Former Figure Skating Champions Get Creative to Keep Sport Alive for Kids



NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — When it comes to youth sports during a global pandemic, improvisation and adaptation have become two of the most important skills to have.
Specifically in Southern California, home to some of the harshest COVID-related restrictions, youth sports programs and coaches have had to get creative to keep their athletes going.

What You Need To Know

  • Skating rinks remain closed and exhibitions have been canceled amid the pandemic
  • Two former champion skaters have teamed up to create their own avenues for young athletes to stay active
  • Aidas Rekyls and Slava Zagorodnyuk have held classes and seminars via Zoom

For figure skaters, not being able to practice on the ice has been a challenge.
“They’re facing challenges for sure,” said Aidas Rekyls, a former national champion skater turned coach. “They want to go on the ice and practice, and suddenly you can’t go on the ice. It’s restricted. You have to wear a mask, and it’s harder to breathe. But you’re going around and doing what you need to do.”

For him, that’s meant partnering with former Olympian Slava Zagorodnyuk to find creative solutions for young skaters throughout the region.
In addition to keeping skaters moving outdoors — in parks and on fields — they’ve held classes and seminars via Zoom. The pair has even taken it a step further by hosting their own exhibitions to allow skaters to showcase their skills.
With many competitions and other outside exhibitions canceled over the last year, they worried many would quit the sport entirely.

“All the season lost, no competitions, everything is canceled, and they probably would quit,” Reklys said. “That would be a sad story.”

“But kids after the events would be smiling and super excited,” added Zagorodnyuk. “That’s what we were trying to do little by little, is continue to organize more figure skaters here in the U.S.”