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NEWPORT BEACH : Ice Sculptor Getting Ready for Olympics

The chain saws and blowtorches soon will be packed. So too will the chisels and blow dryers.

Once Mark Daukas has packed these tools and a host of others into 11 trunks, he will be ready for the XVIIth Winter Olympic games in Lillehammer, Norway.

With a New York cohort, the 36-year-old Newport Beach resident will compete in an ice-sculpting contest against 19 other teams as part of the Olympic Arts Festival. The pair will leave for the Scandinavian country Feb. 5.

Daukas and New Yorker Scott Rella will have to carve a work from 10 blocks of ice--each weighing about 300 pounds--within 48 hours. The ice design from Daukas, who has previously sculpted a 15-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty and an 8-foot-tall King Kong atop the Empire State building, remains a secret. But Daukas says it should be a crowd pleaser.

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“We are going to keep the design under our hats,” Daukas said just outside the custom-built Costa Mesa walk-in freezer where he fashions pieces for such clients as Mercedes-Benz, Paramount Pictures and Ritz-Carlton. “But I think people will really be able to relate to and understand it, as opposed to some abstract shape that may look pretty but leaves you wondering what it means.”

Daukas is confident of the U.S. teams’ chances for victory. “I think we are the team to beat,” said Daukas, who annually sells as many as 175 ice sculptures ranging in price from $300 to $50,000.

His list of triumphs in ice sculpting is impressive. He is a three-time National Ice Carving Assn. champion, and the only American to win the World Ice Carving Competition in Japan.

“I’m thrilled it’s getting this type of recognition,” said Daukas. “The Olympics are probably the biggest thing to ever happen to ice sculpting.”

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As for those who may scoff at the idea of ice sculpting going Olympic, Daukas says simply that such detractors should try it. Daukas said he has been training two to three hours a day aerobically and with weights to prepare for the competition.

“I dare any Olympic athlete to go out there and as fast as you can produce a sculpture that looks good,” said Daukas, who doesn’t expect to get more than six hours of sleep in the two-day contest. “It’s grueling on your body. You’ve got to be in good shape.”

Originally, Daukas got into ice sculpting about 17 years ago because he needed a job. He was working as a cook and was called on to carve an ice statue to decorate a buffet table. From then on, he was hooked.

Daukas’ wife, Christine, who has assisted his ice art career, won’t be making the trip to Norway. She will stay behind to tend the couple’s business in the much warmer climate of Southern California.

“The high today in Norway was 27 degrees,” said Christine. “That’s too cold.”


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