A skating gala and a cry for help

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If you had seen, two weeks ago, these wonderful young athletes, more than 40, skating in a gala in Bucharest, all talented and enthusiastic, you would have been really confident of the Romanian figure skating’ future; such a gold mine in the sports clubs of Bucharest.

by Florentina Tone

Actually, you’re right to be confident; and, at the same time, you’re not. These 40 skaters – and a hundred more – are indeed beautiful and talented. But their future – and the future of the Romanian figure skating – is definitely uncertain, given the fact that during the past twelve months these young athletes have been forced to train in a skating rink from a mall.

The official ice rink of Bucharest – “Mihai Flamaropol” – was closed last March due to its debts to water and electricity suppliers and since then approximately 150 skaters and 500 hockey players from Bucharest, along with their coaches, trainers and parents have been fighting for survival – and this is not at all a figure of speech.

The skaters are training in a mall (with a smaller ice surface than that used in competition), alongside with those skating for their pleasure, or they are using, during winter, the outdoor rinks of Bucharest; and some of the children are even travelling from time to time to Braşov, a city 180 km far from Bucharest, to properly prepare for competitions.

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The gala organised two weeks ago in the same ice rink the skaters use for practice (“Cotroceni on Ice”) was a memorial one: ISU referee and technical controller Nicolae Bellu passed away on December 15, last year, and the athletes and their coaches wanted to pay their tribute to a man who fought, during the years, for the development of the Romanian figure skating. But, at the same time, the gala was definitely a cry for help: in the absence of immediate measures, these talented skaters will, little by little, disappear.

You may ask what does this story have to do with the Olympics – we are, after all, in the middle of the figure skating competition in Sochi. Actually, it has everything to do with it: these children may very well be the Romanian champions of tomorrow. But in the absence of an ice rink in Bucharest – the capital of Romania, a European capital – their competitive career is surely compromised. And if we, as a nation, have only one figure skater representing us in Sochi – Zoltan Kelemen, in the men’s event – in four years time, in eight years time, there might be none. The question is: can we do something about that?

Take a good look at them. They deserve a proper ice rink.

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