Adult Skaters Cut a Figure on Ice


Most people have heard horror stories of children barely out of diapers being pushed onto the ice by overbearing coaches and desperate parents seeking Olympic gold.

Julie Gidlow once fit that stereotype, rising to skate at dawn, practicing her camel spins and double lutzes while classmates did the “moonwalk” at school dances.

So at the ripe old age of 18 (practically elderly in the professional skating world), Gidlow quit the rink.

“I went to college,” she said. “I didn’t want to ever skate again.”


Yet, here was the Beverly Hills resident, now 30, competing at Saturday’s 1999 West Coast Adult Open Figure Skating Championships at the Pickwick Ice Arena. She was also gearing up for larger competitions in Ann Arbor, Mich., in April and Grenoble, France, in May.

Five years ago, the United States Figure Skating Assn., the governing body of the skating world, created adult competitions for amateur skaters older than 24. Officials at adult competitions are volunteers, and there are no cash prizes.

Said Paula Smart, one of the organizers of the competition: “Skating is a lifetime sport.”

It can also be an expensive hobby. Quality skates can cost $700 and many coaches charge $65 an hour.


But for those who love skating, the experience is worth the money: “Before, I was doing it because other people wanted me to do it--now I’m the one paying. I go when I want to go. I drive myself to the rink,” Gidlow said.

An editor for a music industry trade paper, she was just one of many men and women competing who skated as children, left it behind and fell in love with it all over again.

About 100 skaters from across the country twirled on ice while a Southern California sun shone bright as summer outside.

Debi Shapiro started skating almost before she could walk.


Shapiro, 40, whose feet pointed outward making walking difficult as a child, took therapeutic skating lessons to bring those wayward toes in line.

Shapiro quit skating after a bad car accident damaged her knee. Two children and 14 years later, she was back on the ice.

Not even cancer stopped the West Palm Beach, Fla., resident. “Two weeks after I had surgery for thyroid cancer I competed,” she said.

Shapiro, who has skated in all five national competitions sponsored by the United States Figure Skating Assn., said she has placed in the top five, twice. Four times a week, she drives to a rink one hour away from her home and trains with a personal coach.


“Everyone should skate,” Shapiro said, “no matter what size you are.”

Like Warren Glass, 53, who may not be the next Scott Hamilton but is having a good time. Bald and endowed with a generous paunch, he has a remarkably graceful back spiral.

“I had a daughter who kept falling down while she was skating, so I thought I would go out there and show her how to do it,” Glass, of Santa Rosa, Calif., said. “I fell and knocked myself out.”

From that point on Glass was hooked, entering into competition two years ago, he hoped to place first or second in Saturday’s event.


Granted, there was only one other man in his category.