A new figure skating competition is coming to town. The Bellingham Blades Invitational, scheduled for April 14 and April 15, marks the first Learn to Skate USA competition to be held at the Bellingham Sportsplex as a part of the Skate Academy.

One of the Skate Academy’s top skaters, Bella, working with younger skaters. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Sportsplex.

“We’re taking our program to the next level,” announces Keri Ferguson, Skating Academy Director. “It’s exciting to see our entry level kids compete in a real competition alongside our higher level kids who will be participating in a critiqued exhibition.”

Learn to Skate USA is an entry level nationwide program that works to educate parents on the sport of figure skating.  “It takes the mystery out of beginning skating,” says Ferguson.

Coaches are well-educated and required to be certified, according to Ferguson, whose own coaching staff is required to be certified and provide valuable communication to parents and skaters.

Ferguson goes on to explain the process of bringing the Bellingham Blades Invitational to life. The first step was to apply for a sanction to do the competition. Then they had to wait for the announcement of approval dates by the official competition committee from Learn to Skate USA. With John Maier, a nationally-ranked judge, named as the Chief Referee, Ferguson rapidly moved forward, setting up the competition and having dates approved.

Young skaters make friends during lessons at the Bellingham Sportsplex Skate Academy. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Sportsplex.

“The coaching staff has really led the charge and have been extremely supportive,” says Ferguson. “They have really rallied to get the kids ready.”

Each of the coaches from the Skating Academy have taken on jobs. They have worked to educate parents on the process as well as fill roles as judges and announcers, as well as handling awards and music.

When asked about the timing of the competition, Ferguson explains that the Skating Academy at the Bellingham Sportsplex has a strong momentum right now and is seeing great growth. In fact, the academy saw the return of one student who had left Bellingham to go south for additional competition. This same student recently tested and earned his gold medal representing the Bellingham Sportsplex Skate Academy. He now intends to represent his family’s homeland of Thailand on an international level.

Keri Ferguson, Skate Academy Director, enjoys being on the ice with her grandson. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Sportsplex.

The Bellingham Blades Invitational will see a total of 43 skaters and exhibitors along with 12 different coaches all coming from as close as Everett to as far away as Wenatchee.

“I’m so excited about the support we’ve gotten,” says Ferguson. The Four Points by Sheraton is welcoming the families and skaters traveling from out of town for this event. “They have always been a huge supporter of our skating and hockey program,” Ferguson says.

While the competition is scheduled over a two-day timeframe, the Sportsplex will still be running its regularly scheduled public sessions. “We have the public to still take care of,” says Ferguson. “And for anyone within the community who wants to see a true skating competition live, this is a great opportunity to see one free of charge.” Friday evening will be reserved for competition practice ice. The actual competition will be between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Saturday April 15, with the exhibitions after 3 p.m.

Students of the Bellingham Sportsplex Skating Academy are growing with momentum. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Sportsplex.

Ferguson’s longer term goal is to continue to bridge the gap between the entry level skating program offered by the Skating Academy and the higher-level skaters of the Bellingham Figure Skating Club next year and double the size of the program. “The better our program is, the better we feed into the figure skating club,” she explains. “And it’s been a year of tremendous growth … We’ve worked hard to change the culture of learning and teaching. With clear communications with students and parents, we are able to provide more information on expectations and programs.”

With this growth and change in culture, new experiences are being introduced this year. For traditional learners and those interested in advancing their skating skills, there is the Figures and Turns class. For those young skaters looking to branch out and be even more creative, there is the Theater on Ice and the Cheerleading Camp that will be offered starting this summer.

The Bellingham Blades Invitational, a Learn to Skate USA competition, makes its debut on April 14 and 15 at the Bellingham Sportsplex. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Sportsplex.

As the Bellingham Blades Invitational, a Learn to Skate USA competition, makes its debut on April 14 and 15 at the Bellingham Sportsplex, it brings to the forefront the realization that the skating world is larger than we think it is.  With Western Washington University producing skaters such as Victoria Dinh (who won Collegiate Gold Medal for Senior Ladies Long program and now is a coach for the Skating Academy) the Skating Academy is sure to continue its incredible momentum in expanding figure skating into the community.

The complete schedule of events for the Bellingham Blades Invitational will be posted on April 10. Come support our local, young skaters!

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