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Farragut siblings skate to national success

So, you think it was hot in Knoxville this summer? Well, Fifi and Rashi Mahfouz of Farragut cooled off this summer to train and compete at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championship Competition in Lake Placid, N.Y. One of the largest ice dance competitions in the world takes place in Lake Placid each summer. Young figure skaters from the United States, Canada, and all over the globe participate. There were more than 400 participants at this year’s event that took place Aug. 1-4.

Fifi, 10, and Rashi, 9, are the youngest United States Figure Skating competitive ice dancing team in the Knox County area. They are also the first Knox County team to represent Eastern Tennessee at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships.

They competed in the Pre-Juvenile compulsory ice dance events and enjoyed competing with some of the best ice dancing teams in the country.

“I always loved watching figure skating. I’d previously taken some dance classes, so getting on skates and dancing felt kind of familiar, and it was easy to transfer to the ice,” said Fifi, who began skating at the age of 7. “I also started ballet at the age of 3, plus my brother and I enjoy ballroom dancing together, so that makes a world of difference.”

Rashi said, “It wasn’t like a competition with the other dancers; it was more like a battle with ourselves — just being able to dance to the best of our ability/

The competition and the training, he added, “were physically and emotionally demanding, but well worth it. Skating at the World Olympic Arena where the Winter Olympics were held in 1932 and 1980 was an experience in itself.”

The ice dance competition consisted of two compulsory dances for the initial round and two additional compulsory dances for the final round.

These dances are divided into skill levels such as pre-gold, gold and international.

Each compulsory dance is skated to standard music that is played at a specific tempo for each dance; each couple performs exactly the same routine. Fifi and Rashi were required to skate the Dutch Waltz, Cha-Cha, Rhythm Blues and Fiesta Tango in Lake Placid, for the Pre-Juvenile Division.

The initial round dances included Dutch Waltz and Cha-Cha. The judges praised them for their excellent leg extensions and control of the ice. Rashi presented Fifi with flair and the brother-and-sister team clearly had a wonderful time.

On the following day, the two final round compulsory dances consisted of the Rhythm Blues and the Fiesta Tango. Fifi and Rashi received their highest marks for the Fiesta Tango ice dance. They were even more thrilled to have won fourth-place as a combined score for all four compulsory dances.

While in Lake Placid, Fifi and Rashi focused on ice dance, both on and off the ice. They teamed up with Karen Courtland-Kelly for two weeks of intensive ice dance training. This ice dance looks to advance to the next level, Juvenile.

Rashi said, “When you watch us at a competition we want to make it look easy and graceful. For us to do that, it takes many hours of work and practice. We must skate very close to each other using various holds and footwork and are not allowed to separate from each other for more than five seconds.

“This makes it very easy to get spiked or sliced or to trip each other up,” he added. “Lifts require the guy to be really strong and have steady balance as he has to lift the girl while moving at great speeds.

'The girls has to be strong and flexible so she can help balance herself and hold some graceful positions. My sister, Fifi, she is good at that.”

Fifi added, “In our opinion, ice dancing is the most difficult form of ice skating. Believe us when we say ice dancing looks easier than it really is. Just try it and you will soon also find out that ice dance makes your edges better which is so very helpful for landing free style jumps. I just know that my extensive ice dance training in Lake Placid will make my free style skating even better.”

Margaux Akright, Ice Dance Coach, Cool Sports, Home of the Icearium in Farragut, accompanied the ice dance team and stayed with them to assist in their training efforts.

“This young ice dance team was fortunate to have the opportunity to train extensively before and after the ice dance competition,” Akright said. “Mostly we worked on extensions and edge quality to get them ready for this type of high level competition. Now we are working on deeper edges with more speed and lifts will be required in their free dance for future competitions.”

Fifi and Rashi train at Cool Sports. The team trains with Akright and Su Jackson-Wagner, free style moves coach. Both coaches have themselves trained and skated in Lake Placid.

For this team’s continued success, other off ice training will be incorporated into their schedule. As a dance student of Knox Dance Worx, Fifi will continue ballet and incorporate jazz, as well as musical theater into her training routine.

Ballet provides her with core training in classical technique and it also helps her develop the core strength and flexibility she needs as an ice dancer to reduce the chance of pulled muscles and injury.

Jazz is needed to strengthen her movement and overall ice dancing choreography. Musical theater is necessary for all of the facial expressions portrayed during the ice dances.

Rashi will join Fifi as they both continue strength training, which includes aerobic conditioning, stretching, and core strength conditioning at The RUSH Fitness Complex.

“Regardless of the time of year, our days are full,” Rashi said. “We absolutely love competing. And we absolutely love our training program both on the difficult days and on the days when things come more easily.”

Fifi added, “Then when we master something we’ve struggled on for months, the feeling is indescribable.”

Fifi attends The Episcopal School of Knoxville and Rashi attends Webb School of Knoxville. They have a younger sister, Perri-Hann, 3, in pre-school at Farragut Montessori.

“My little sister wants to be just like me,” Fifi said. “She even started ballet when she was just 2-1/2 years old and wears figure skating dresses all the time. It would be fun for the three of us to skate together in an ice show.”


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