As the Sochi Olympic Games come to a close, figure skating is the sport that continues to be one of the most exciting events to watch among all the competitions.
But from an Olympic coach’s perspective, those few minutes of watching their skaters perform on a world stage are far from exciting - they’re just plain intense.
Tampa Bay Skating Academy figure skating coach Pauline
Gasparini knows this firsthand. She coached several winning Olympic pairs teams, including one team she took from the beginning level all the way to the Olympics.
|Coach Pauline Gasparini|
displays her Olympic
outfit recently at
TBSA in Oldsmar.
“You have cameras all on you, so the main thing is to stay calm and normal so when the skaters go on the ice they’re focused,” she says. “My job is to not rock the boat; not make any last-minute calls to change their focus. When I watch their performances, I’m watching every muscle movement they’re making and I know whether the element is going to be accomplished or not. I hold myself together until the final position at the end...and then I get excited.”
Gasparini reflects on the first time she attended the world’s
most celebrated international sporting event that this year gathered together elite figure skaters from 30 countries. In 1980, Gasparini brought the pair team of Susan Garland and Robert Daw, her stepson at the time, to the Lake Placid Winter Olympics to compete. Representing Great Britain, Garland, 13, and Daw, 16, skated a clean program and placed in the top 10.
|The first pair team Coach Gasparini took to the|
Olympics. Susan Garland and Robert Daw placed
in the top 10.
“It was the most exciting time,” she says. “That was my first experience being an Olympic coach.”
Coaching the pair team is an accomplishment she is very proud of.
“I took them from learn-to-skate classes right up to the Olympics,” she says. “So that’s a very satisfying feeling because you don’t inherent skaters, you know you can take them all the way.”
Four years later, she and Ron Ludington, an internationally
known skating coach, took Kitty and Peter Carruthers, a brother and sister pair team, to the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. The pair skaters won the silver medal.
|Olympic Silver Medalists Kitty and Peter Carruthers|
were coached by Ron Ludington
and Pauline Gasparini.
An accomplished freestyle figure skater, Gasparini was on a roll. The next Winter Olympics in 1988 in Calgary, she coached Gillian Wachsman and Todd Waggoner. The pair team, which is featured in this month’s U.S. Figure Skating magazine, placed fifth.
|Coach Pauline (Williams) Gasparini|
works with pairs medalists
Gillian Wachsman and Todd Waggoner
at the University of Delaware
“There’s always that anxiousness of putting forward everything and they did. They put forward a clean program,” she says. “They were very driven and dedicated.”
And skaters need those qualities - and more - to be chosen to participate in the Olympic Games.
“It takes a lot of dedication and hard work,” Gasparini says. “It truthfully has to be your life. Everything goes on hold until you reach your goal.”
Born in England, Gasparini always knew she wanted to be an Olympic coach. After winning the bronze medal in freestyle skating at the 1974 World Professional Figure Skating Championships, she decided to turn all her attention to coaching.
“I just like the idea of working with skaters and taking them to the top of what they can be,” she says.
|Articles written about coach Gasparini and|
the Olympic pairs team of Wachsman
Coaching for more than 40 years, she spent about 13 of those years at the University of Delaware Ice Arena after moving to the U.S. in 1981. She came to TBSA in Oldsmar in the early 1990s.
“When I saw how nice the area was and how it had a nice rink I decided I wanted to change my coaching to a warm-weather climate,” she says.
There will be many more Winter Olympics, and many more coaches watching their skaters achieve great heights, but Gasparini will always be proud of the times she calmly coached her skaters at the most prestigious, most watched figure skating competition in the world.