Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships return after two-year hiatus

Arianne Belley competes in the Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships, which were held at the Olympic Center from June 23 to 25. Belley was the senior ladies’ silver medalist. (Provided photo — Jason Hicks-Moriarty)

LAKE PLACID — The 1980 Herb Brooks and 1932 Jack Shea arenas were packed with figure skaters competing in the 2022 Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships from June 23 to 25. The event was held for the first time since 2019.

“(The) Lake Placid Summer Figure Skating Championships are such an important kick-off to summer skating in Lake Placid,” said Paul Wylie, ORDA Director of Sport and 1992 Olympic silver medalist in men’s singles skating. “We missed it terribly over the past few years and are so excited for the community to be back together here in Lake Placid.”

The event showcased over 200 skaters from all over the United States, competing in all levels of singles competition from beginner to elite, in singles and pairs disciplines.

Canadian skaters also returned to Lake Placid. The championships have always fostered future elite Canadian skaters because of the proximity to Canada, and this year was no exception.

The Senior Ladies event was swept by Canadian ladies, Nour-Houda Foura, Arianne Belley and Sylia Rabhi, who placed first, second and third, respectively.

Dominica Sarandeva, of Lake Placid, performs her long program during the Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships which were held at the 1932 Jack Shea Arena in Lake Placid from June 23 to 25. (Photo provided)

“It’s a great opportunity for local skaters to be joined by those from all over the region (and the country),” Wylie said. “It is wonderful to see coaches who came to this event as little kids bringing their own students here to skate on Olympic ice.”

The first day of the competition, June 23, was also Olympic and Paralympic Day. Local celebrations began at the Olympic Center with “Big Dreams,” a special presentation hosted by Kathaleen Kelly Cutone, U.S. Figure Skating’s team leader at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

Cutone, who lived and trained in Lake Placid with her sisters under the tutelage of Lake Placid Hall of Fame members Jack and Joan Devitt, would go on to compete at six U.S. Figure Skating Championships and become a high-level official with U.S. Figure Skating.

Cutone once again served as a chief referee for the event, as she has done for several years, although she has been involved in the event since she skated there in the 1980s, as both a competitor and an official.

“Figure skating in Lake Placid was a huge part of my childhood and adolescence, so coming back to Lake Placid for these Free Skating Championships and serving as the chief referee is a walk down memory lane,” Cutone said. “Whenever I’m in the Olympic Center, it makes me smile thinking of the thousands of hours happily spent there.”

The championships have served as a valuable “pre-season” skating opportunity, where skaters can “try out” their new programs or change their program contents before the pressure is on to qualify in the fall.

For these competitors, coaches and parents, it was a different experience to be in the updated venue after a long absence. The recently renovated rinks opened just a few months ago — the 1932 arena was the first to reopen on Dec. 3, followed shortly after by the 1980 arena in January.

The walls were painted, the hallways are wider and brighter and the rinks boast several updates, including new locker rooms, restrooms, adjustable boards and updated seating. The arena still has its historical ambiance.

“The 1980 rink feels the same, but refreshed and updated. You notice the new seats, railings, paint and plexiglass,” Cutone said. “I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the renovations completed.”

While the rink renovations are finished, some parts of the Olympic Center are still “construction zones.” The connector building, which formerly connected the 1980 and 1932 wings of the Olympic Center, is still under renovation.

Attendees were required to access each rink from the outside entrance exclusively. The skaters didn’t seem to mind and were excited to be back for the event.

Dominica Sarandeva, who lives and trains in Lake Placid while also training in Newburgh with coaches Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov, took advantage of her second training location during the ice hiatus between mid-May and early June.

Sarandeva, a Skating Club of Lake Placid member, trained in Newburgh to ready herself for the Lake Placid competition and the spate of other summer competitions in preparation for the upcoming season.

Sarandeva placed second in her short program qualifying round and first in her free skate qualifying round. She earned a silver medal in the Intermediate Ladies Short Program Final.

“Since I was competing at home, I wanted to compete well, so that added extra pressure,” Sarandeva said. “It was nice to see my skating friends here in Lake Placid again and I was happy with my performances.”

The summer figure skating competition series will continue with the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships and Ice Dance International on July 27-29. For more information, visit lakeplacidlegacysites.com.