CARLSBAD — Feb. 9 marked the beginning of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
But on Feb. 3, Ice Town held its own opening ceremonies of sorts for the games in conjunction with National Skate Month.
The facility, which is home to youth hockey, figure and open skating, held an open house for aspiring skaters along with a showcase featuring three of Ice Town’s nationally recognized figure skaters.
“A lot of people don’t realize there is an ice rink in Carlsbad,” Ice Town Director Leslie Deason said. “It’s right in your backyard. The sport of skating is so much fun.”
Singles skater Max Lake, 15, placed second at the 2018 national competition (novice division), while the brother-and-sister pairs team of Katie, 14, and Nathan Han Luong, 17, finished third (intermediate). Each performed their short program as several hundred people watched before taking to the ice for a free introduction into the sport.
Guests were also treated to Lola’s Lemonade, a nonprofit founded by 8-year-old Lola Renick raising money to purchase skates for underprivileged kids wanting to learn figure skating.
Ice Town opened in December 2014, so Deason decided to host its first-ever Winter Olympics event to introduce skating to the masses. About 1,000 people attended, she said, and the center offered free sessions.
“I think it was a great success,” Deason said. “We offered four different free introductory lessons. And there was a lot of signups for our skating lessons. We wanted to get every involved and supporting Team USA.”
She said the basics come first, where people must first learn how to skate before jumping into a sport. Once skating becomes fluid, Deason said, then skaters can choose their sport whether it be hockey or figure skating.
As for Ice Town’s own skaters, the trio shared the same ice as the Olympic representatives from Team USA at the National Championships in San Jose. There, they bested skaters from across the country.
Max said his goal is to eventually make the Olympic roster. He trains for at least two hours per day, six days a week.
The Luongs, meanwhile, are at a crossroad as Nathan Han Luong is set to graduate from high school this year. Katie Han Luong, though, said she plans to continue competing, but isn’t sure whether it will be in pair or singles.
The two said they are just focused on the next several months and skating together for their fifth year.
“We have no idea,” Katie Han Luong said. “We just want to do pairs this season.”