FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The figure skaters participating in Fort Bragg's Learn to Skate Program at Cleland Ice Rink are preparing for their upcoming competition with an Olympic flair. The pinnacle of their sport, the 2010 Winter Olympics, provided inspiration to the coaches and skaters as they prepared for their own competition, taking place Saturday in Yorktown, Va.

For their individual artistic programs, the skaters are representing a country with costumes based on traditional dress and skating to pieces originating in their country.

Coaches Liz Egetoe, Alie Voyce and Michelle Snyder got the idea for the program while watching this year's Olympic opening ceremonies.

"It was really Michelle's idea to do the Olympic theme," said Egetoe, the skating director. "We got together and the ideas started rolling, it ended up being a creative rollercoaster."

MaKyla Portee, 12, has been skating for about a year and a half. She is representing Spain for her artistic piece.

"It's been really fun," said Portee. "I get to use castanets, which have made it more challenging because I have to stay on beat. The challenge makes it more fun though and I'm pretty confident going into the competition."

With 21 skaters, ranging in age from 4 to 15 years old, performing a total of 43 programs set to music and only a month to prepare, the coaches and skaters have been busy putting the final touches on the pieces. Even the parents pitched in to help, often making the skater's costumes.
Lucy Bourque also serves as her daughter's make-up artist for her performances.

"Jasmine really gets into character and loves dressing up," said Bourque. Jasmine, 10, is representing China and skating to traditional music using fans.

To help keep the costumes authentic, Egetoe donated her Family's traditional Hungarian dress for skater Anne-Marie Miller's performance. Egetoe said that both she and her sister wore the now 50-year-old dress growing up, which was passed down to them by their mother.

As the skaters prepare to head to Virginia, they continue to rehearse and put the finishing touches on their performances.

"Watching the skaters develop is one of the best feelings," said Voyce, the skating program's assistant director. "I just had a girl do a mohawk (a skating turn done from same edge to same edge) and watching her get it and the joy on her face, it makes it so worthwhile."

To learn more about Fort Bragg's Learn to Skate Program, which offers group and private lessons, call 396-5127.