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So you wanna be a figure skater? Start your Olympic dreams here

Hagerstown, Tokyo, Beavercreek – as long as there was an ice rink nearby, it was home sweet home for Cindi Sonntag.

“Physically, it’s helped me build muscle – core muscle and leg muscle – but it’s more than that,” Sonntag said. “When I skate, I feel joy.”

With the Olympics underway, the grace and beauty of the sport is on display almost nightly. But while Olympic gold is a rare commodity, figure skating can be enjoyed by all ages – even without the sequins and commentators.

“In Olympic years we get what we call an Olympic bounce,” said Angie Riviello, arena and aquatics manager at the Kettering Recreation Complex. “People see the incredible athletes and it’s so beautiful to watch, you just get inspired.”

That inspiration has no age limits.

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“You’re never too old to start,” Riviello said. “We have a lot of adults who come out and want to take lessons so they can skate with their kids or grandkids at open skates.”

Sonntag can vouch for the fact that you’re never too old as she was in her 40s, living in Maryland, when she got started skating. Now, at 56, the mother of four, who also called Tokyo home, is skating competitively and training for the adult nationals.

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Crystal Ramsey of Springfield skates at Kettering Ice Arena. CONTRIBUTED (Contributing Writer)

GOOD FOR THE MIND

“When I started skating, I realized that I could not worry about things and skate at the same time, I had to turn off that part of my brain,” Sonntag said. “That means when I skate I have these moments when everything is right and that’s a wonderful feeling.”

And while Sonntag is in her mid-50s, she is still, often times, a youngster on the ice. Riviello regularly sees skaters well into their 70s taking lessons.

“The first thing we focus on is safety because a lot of adults are nervous that if they fall, they will break something,” Riviello said. “So, one of the first things we do is teach them how to fall and how to get back out and that helps put their mind at ease.”

Sonntag has seen skaters in their 80s lace up their skates.

“You can learn new things at any age,” she said. “And this is something I can do when I’m ‘old,’” she added with a smile.

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Cindi Sonntag of Beavercreek and partner Leo Kaplun, originally from Russia, medaled in pairs and ice dancing at the 2016 nationals in Michigan. CONTRIBUTED (Contributing Writer)

GOOD FOR THE BODY

Beyond the mental health aspects of the sport, skating has several physical benefits.

“Skating is a great workout for the core, and it’s a great workout for legs,” Riviello said. “It’s also wonderful for improving balance and creating body awareness.”

The cardio and stamina benefits should not be overlooked and some adult skaters enjoy just tallying laps – 10 laps at the Kettering Ice Arena equal a mile. And skaters can burn 200 calories an hour on the ice.

“It really is great exercise and you can take it as far as you want to take it,” Riviello said.

From the beginner class to advanced jumps and spins, the Learn to Skate USA curriculum offers a safe and steady progression. There are also opportunities to perform with local skating groups and compete – like Sonntag.

“I’m not going to be a double jumper but that’s ok,” she said. “Getting out and moving just makes me feel better.”

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Cindi Sonntag of Beavercreek and partner Leo Kaplun, originally from Russia, medaled in pairs and ice dancing at the 2016 nationals in Michigan. CONTRIBUTED (Contributing Writer)

TRY SKATING – LEARN MORE

Kettering Ice Arena

WHERE: 2900 Glengarry Drive, Kettering

WHAT: Youth and adult lessons, open skating, hockey

INFO: https://www.playkettering.org/

South Metro Sports

WHERE: 10561 Success Lane, Centerville

WHAT: Youth and adult lessons, open skating, hockey, South Dayton Figure Skating Club,

INFO: http://smetrosports.com/

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