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Skaters get a lift

Jump harness donated to Clifton Park Ice Arena

Abagail Smentkowski lands a jump while in the harness at a recent practice at the Clifton Park Ice Arena. Submitted photo.

Abagail Smentkowski lands a jump while in the harness at a recent practice at the Clifton Park Ice Arena. Submitted photo.

— The jump harness is used four days a week by approximately 10 figure skating coaches and dozens of students. Stacey Kuglan, director of the Learn to Skate Program at the Clifton Park rink and a figure skating coach, said that the harness doesn’t teach skaters to jump, but rather helps those who are close to landing a jump while they’re taking off.

“The teacher holds a towrope, like in water skiing,” she said. “The skater runs and the teacher then pulls on the rope. It gives them a little extra time in the air.”

The harness also teaches muscle memory and builds confidence in the skaters. Kuglan added it’s a “really good tool” for skaters who may be falling a lot or who are short on their landings.

“I help on the first or second try of a jump but not on the third,” said Kuglan. By the third try students usually get the hang of it and are pleasantly surprised when they find out that Kuglan actually didn’t help.

“All of a sudden they know they can do it. I totally see a difference in their confidence level … and it’s a real burst of improvement,” added Kuglan.

Jumps that skaters work on with the harness include the axle with double and triple rotations along with the famous Salchow.

Smentkowski said the harness helps skaters get a better feel for the way things need to be situated for a jump.

“It’s most critical for skaters who are around 12 or 13. At that point they start thinking it’s too hard and wind up losing interest,” he said.

The harness will likely last decades and will undergo routine maintenance checks to make sure everything is in working order. All coaches who employ the harness for lessons are specially trained and certified to use the jump harness.

For more information on the Albany Figure Skating Club, visit www.albanyfsc.org.

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