If the coaches' own successes are any measure, the winningest skaters at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena this week will be headed to glory on the national stage and beyond.
Elaine Zayak has had the role of coach for 20 years, but has some medals of her own. She was the 1981 U.S. National Figure Skating champion and then took first place in 1982 at the World Figure Skating Championships. In 1984, she competed in the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.
"Some of the best of the world is here - I have to say our country really has some good skaters this year,'' she said.
Jimmy Ma is competing at the U.S. Figure Skating Eastern Sectional Championships. His coach is Elaine Zayak, a former national and world champion. Her former coach is also present with six competitors this week in Jamestown.
P-J photo by Jason Rodriguez
Among those is her own student, Jimmy Ma, who last month took second in the novice division at the North Atlantic Regional competition, held in Amherst.
Ms. Zayak was instructed through her pinnacle years by Mary Lynn Gelderman, and her former coach was also at Jamestown with a fresh crop of aspiring athletes. She said she has been coach for nearly 40 years, and this week has six skaters each in different events.
"I have a senior lady who has just returned from a pair of international championships since she is a member of the U.S. international team," she said. "I have seen kids though world championships and Olympics. I have taken them from beginner level all the way through - every step is an important step."
Coach Priscilla Hill said three of her athletes have their sights on the upcoming national championships to be held in San Jose, where the top four in each event from Jamestown will face off with the counterparts from Salt Lake City and Fort Collins, Colo.
"I have novice, a junior and a senior, all in guys' events," she said. "My novice just skated (without fault) so we will see what happens. He has skated the best he has ever skated."
Most skaters agree that Ms. Hill was the first skater to complete a triple loop in competition in 1975. Her most recognized former student is Johnny Weir, whom she coached to the gold medal at the 2001 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. He is also noted for three consecutive gold medals in the national championships.
"I took him to through the Olympics in 2006 and I had him from the very beginning of his time on the ice, which is a pretty neat thing," she said.
The veteran coaches all said they have been to the Jamestown facility numerous times. In years past, the Jamestown Skating Club has hosted the regional-tier competition round, the National Junior Championship which showcases the best from the juvenile and intermediate skills, as well as the local Skate Chautauqua event each summer.
Said Ms. Hill: "I love this coming to this building. It is one of the nicest places for smaller events, because you still get the coliseum feel and the younger kids get to learn about what it feels like to be in the bigger arenas."
Event chairperson Mary Handley said she is a musician by trade but developed an interest in setting the scene for skating competitions as she took her daughter to the skating academy in Jamestown. The local instruction helped her to gain three medals in national championships.
"Producing both music and figure skating events, I have tried to combine certain qualities that I saw as advantageous in one to the other," Ms. Handley said. "It has been very interesting to be on both sides and be able to contribute a little differently."
Live updated results of the competition can be viewed at www.usfigureskating.org/leaderboard/results/2012/68254/results.html.