This article was updated on June 17.
With many nations around the world rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, figure skating is slowly getting back on track. Training centres around the globe have reopened the past three weeks and more are getting set to do so starting May 25 — all with tight restrictions re the number of skaters permitted on the ice at one time, along with strict rules re cleaning and sanitizing processes.
Despite the various restrictions, skaters are excited about the opportunity to be able to return to a modified training regimen in preparation for the 2020-2021 competitive season.
In the U.S., many ice rinks have re-opened and more are scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks. The World Arena in Colorado Springs commenced operations on May 4 — attendance is strictly limited to its coaches and their students. Only 10 people are permitted on the ice at the same time. After a two-month break, Marina Zoueva′s International Skating Academy in Estero, Florida, reopened May 21 with strict social distancing measures in place. ″We just have to be careful for each other. We have to help each other stay healthy and still keep working,” Zoueva said.
Skate Canada provincial sections are now slowly re-opening. In Ontario, many rinks resumed operations on May 27, including the Toronto Cricket Club. Strict regulations are in place: only five people (including the coach) are allowed to attend an on-ice session, and the protocol is strictly limited to high performance figure skaters, pairs and ice dance teams at the junior and senior levels. Currently, pairs skaters in Ontario are on the ice for an hour a day but skating solo and not as a team.
Rinks in British Columbia will open in the coming week. In Québec, sports excellence is listed in Phase 6 of the rollout. The Gadbois venue in Montreal, where the ice dancers train, opened on June 15, and all rinks are now slated to resume on June 22. However, the ice has been melted in many of the rinks so there is no expectation that those venues will reopen anytime soon.
Elite level skaters have returned to training in Germany and Switzerland. Only national team members can train in Germany, and only five skaters can be on the ice together. Coaches must be behind the boards. In Bavaria, pairs and ice dance teams can train but they are not allowed to do pair elements. In Berlin, there are no restrictions.
Stéphane Lambiel has reopened his school in Champéry, Switzerland, but with the borders still closed, only residents or those who hold work permits are permitted to enter the country. Koshiro Shimada has returned but Shoma Uno is still in Japan.
Ice rinks in Japan are re-opening. Most of the year-round rinks resumed operations on June 1, except those that are owned by universities. The rinks at both the Kansai and Chukyo universities will remain closed, along with everything else on campus, until further notice. Yuzuru Hanyu’s home rink in Sendai was scheduled to reopen June 1.
Rika Kihira will be leaving Japan in mid-July (which is when the international border is expected to reopen) to train with Brian Orser in Toronto, Canada. She said she hopes to learn new spins and improve her overall skating skills. Kihira is the second high-level student to leave the Mie Hamada school after Satoko Miyahara, who moved in September 2018 to train in Toronto with Lee Barkell.
Italy’s Daniel Grassl reported he had been training in Bolzano with his coach Lorenzo Magri. “Now I train in the morning for three hours at home, then I have lessons, and then leave for Bolzano to the coach. In general, everything already resembles a normal life.” Matteo Rizzo is also back training at the Ice Lab in Bergamo, his home rink.
French authorities originally ordered all rinks closed until at least June 2, but the de-confinement law of May 11 permitted high-level athletes (other than group sports) to resume training. Skaters returned to the ice in Courchevel on May 25. Kévin Aymoz tweeted that he was excited to be back on the ice. French news reports that Adam Siao Him Fa has parted ways with coach Brian Joubert.
South Korean skaters resumed training at the Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on May 11. In a recent interview, Young You said she has two new programs (choreographed by Lori Nichol in Canada in late March) but, as both her coaches — Tammy Gambill and Mie Hamada — are in the U.S. and Japan, respectively, her mother had been sending clips of You′s training to Hamada. However, on May 30, a new wave of COVID-19 forced the rinks to close. They are not scheduled to reopen until June 14. Jun-Hwan Cha and others had been working on new programs with choreographers via Zoom, but that process is also now on hold. The Korean federation announced that the 2021 nations championships are now scheduled to take place January 8 – 10.
The Russian Figure Skating Federation has confirmed that two training camps for national team members are set to open: the Olympic centre in Novogorsk on May 25 and the other in Kislovodsk in early June. National team members are scheduled to begin training in Novogorsk this coming week. All personnel will be tested for coronavirus and skaters who receive a medical clearance will remain at the training base for the foreseeable future. (Team Russia 2020-2021)
Nina Mozer confirmed that Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov will attend the camp in Novorgorsk, as will Eteri Tutberidze and her team. “Sitting at home is simply impossible,” said Anna Shcherbakova. ”If, at the beginning of quarantine there was some enthusiasm, now I want to quickly run out onto the ice. I think we will go out and just learn to jump again. Putting on skates is already unusual. And after such a break it’s even harder to imagine.”
In Novogorsk, the rules are strict for locker rooms, dining halls and rooms. Athletes will eat at separate tables, and no more than eight people can be on the ice at the same time. It is essentially a quarantine base with neither athletes nor coaches or building personnel permitted to leave for a month.
Other federal bases in Russia are also slated to open in the coming week: Lake Krugloy, Krasnodar, Stavropol and Crimea. No rinks are currently open in St. Petersburg, but a coach we spoke to said they are preparing the ice and expect to reopen shortly. Tamara Moskvina and her students Alexandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovski will not be attending either camp.
The students of Alexei Mishin (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Sofia Samodurova, Anastasia Gulyakova, Gleb Lutfullin,and Yevgeny Semenenko) were scheduled attend the camp in Kislovodsk, but the Russian federation set the rules for participation for ages 18-65. As Mishin is 79 he was ineligible to attend any camp and he and his skaters consequently remained in St. Petersburg.
Evgeni Plushenko, who has been named as coach of the Russian national figure skating team, has taken his group to Kislovodsk, the mountain base where he also trained during his competitive career. His group of Sasha Trusova, Veronika Zhilina, Sofia Titova and Cyril Sarnovsky all tested negative for the virus and will begin training later this week. Alexander Samarin, Dmitri Aliev and Makar Ignatov are also in Kislovodsk. Akiko Tamura and Tatjana Flade contributed to this report.