CHICAGO (CBS) — Return to the rink. COVID-19 forced many skating arenas to close until the last fall, and in-person competitions only just started up again, but some skaters left the sport all together.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory introduces us to two sisters more dedicated than ever at Kankakee Valley Park District.
They never stopped lacing up even when their rink shut down for six months. The pandemic may have sent their favorite activity into a tailspin, but Millie and Maddie Nichols took their jumps to the grass. Yes, grass, where they choreographed and recorded a dance for an April 2020 exhibition.
“You don’t think about how much momentum you need to really get up in the air until you can’t get any,” said Millie Nichols, an 8th grader.
By summer, the girls were back on the ice, but it was synthetic and installed in their garage amid boxes and bicycles.
A bit crammed, but 5th grader Maddie will tell you practice makes perfect and more.
“If you lose all of your edgework, you can’t do your jumps. If you go to a competition, you get last place,” she said.
Maddie and Millie also traveled to rinks in Indiana several times during the pandemic. That off-ice dedication wasn’t easy to maintain.
Coach Angie Tousignant said almost half the skaters on the competitive team at Ice Valley Centre, a Kankakee Valley Park District rink, gave up.
Things started looking up in November. The Greater Chicagoland Learn to Skate USA Committee, made up of directors from 22 Illinois rinks, organized a virtual competition.
“It was probably close to two hundred skaters,” said Tousignant, who serves on the committee.
She said skaters from all over the Midwest submitted videos. They’d twirl around in front of an iPhone. The performance could be recorded as many times as the child would like.
Tousignant says sometimes the music was hard for judges to hear, but overall the experience was a confidence booster.
“We could start having newer skaters do the virtuals,” Tousignant said. “You weren’t in front of an audience. You weren’t skating in front of judges.”
“It was less nerve-wracking,” said Maddie.
The Greater Chicagoland Learn to Skate USA Committee ran the first virtual competition sanctioned by U.S. Figure Skating in March of this year.
Now, the Bourbonnais sisters are back to training for live competitions. The thrill of trying new tricks isn’t what they missed the most.
“I loved when classes opened up again because you got to see everybody,” said Millie.
With masks required when others are on the ice, and social distancing still a must, this athletic community looks a little different. But that’s after a lot of balancing in the past 13 months.
Public skating is back at Kankakee Valley Park District’s rink. State regulations allow 50 people on the ice at a time.