News-story from: Franklin Homepage Paper
Holding onto her partner’s forearm, Linde LaChance found herself swung in a circle over and over, her body parallel to the ice only inches below her head and back.
Her white skates glided around as she returned to an upright position, and the two continued on to the next jump in their routine.
“It’s hard,” LaChance said, leaning over the rail for a break. “You’re not just an athlete or a ballerina. You’re having to perform, and doing the exact same moves as your partner. You have have to have the strength of a football player and the grace of a ballerina.”
On Thursday afternoon, LaChance and Kenneth Anderson, both 20, prepared for the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Ten years ago this summer, the Franklin natives were just learning how to move in unison together on the ice as two fifth-graders. And after this weekend, they could become nominated for the U.S. National Team, traveling around the world competing.
With ability to bypass regionals, the duo placed fifth in sectionals. Only the top four from each sectional got the chance to compete in the national spotlight, but after one of the teams that finished ahead of them dropped out, they were able to nab a spot to complete with the 11 other best groups from across the country.
Practicing a newer move in their routine, Anderson catapulted LaChance in the air. Unable to complete her rotations before landing, she fell to the ice and slid across the cold surface. The fall was enough to make a casual figure skating watcher cringe.
“That is just something you get used to,” she said. “I equate it to being tackled by a football player. But unlike with football, the impact and hardness of the ice will stay the same.”
Anderson said their unity on the ice has become natural, and tossing up his petite partner in the air takes a lot more effort outside of the rink than when they perform.
Hours go into the two participating in ballet and working on their lifts. They start slow and progress to doing the moves faster before they lace up their skates to go at it full speed.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Anderson said. “I am not the one who is going to feel it when she falls. So I do everything I can to eliminate the blow if we were to mess up. But it’s not always possible.”
The two started skating at young ages, with both having other family members infatuated with spending time circling around a rink.
They are also the only team in the country that consists of two full-time students – LaChance attending Belmont University for music business and Anderson at Vanderbilt University for chemical engineering.
Starting early in the morning, the duo works out before their classes and again in the afternoon. Coordinating their schedules with competitions provides a small hurdle, but the two consider it worth the hassle for chasing their dream. Naturally, sleep and other college proclivities come low on the priority list.
“I’ve had some professionals who told me that I am wasting my time doing this and trying to make it in music business,” LaChance said. “I’ve had some who are really supportive that I am making it all work. And right now, I have just finished recording an album and have a deal in the works with a label.”
During Thursday’s hours-long practice, LaChance and Anderson skated through their short and long programs. Both have different themes, which require two sets of outfits and thought processes for each performance.
The long program is tougher for the duo, lasting four and half minutes. While that pocket of time can easily slip by on a clock, the pair consider it challenging.
“Yeah, it seems short, but you have to match everything that person is doing the entire time,” LaChance said. “You also have to match that person’s endurance and intensity for the entire performance.”
Two more ice skaters from Middle Tennessee who practice at A-Game Sportsplex – Jake Pagano, 16, and Kristen Lyle George, 14 – will also compete in the intermediate level at nationals. It is their fourth season as a pair.
Pagano attends Father Ryan High School and George goes to Centennial. Before moving up from the juvenile level, they were ranked fifth in the nation. This will be their first year to compete in this age bracket.