Tyrone girl skates for the stars

Lauren Woodring is a 12-year old bundle of energy who has the talent and aspirations few of us can understand. Molded into those characteristics are the will to achieve through hard work, to become a professional at her craft.
Lauren’s passion is figure skating. This is not the few times a year when the season and weather are right at a local lake or pond to thrill a few neighbors. This is about becoming like the skaters we watch on television on Sundays performing in competitions all around the world and every four years at the Winter Olympics. Sarah Hughes and Tara Lipinsky and Michelle Kwan are the performers Lauren wants to emulate.
None of the above mentioned young ladies made it to where they are without a ton of hard work and coaches pushing them beyond what often seems do-able.
Lauren works out on local skating rinks in Altoona, Johnstown and Penn State University four times a week on the average. The workouts at Galactic Ice in Altoona stopped when the management closed the rink to figure skating. A typical day involves leaving, not just getting up, but actually being ready to leave at between 5:30 and 6 a.m. to take off for a four hour session on the ice somewhere. This is far removed from the time when Aunt Effie and Uncle Joe and the kids lace on some skates and blunder around the rink for an evening of relaxation. This involves serious work that includes jumps and turns and basics and form and technique and more. You have to love skating because the hours can be quite monotonous, doing the same routine over and over again, one small part at a time until you can perform it in your sleep, and probably do.
Lauren, who has been skating now for four years, hounded her parents, Loren and Wendy Woodring about taking figure skating lessons for three years before they finally relented. She has a coach who now lives in Johnstown, Amir Babaov, for whom she professes, “great respect.”
Amir comes from Russia and has received numerous offers to go to places like Boston and Washington D. C. to coach. He works closely with Lauren and other female skaters, including a girl who at present is in Paris competing at the Junior Grand Prix Skating Championship.
Amir coaches Lauren three days a week and on the fourth day becomes an observer, watching her every move as she skates through all the maneuvers they have worked on during the rest of the week.
Lauren just completed a week in Richmond, VA., where from August 11-17, she took part in The SkateNation Figure Skating School with professional coaches to help with every imaginable part of a skaters routine.
Among the notable coaches who were in Richmond for the week were Elena Betchke and Denis Petrov, both of St. Petersburg, Russia, who as a pair won the Silver Medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics and 1997 World Professional Gold Medal in Paris. Denis watched footwork and improving technique both on and off the ice. Elena worked with the young skaters on their off-ice conditioning, stroking and technique.
Also on hand were Valentin Nikolayev and Viacheslav Zagorodnyuk. From Odessa, Russia, Valentin worked closely with Amir and left word on what he needs to get Lauren to train on to keep her from developing bad habits. He gave Lauren private lessons and has trained Olympic Gold Medalists Oksana Baiul and Victor Petrenko, as well as currently coaching Zagorodnyuk. Viacheslav, a five-time Ukrainian National champion whom everybody lovingly calls “Slava” because his name is nearly impossible for Americans to pronounce, was a Junior World Champ at the age of 18.
Lauren was thrilled to have these world-renowned skaters as her coaches.
If you notice how many of the coaches are from countries that formed the now-broken apart Soviet Union, it is not just chance. With the fall of communism, and the breakup of the USSR, figure skaters and many other athletes no longer were subsidized by the government to do nothing but train and compete. They were forced to take their skills to the western world and work as paid coaches to earn a livelihood. Obviously, many of the former Soviet stars have gravitated to the United States and young people like Lauren are now able to take advantage of and use their expertise and skills.
Amir and the other coaches have decided that now after all the workouts and training and coaching that Lauren is ready to take the next step in her development. They feel that Lauren, who also takes dancing at Sigel’s School of Dancing in Altoona, is ready for serious competition. Lauren has just learned a new program and will begin at the Challenge Cup in Philadelphia, on September 5-8, and then will skate in the South Atlantics in York, on October 4-6.
Lauren, who is going into the seventh grade at the Tyrone Area Middle School is the granddaughter of Earl and Beverly Harris and has a seven-year old brother Garrett. She was able to perform for her classmate last year when Mr. Friday’s class went to Galactic Ice to watch her perform.