World champion ice dancers train at Hertz Arena
As often as we all drive by the bright yellow Hertz Arena on Route 75 in Southwest Florida, I’ll bet most of us aren’t fully aware of what’s going on in there.
Just a few miles from the beach, world-class ice skaters, like other athletes, are logging hours and hours of practice. The difference is, they’re doing it all on skinny blades on the slick surface of the ice, appearing effortless and weightless as they spin, lift, jump, and glide.
The woman running those hours of practice is the highly decorated skating coach Marina Zoueva. She moved her International Skating Academy to the Hertz Arena in Estero from Michigan in February 2019. She says her skaters love the sun of the warmer climate. It helps them have more energy and aid with their recovery. Plus, they don’t have to be inside all the time.
“My skaters can spend more time outdoors,” said Zoueva.
Kana Muramoto is one of Zoueva’s skaters, who is enjoying Southwest Florida’s sunshine.
“We go to the beach, get the sun, Vitamin D. It’s so calm here. It’s very nice,” she said with a laugh.
Muramoto and her partner are both world-class skaters. She competed in the 2018 Olympics in figure skating. Her tremendously accomplished ice dancing partner, Daisuke Takahashi, won a bronze medal in figure skating in the 2010 Olympics. He was the first Japanese man to ever do so. He was also the first Japanese man to win a world championship, which he also did in 2010.
The sport is part gymnastics, part theater, part skating–an all together gorgeous, elegant performance on the ice.
Muramoto and Takahashi move in sync as though skating with one body. Muramoto describes how they do it.
“Just feeling each other while we’re skating, kind of creates that unison together, so. It’s a long hard process. But when it’s right, it feels so good,” she said.
This is only their second year together as partners, while most pairs of ice dancers have been together a decade or more, Muramoto says. Despite their short tenure, the hours these two have put in with their coach in the Hertz Arena are paying off. In January, they went to the worldwide Four Continents competition in Estonia and brought home the silver medal.
Now, they're the first substitute for the Beijing Olympics this month. That means if any of the Japanese team drops out, Muramoto and Takahashi will be called to compete. And with the covid situation being what it is, Zoeva says, they will need to be ready at any moment.
For now, they’ll keep practicing in the Hertz Arena.