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Olympic skater teaches clinic

May 04, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Latisha Thomas traveled from Manhattan to Hagerstown for one reason, a reason that happens to have two silver Olympic medals under his belt - Canadian figure skater Brian Orser.

Orser and several other skaters are in Hagerstown for a two-day skating clinic, which continues today.

"I'm a big fan of Brian Orser. I wanted to learn from the best," Thomas, 31, said. "He's great. He's very patient and a good instructor. He's very encouraging."

Thomas visited ice rinks as a child, but the time was spent mostly clutching the sides, trying not to fall.

As for how long she has truly been skating, Thomas looked at her watch.

"About two hours," she said.

On the ice, with a CD from the band St. Germaine playing, Orser showed different skating moves to a group of eight adults, who then followed his lead, some better than others.

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After the group session, and before he began individual lessons, Orser sat down on a wooden bench, one of his few moments off the ice.

A dozen times a year or more, Orser said, he travels to different areas to hold clinics.

"I think I'm a pretty good teacher," he said. That statement came from the man who was the first to land a triple axel in Olympic competition, and who, in addition to numerous other honors, won two silver medals in the games. In 1984, Orser was bested for the gold by Scott Hamilton, and in 1988 by Brian Boitano, both Americans.

"That helps," Orser said of the medals. "It gives me some credibility."

For Orser, the best part of doing clinics and lessons comes with achievement.

"I love it when a kid lands their first something," he said, whether it's an axel or toe loop or another move.

With him, Orser brought to the clinic one of his students from Canada, 18-year-old Shawn Sawyer. Orser predicted that Sawyer's name will one day be known.

Ranked sixth in Canada, Sawyer said he has his eye on the 2006 Olympics, if he can move up to being ranked second.

"I'm just going to hope for the best," he said.

As Orser worked with the adults on one half of the ice at the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex, Sawyer worked with a group of teens in another section.

"It motivates the kids. But it also motivates me," said Sawyer, who hopes to be a coach one day. "There are a lot of skaters with potential here."

Of the 71 skaters who are participating in the event, some came from as far away as Canada and California, said organizer Ginger Pembroke.

"To these kids, it's really great for them to see someone who has reached the top, where they are trying to go," said Pembroke, whose daughter Victoria, 13, is a skater. In Orser, they see someone who has had to work to succeed, and who is also down to earth, she said.

Along with getting instruction from Orser and other skaters, clinic participants receive training in yoga, on a trampoline and they work with a physical therapist, all exercises that enhance their skating ability in one way or another, Pembroke said.

At 4:30 p.m. today at the rink, Orser and local skaters will put on an exhibition. Tickets are $15. The skating rink is at 580 Security Road.

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