Her grandmother's suggestion opened the door to Emily Slaven's figure-skating career.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- Needing a diversion and some kind of enjoyable experience during a time of family grief and sadness have launched an ice skating career for Emily Slaven, 12, of Poland, a sixth grader at McKinley Elementary School.
Emily enrolled in the Learn to Skate Program at the Ice Zone in Boardman in April 1999 while her father, Mike, was gravely ill.
Two-and-a-half years later, she has developed into a championship figure skater with much potential.
"My mother [Jane Evans] said that [Emily] needs something to do that is going to be uplifting for her, and my mother suggested figure skating," said Emily's mother, also named Emily, who proceeded to enroll her daughter in group lessons for one hour a week.
"This helped her because she was doing something that was positive, and she enjoyed it so much," Mrs. Slaven said. "Of course, we were crying at home, but it gave her something to do, and she made new friends. The people at the Ice Zone are friendly and like family."
Developed: Emily immediately fell in love with the sport and displayed talent and developed quickly. In only two months, she entered a competition at the suggestion of Maria Koman, director of the Ice Zone and coach of the Ice Zone Figure Skating Competition Team.
"[Maria] suggested that we compete in The Mid-American Championships," Mrs. Slaven said. "[Emily] entered in stroking. She skated around the ice with a certain form.
"This was the [only] competition that my husband saw."
Mike died in September 1999.
And while Emily went on to greater achievements as a member of the Ice Zone Team, she asked her mother if her father was watching her skate.
Mrs. Slaven assured her that he was.
Medal show: This past summer, Emily won eight medals -- four gold and four silver -- in nine events at the Ice Skating Institutes' 21st "Champs" 2001 World Recreational Team Championships held July 30-Aug. 4 in Dublin, Ohio.
The meet attracted thousands of skaters from 135 teams, including from Mexico, Japan, China and Australia.
She helped her team to place third with 552 points behind Chiller of Dublin (925.5), the host team; and Centre Ice Arena of Pittsburgh (586).
Emily was named the Ice Zone Figure Skating Club's Skater of the Year during a recent banquet.
In mid-August, she captured silver and bronze medals at Skate Chautauqua in Jamestown, N.Y.
And just last week, she won two gold and one silver at the Halloween Classic at Neville Island, Pa., sponsored by the Pittsburgh Figure Skating Club and sanctioned by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
Likes Olympics: Emily, who also serves as co-captain of the Icettes synchronized skating team, said she got interested in ice skating from watching it on television.
"I like to see the Olympics on TV and I wanted to skate so bad," said Emily, who has found much to like about the sport.
"The part I like the most about it is learning new things and making friends and the skating. I loved it."
And she continues to advance.
"Recently, I landed a double toe and a double salchow. I would like to start learning a double loop, but I need to get better on my double toe before I start a double loop." said Emily, who would like to make ice skating a career or at least an avocation.
"I have two long-term goals. One is to go to the Olympics and, two, to become a coach," she emphasized.
Meanwhile, ice skating, and the beauty and pursuit of excellence in it, have helped Emily immensely.
"It proved in her case to very therapeutic," said Mrs. Slaven. "She found out that she not only liked it, but had an ability, thanks to my mom."
Dedication: Emily is dedicated and serious about her training.
"The last two summers we went to the ice Zone Summer Skating School, and she spent four hours on the ice every day," said her mother.
And during the school year when other demands beckon, "She skates every day. She's on the ice at least one hour.
"She was honors student last year. She had all A's, even though she was doing all this skating," Mrs. Slaven said.
Another person playing a key role in the household is Emily's brother, Jeb, 18, a senior at Poland High.
"He kind of took on more manly duties in the house," said his mother.