- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 January 31, 2003 

Cold Competitors: Skating school offers training for Yerevan's ice addicted

It is colder in the skating rink hall than outside, where the temperature is minus six Celsius.

But the cold is forgotten about, watching four to six year old children skimming on the ice shining like a cut-glass.

Six -year-old Garik Mkrtchyan says proudly: "I asked my parents to take me to figure skating classes myself. I fall often and it's painful, but anyway I decided to become a world champion."

Almost all the students of Yerevan Children's Figure Skating School are determined like Garnik to become champions. Eight-year-old Mane Ghevondyan and Lianna Babakhanyan started to attend school since age four. They say they come for training every day, work hard and have one wish -- to have a larger skating rink.

The skating rink of the school is 30 meters wide and 30 meters long, only half a long as international standards.

"For children these parameters are acceptable, but they are not appropriate for the further development," says deputy director and head of studies Vrezh Mavyan. "Thus, we send the best students for training to other countries in order to let them improve their skills."

The school has operated since 1975, and the building shows the effects of age and disrepair. The changing rooms and sports hall are in shambles. But for the management of school it is most important to preserve the skating rink.

"It is a rather complicated thing to preserve a skating rink," Mavyan says. "This is the third academic year we manage to maintain it for nine to 10 months (from September to June)."

Years ago they were getting frozen salted water for the skating rink from Nairit scientific and production union. But after Nairit closed the school operated with breaks. Now, thanks to philanthropists, the school has its own freezing station.

"We do everything by ourselves. Our main goal is to preserve the school, to preserve this sport in the Republic. We are grateful to Shengavit Municipality, which cares for the electricity costs of the school," Mavyan says.

Today there are 230 children training in the sport school. There are 18 groups functioning. In addition to figure skating children do gymnastics and choreography. Education is free.

Trainer Alina Badalyan is in the school since 1972. She started as a student, and since 1980 continued as a trainer.

"Figure skating is my life. My whole day passes here," she says, adding that among her students is Aramais Grigoryan, who participates in international competitions including the recent European Championship.

In its first 13 years the school prepared many prize-winning athletes for the Soviet Union. Today there is a hard-working group preparing for the International Youth Competition in Ljubljana, Slovenia February 5-10.

Among them is 10-year old Emil Danielyan who has been figure skating for three years.

Emil is preparing a program accompanied by music from the movie "Gladiator".

"I will perform as a soldier," he says.

Before getting to Slovenia Armenian children will train in one of Moscow's skating rinks for a few days.

This year the best students went to Moscow for trainings. Due to director Samvel Khachatryan's personal connections the skating rink was granted to students for free, while normally it would cost $200 an hour to rent.

The Yerevan Children's Figure Skating School is a full member of the International Figure Skating Federation since 1995. Mavyan says they have close relations particularly with the Canada Figure Skating Federation.

"President David Dor is a great person for us; he helps us to solve many problems," Mavyan says. "For the third year they provide school with skates, which children use by passing to each other. The USA Figure Skating Federation also helps. We get assistance from the secretary of our federation American Armenian Paul Varadyan. He constantly provides us with the best clothes and skates."

The school has significant plans for the future. They will participate in the Youth World Championship taking place in Czech Republic in the end of February, and the Youth World Championship in Washington in March and another competition in Moscow in April.

"Figure skating is not only sport, but also art," says trainer Garik Tsaghoyan. "My only wish is to take my students to the top of it."


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  Photos of the week
  Photo of the week: Talk Time
Photo of the week: Talk Time
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Talk Time

In 19 days Armenia will elect a President. Until then voters will be talked to by candidates such as Stepan Demirchyan (top). And some, such as President Robert Kocharyan (bottom), will be talked back to.



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