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Kaitlyn skates to Knox history

Among countless numbers of elementary and middle school-aged girls who'll be day-dreaming wildly in front of television sets during 2010 Winter Olympic Games figure skating competitions, one Farragut girl's dreams perhaps aren't so far-fetched.

Kaitlyn Doan, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Farragut Middle School, recently became the first Knoxville metropolitan area youth skater ever to earn a spot in United States Junior Nationals, held Dec. 14-19 in Carmel, Ind., among a 42-girl field ages 13-under.

“It's just so much fun, I feel like I can do anything,” said Kaitlyn, who began skating at age 5. “I'd like to go as high as I can. Junior Nationals was sort of my biggest goal this [season], and I made it.”

A fourth-place finish during Eastern Great Lakes Regional Championship (a 96-girl field spanning from Alabama to Michigan) allowed Kaitlyn to earn her U.S. Junior Nationals trip.

“It was a really good learning experience, and it was really fun just being there,” Kaitlyn said. “I couldn't believe it ... I was just so overwhelmed to be there.”

Susan Jackson-Wagner, former Olympic figure skater representing Great Britain during the 1984 games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, has been Kaitlyn's personal coach since age 6. Jackson-Wagner also coaches Knoxville Figure Skating Club based at the Icearium.

“She's agile and quick, and jumps very well, spins quite well,” Jackson-Wagner said. “Has a nice personality on the ice, makes people like to watch her skate. She's enjoyable to watch ... a determined little girl.”

Beverly Doan, Kaitlyn's mother, said Kaitlyn has been serious “all along” about figure staking dating back to age 6, when “she was competing at the Atlanta Open. She did her first competition like six months after she started.”

Jackson-Wagner works with Kaitlyn five days per week. Gym comes after school, then homework, although there is after-school skating each Tuesday.

Her routine requires early morning workouts — prior to school around 6:15 a.m. — twice weekly.

Kaitlyn puts in “12 to 14 hours per week” of ice time, not including off-ice training — muscle toning and running — twice per week.

Kaitlyn said figure skating “just gets my mind off everything else when I get on the ice.”

Also, to improve coordination, “she's also working, one-on-one, with a ballet instructor one day a week,” said Jackson-Wagner, also a former performer with Disney on Ice and Holiday on Ice who has coached figure skating since Icearium opened in 2002.

“You've got to be very dedicated and spend lots of [workout] time by yourself,” the coach added.

“Several competitions” await Kaitlyn — who is moving up from juvenile to Intermediate level — beginning in late April, Jackson-Wagner said, leading up to 2010 Eastern Great Lakes Regionals in Nashville.

“This is kinda heavy training time right now,” the coach said.

Of her nine one-on-one figure skating students with KFSC, Jackson-Wagner also coaches two others from Farragut: Melin Craze, 16, novice, and Lara Cherry, 14, intermediate. Melin and Lara have “passed all the tests” and competed in regionals the past four years, the coach said.

Jackson-Wagner said the club has “around 60 to 65 skaters right now” in KFSC ranging in age from “5 to 65, roughly,” adding the club “always” is seeking new members.

The process begins with Basic Skills Program for children as young as age 3 -—for all ice sports — divided into eight progressi levels three days a week: Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m.; Fridays, 6:30-7:30 p.m., and Sundays, 3-4 p.m.

“At the end of each semester they get a very small, little test to see if they've passed,” Jackson-Wagner said.

Once all eight basic skill levels are mastered, young skaters ready to pursue specific figure skating skills “look for a private instructor,” Jackson-Wagner said.

The rewards? “It's a fun sport and they get to meet other people that also enjoy the same fun activity,” Jackson-Wagner said. “She's learning time management ... I think it teaches you discipline throughout life.”

Beverly Doan said figure skating at the competitive level can cost several thousand dollars per year.

“The expense is a stressor, but originally we started doing it because Kaitlyn was shy and wasn't real confident in herself,” Beverly said. “But when she started getting skating lessons she was so confident out on the ice. My husband [Eric] will tell you that it's been worth it, every penny of it, because of that.”

Other KFSC members individually coached by Jackson-Wagner are Danielle White, 16; Kendal Clay, 13; Skyler Shipstad, 10; Savanna Keel, 10, Chloe Wagner, 9, and Aimee Wagner, 7.


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