Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You're never too old to take the ice

I found this as inspiring as the Young at Hearts singing a few blogs ago.


You’re never too old to take the ice
81-year-old woman competes at Edge arena in Bensenville

By Justin Kmitch
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007

Yvonne Dowlen’s days of Salchows and Axels are well behind her.

But that hasn’t stopped the 81-year-old from lacing up her skates for regular competition.

Dowlen began figure skating competitively in 1938 in her hometown of Lakewood, Colo., and spent time with the Ice Capades in the 1940s and ’50s.

This week, she’s in Bensenville competing in the 2007 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships. Her daughter Sherry, 44, is also competing at the Master Ladies Senior level that she’s mastered previously.

“Be warned: Watching me is not like watching Sasha Cohen or Michelle Kwan, because that’s not my style,” Dowlen joked earlier this week after arriving at Bensenville’s Edge Ice Arena. “At my age I’m an absolute dud, but I still do my freestyle, edges and spirals and things like that.

“Just being on the ice, at my age, is important to me.”

Dowlen’s age — she’s the oldest person in the tournament — is only part of what makes her appearance in the competition noteworthy.

Last May, she was involved in a serious car crash and sustained head injuries. Doctors told her she should hang up her skates and call it a career.

“That was like waving a red flag in front of a bull, I’ll tell ya,” she said. “No doctor’s gonna tell me I better not skate. So here I am competing at the U.S. Championships for my sixth straight year.”

She doesn’t do Axels anymore, because she’s afraid of falling, but her routine does include a few less difficult jumps.

Dowlen, who says she’s “very happy to be 81 and two-thirds,” finished in fifth place Thursday in the age 56 and Over Ladies Masters Junior competition.

“I’m not doing extra wonderfully (because of a pulled muscle earlier in the week) but I’m here,” she said. “Whenever I start to feel down I just look at everyone else my age touting around oxygen tanks and I just put on my skates and smile.”

She attributes her health to a mix of exercise and daily vitamins and supplements. She still practices for about an hour a day and still coaches a small group of children and adults.

She will also take the ice at about 5:20 p.m. Saturday to compete in the Ladies Masters interpretive artistic program. Her 90-second performance will be set to “Stars and Stripes Forever” and will include baton twirling.

Regardless of their age or experience, her message to all her students is the same.

“If you enjoy it, go all out and give it your best,” she said. “But if you’re not having fun or feeling at peace on the ice, do something else.”

The feeling she gets on the ice is what has kept her coming back to the annual competition for the previous five years.

“It’s a whole different world,” she said. “It’s a camaraderie thing and it’s what I want to do, what I love to do.”

Thursday was ladies day at the Edge with ladies master and ladies gold events filling the schedule. Many spectators likened the atmosphere to the Olympics with the stoic judges, flowers launched onto the ice after each performance and the general buzz throughout the crowd.

“It’s a lot of fun seeing these adults out there living it up like kids and having their moment,” said Rachael Brennon, who came to support friends competing for the St. Louis Figure Skating Club.

The competition continues this morning at the Edge Ice Arenas in Bensenville and runs through 5 p.m. Saturday.


Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Thank you for sharing that with us.. Very inspiring...

Best wishes


Pris said...

Isn't it?

Brian Campbell said...

As Dylan sings, "Forever Young".