COLUMBIA — Animal print and Swarovski crystals proved to be a winning combination for the members of Columbia’s Empire Artistic Skate Club.
Emma Trent, 18, brought a safari theme to the stage during the 2013 National Figure Skating Championship in Albuquerque, N.M., in late July. With blond hair teased to look like a lion's mane, she danced to a techno mashup of "The Lion King" in a leopard and cheetah ensemble topped with black and gold makeup.
Jessie Carstens-Kass, 14, struck a different chord. Her bright green and yellow Irish outfit and ringlets of hair topped with ribbons complimented her stomp music. Both performances were rewarded with gold.
Four of the five women on the Empire team secured No. 1 spots, accepting a total of eight gold medals in addition to five silver and three bronze medals in various forms of competition at the championship.
Emma Trent’s performances won her a spot on the 2013 USA Figure Skating World Team for the third time. In November, she will represent the United States in Taipei City, Taiwan, for the 2013 World Roller Figure Skating Championship, according to the USA Roller Sports website.
The team’s success marked a notable improvement from last year, when it won three gold, seven silver and two bronze medals. That's especially remarkable given that the number of teammates fell from 21 to seven.
"Last year was more about quantity over quality " Emma Trent said. Her mother, Lisa Trent, coaches the team and co-owns Empire Roller Rink. Lisa Trent attributed part of the team’s success to the smaller numbers, saying it helped improve teamwork..
“The girls work really hard,” Trent said, referring to practices that went on for up to three hours a day, six days a week as nationals approached. She said the season runs from August until nationals begin in July the following year.
Artistic roller skating is similar to ice skating. Competitors perform jumps, spins and technical footwork to music. Lisa Trent said roller skaters can do more than those who skate on blades or with in-line skates. Making quick turns is easier, Emma Trent said, "and you can balance on one foot easier."
Lisa Trent said those who make it to the World Games compete at the Olympic level. All the rules are the same, she said, comparing the figure skating World Championship to Olympic ice skating.
Carstens-Kass, a multimedalist who ice skated for a year before moving to roller skating, said appearances are more important in her current sport.
Lisa Trent showed off old costumes during a short practice Wednesday. They ranged from the simple — a black velvet costume with a handful of shining crystals along the neckline — to the elaborate — a lime green salsa outfit complete with black lace, ruffles and a black flower near the hem.
"They kinda help you get in character," Carstens-Kass said.
No matter what style, "everything has sequins," Lisa Trent said. She recalled a shiny gold number that her daughter wore during one of her performances. It’s brightness drew the attention of a spectator who asked: “How did you get all those lights to turn on?”
Both Emma Trent and Carstens-Kass said the reason behind their commitment to artistic roller skating is the chance to see their hard work pay off and to accomplish their goals.
Carstens-Kass said she would never go back to ice skating.
“It’s just different,” she said of competitive roller skating. “You're doing something new that no one has really ever done.”
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