3 Ice-Skating Siblings Go for Gold : Sports: The Stiegler children of Manhattan Beach have all won national competitions. The big payoff could come in the 1998 Olympics.
Most skaters wobble across the ice at local skating rinks like toddlers teetering through their first steps. This is sunny Southern California, after all, where skates are supposed to have wheels, not blades.
But for three Manhattan Beach siblings, geography is not destiny.
Stephanie, Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler have grown up frolicking along the shores of South Bay beaches, but they’ve still managed to become first-rate figure skaters on ice.
Stephanie, now 14, and her 23-year-old partner, Lance Travis, won the 1993 U. S. National Championships in the junior pairs division. Tiffany, 10, and Johnnie, 12, who also compete in figure skating, won the intermediate pairs division at the same championships. The three were competing in Portland, Ore., last week to qualify for the U. S. National Championships to be held next month.
Over the last two years, the young skaters have spent much of their time in Lake Arrowhead, where they and their mother stay in a cabin near the Ice Castle International Training Center, a training ground for top-notch skaters from around the world.
The children study ballet and practice skating for hours on end with 1988 Olympic bronze medalist Peter Oppegard. Tiffany and Stephanie study at home, and Johnnie attends regular classes at a nearby school.
Each weekend, they return to Manhattan Beach to lace up their in-line skates, spend time with friends and head for the beach.
The schedule can be exhausting, but the children say it’s all worthwhile. Johnnie says he likes to imagine himself competing in the Olympics. Although he insists that he will never wear skating tights, he hopes to win a medal one day by skating with Tiffany in pairs figure skating.
“I love the feeling you get when you’re jumping and when you’re skating really fast,” he says. “It’s really great.”
Oppegard, the children’s trainer, says the Stieglers are quick learners. Stephanie and Travis now have the experience to win tough international competitions, Oppegard says.
“They have power, style and technique,” he says.
In 1993, Stephanie and Travis were the U. S. Olympic Festival bronze medalists and the silver medalists at a competition in France. They recently won a bronze medal at the Nations Cup on Ice competition in Germany, and they hope to compete in the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Although she is delighted by her own successes, Stephanie also loves to watch the improvement of Johnnie and Tiffany.
“It’s fun to watch them because they’re so good,” she says. “It’s just neat knowing they’re my brother and sister.”
The Stieglers’ father, John, general manager at an Encino Mercedes-Benz dealership owned by his father, isn’t surprised by his children’s successes.
Sitting in the bleachers at a local rink, he recalls the first time that his family was touched by the sport when he, his wife, Linda, and Stephanie watched on TV as figure skaters competed in the 1984 Olympics.
“It was a moving experience for all of us,” he says. “When it all comes together, it’s more than just skaters; there’s a real magical moment that occurs.”
After watching the Olympics, the three Stieglers went to a local rink to try their luck on the ice. Stephanie held her father’s hand as she struggled to keep her balance, John Stiegler says. Soon after, Stephanie was taking lessons at a Culver City ice rink. When Tiffany and Johnnie each turned 3, they joined in.
The children each began competing at age 4. Although the expenses were modest at first, John Stiegler says training and travel now cost the family about $90,000 a year. “That’s what it costs to become the world’s best these days,” he said.
Stephanie has acted in several in-line skate commercials, which has helped to offset some of the expenses, he said.
Although John and Linda no longer skate, John sometimes imagines where all the training could lead for his children. He imagines that they might one day win Olympic medals.
“Sometimes, when I’m driving, some music will come on and I can see those moments in the future,” he says as he looks out from the bleachers to see Stephanie skating down the rink.
“I see the American flag being raised, then comes that euphoric feeling--that’s the payoff for the parents.”