters as well," Fenczak said. "One of my students, Maggie Atkins, passed her silver tango with me the day before her 80th birthday. I'm happy to be able to coach and pass on the knowledge I've learned over the years, so it can go on and help the skater be their best."

Fenczak recently returned to competing, this time as a competitor in the 2018 World Figure Championship in Vail, Colorado. He had worked on figures as a young skater, where he passed his third figure before figures were taken out of competitions and replaced by moves in the field in the skating test structure.

Figures had mostly faded from the skating world until 2015, when the inaugural World Figure Championships was hosted in Lake Placid. The foundation of figure skating, the practice of tracing figures on ice started in the 1900s, and the first figure skating event in 1908 was a "decorative figures" event rather than the spinning and jumping we think of today.

Fenczak was fascinated by the practice of figures and observed the goings-on at the Championships and accompanying Figures Festival with great interest.

"I had seen creative figures in books but never in the test structure, so I was intrigued," he said. "Karen (Courtland Kelly) encouraged my initial interest in figures, and encouraged me to compete in this year's event."

Although he didn't have much time to train, Fenczak placed second overall and first in the creative figure division, where he traced a graceful, flower-like shape in the opaque black ice, the event's trademark shade of ice which helps the tracings stand out better. He accomplished this by training between two and three hours nearly every day after work, practicing the 16 required figures for the Championship.

"It was a fantastic experience and a very comfortable environment," Fenczak said. "I enjoyed hanging out with other skating geeks like myself. I remember feeling stressed and nervous at other competitions, but here it was very welcoming because it wasn't about just besting other competitors, it was about the sport."

Fenczak believes the World Figure Championships and that interest in figures, already increased and embraced by various skating celebrities and many figures aficionados, will only grow from here.

"I'm 41 years old, and I'm one of the last generation to grow up doing figures," he said. "We have to keep that art, sport and athleticism alive. I feel we have to uphold and protect figure skating history, and figures is a big part of that."



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