Sopris Sun Staff Report
If Sage Williams isn’t the finest figure skater in town, she’s certainly Carbondale’s best 15-year-old skater. And around here, that’s a hard trick to master.
Williams is currently preparing to perform in an invitational “Fantastiks” show, sponsored by the Denver Figure Skating Club on March 10-13. Her program will include several spins: a camel spin, a flying camel, a sit spin and a catch-foot spin. Williams also jumps; she can manage a double Salchow and can land a single Axel, the most technically-difficult jump among the six types of jumps in figure skating.
Williams began figure skating three-and-a-half years ago with pond skating, then skating on the rodeo arena rink, a local venue that lasts only as long as temperatures stay below freezing. The ice there can be a bit bumpy for figure skating because of rain, snow, melting and cracking, and also because hockey games can chop it up.
“When I tell people that I do figure skating, they are overwhelmed,” Williams reports. “They don’t even know it’s an option around here! Why don’t we have a figure skating program in Carbondale? The rodeo rink has a hockey program, but there’s nothing for figure skaters.”
Prior to learning to skate, Williams took gymnastics, which gave her good balance. She says, “I kind of did everything – soccer, basketball – but it didn’t stick. There was nothing I loved until I got into skating. I would go down to the rodeo rink and try out moves myself, just imitating what I saw on TV or YouTube.” Although she did make some progress that way, she also picked up bad habits she had to later break by taking remedial classes. When she was nine, Williams wound up taking a basic level 2 class with three-year-olds.
Two years ago, Williams got some private figure-skating lessons after her mom, Carolyn Watt Williams, spotted Nicolette Toussaint skating on the rodeo rink and asked whether Toussaint could coach her daughter. Toussaint lives in Carbondale and teaches skating classes at the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center during the winter. But Sage learned so rapidly she soon had to find both a more-advanced coach and a year-round venue.
Williams met her current coach, Peggy Behr, after joining Aspen’s Revolutions Skating Club last fall. Revolutions skaters usually practice at the Lewis Ice Arena, a year-round, indoor rink owned by the Aspen Recreation Center. Club members have access to four coaches, one of whom is Michelle Hocknell, who lives in Basalt. Williams travels to Aspen five days a week for coaching, often carpooling with Hocknell and her two teenage daughters, both of whom are admirable figure skaters.
Williams says she’s particularly inspired by her coach’s daughter, Sari Behr, who can execute a double Axel jump.
Coach Peggy Behr — who performed with Disney on Ice, skated competitively and coached national skating champion and Olympian Jeremy Abbott — has been the key to Williams’ performances. Behr invited Williams to perform in Denver, and also recruited her to skate in a Valentine’s Day show in Breckenridge.
Williams says, “I don’t get to perform that often, but it’s good to have a chance to be in front of a small crowd, to be in costume and to perform to music.” While she does get nervous, she says, “I’m okay when the music starts. My problem is that I tend to skate timidly, not as well as I can really skate. I’m working on that.”
Williams isn’t aiming for national or international competitions. “It’s not realistic,” she says. “A very small percentage of skaters ever get to the Olympics. But I’m getting to a level where I could do things like Disney on Ice or Ice Capades. Peggy traveled the world in shows, and that would be a goal of mine.”
Meanwhile, Williams, who attends Carbondale Community School, has logged some community service hours for the school by coaching other students. “I have just been helping out by coaching younger kids in the club, and helping out with classes,” she says. “Lots of kids here in Carbondale want to skate, but they’re really not able to. Their parents aren’t able to drive to Aspen, or to pay for lessons or for a coach.
“I really think that we should create a program for younger kids here so that they can really learn and benefit from skating. That’s my dream,” she says, adding that she would help teach the classes. “Skating is just so cool. There’s always another challenge – the next jump, the next spin, the next bit of footwork.”
Published in The Sopris Sun on February 18, 2016.