Lisa Austin tells the story of her ice skating career–
It all began at age four when my Mom took me ice skating, which was a new hobby for her. Furiously independent, I refused help from older students and wanted to “do it myself!” Before long I was flying around the ice and enjoying learning new figure skating skills.
By age nine I was getting serious about the sport and started testing and competing. I loved doing the “school figures” as they were called, where skaters would spend hours, extending to years, perfecting skating perfect circles with perfect edges and clean turns. The judges would actually stand on the ice and get close to examine the tracings! Liken it to the “bar” in Ballet where you gain the skill and strength of all the positions needed for a strong foundation in the sport. These skills would then give a strong foundation for the jumps, spins, and footwork of the freestyle programs. There was a series of tests that were completed when the 8th, or Gold Test was passed.
I tested and competed until age fifteen when an injury surfaced due to the repeated practice of the double jumps. (Back in the days of Dorothy Hamill, women did not do triples.) Due to this injury, I was not able to compete in ladies’ singles anymore but still loved skating and continued working on the figure tests. This is actually how I got into teaching! My coach, Sandra Hess, a world-class ice dance coach, asked me to assist her coaching with the younger skaters. With this offer, I turned professional and coached, but continued to work on the figure tests and actually passed the fifth and sixth tests as a professional skater.
Coaching was a great part-time job as I attended college studying music. I coached for many years at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center and even skated in some pro shows like The Knott’s Berry Farm Christmas Show and “Chrystal Christmas” in Santa Rosa, California, produced by Charles Schultz (Peanuts comics). It was such a great experience and great fun!
With college and music teaching credentials complete, I traded in my skates for a baton and became band director at Joe Walker Middle School in Palmdale, and later Monroe Middle School in Ridgecrest. It really was the move to Ridgecrest that ended my participation in the sport of skating. Only after a 32-year hiatus from skating and retirement from band and choir directing did I return to the ice.
The sport had changed a lot after 32 years! The all-important figures were sadly eliminated from the sport of Figure Skating. Many skaters thought that this was a bad idea. After a while the figure skating associations figured out that the missing figure training was causing some inferior skating skills and they devised a new system and a new set of tests. These tests still have all of the same edges and turns but they are skated down the ice more like footwork patterns that you see in a competitive program as you would see at competitions such as Worlds or the Olympics. I found out I could be grandfathered in on these new tests and I was eligible to finish up with the Gold Moves in the field! I started practicing on a regular basis in Santa Rosa, California working on the test.
After nine months of concentrated practice working on my own I got a coach and worked for another month with my coach before I took the test at the end of October 2022. I was excited when I learned that I passed, and with Honors. A personal goal for me set over fifty years ago!
I would like to thank my coach Karin Freund, who was always positive and encouraging. Thanks too to my husband Simon who has never stood in my way. Also, I want to thank the other skating friends and coaches at Snoopy’s Home Ice in Santa Rosa, where the positive atmosphere is abundant. That particular rink is a magical place where it is easy to make dreams come true!
Lisa Austin, who just became a United States Figure Skating Association Gold Medalist, comes to a pose after a practiced glide on the ice.