Skating on the edge of greatness

Junior Chelsea Hinkle competes in Freiburg, Germany, at the Senior Roller Figure Skating World Championship. Hinkle has been skating since age 4.
Junior Chelsea Hinkle competes in Freiburg, Germany, at the Senior Roller Figure Skating World Championship. Hinkle has been skating since age 4.

By Megan O’Connell

Twirling and spinning on skates is what junior Chelsea Hinkle does best.  However, Hinkle is not an ice skater; she is a competitive roller figure skater.

Hinkle, an accounting major, practices 15 to 20 hours on the weekends during the semester. During the summer, she is at the rink 30 to 40 hours per week. Her long hours and dedication have recently given her the chance of a lifetime.

After competing and placing in the National Roller Figure Skating Competition in Peoria, Ill., Hinkle qualified to compete in the Senior Roller Figure Skating World Championship in Freiburg, Germany. This was Hinkle’s first World Championship and first time competing abroad. She traveled with the rest of the Olympic-sponsored Roller Figure Skating team. From Nov. 12 to Nov. 22, she spent time in Germany competing for three days and traveling for the rest. World competition is the highest level for roller skating because the sport is not included in the Olympics.

“It was my dream to go to Worlds,” Hinkle said. “When I was younger, I always admired the older skaters who did make it to Worlds. For the past couple of years, I have just been missing the cutoff to go, so this is quite an accomplishment.”

Hinkle was holding fifth place and ended up taking seventh. Skaters are judged by an overall score. Each competitor skates the same two compulsories that are predetermined and practiced before the competition. Skaters also do a free dance, which they choreograph themselves. The first and second compulsories both equal 25 percent and the free dance equals 50 percent of the skater’s score.

“Roller skating is just like dancing on skates,” Hinkle explained. “My favorite is the free dance because it gives you more flexibility to do what you want.”

Hinkle, a Voorhees, N.J., native, has been skating since she was 4 years old.  Her father Steve is an experienced skater who worked at the local rink.

“I spent a lot of time at the rink with my dad when I was younger learning how to skate,” she said.

In fact, Hinkle’s main coach is her father. Her other two coaches are Sue Rendfrey and Bill Graf, her choreographer. She practices at three different rinks located in Northeast Philadelphia, Cherry Hill and Delanco, N.J. Hinkle’s sister, Lindsey, also skates.  Lindsey, a 24-year-old graduate of Tyler School of Art, designs Hinkle’s costumes, and her mom makes them.

“My sister has always been my biggest competitor,” Hinkle said. “She beat me in everything else, but placed right under me in Nationals and didn’t make it to Worlds. We help each other out when we are having difficulties with a concept and we motivate each other.”

Skating has taught Hinkle many valuable lessons.  Although she spends a lot of time practicing, she said she’s used to balancing skating, school and work.

“Skating has taught me time management and dedication,” Hinkle said. “A lot of times we have to wake up at 3 a.m. to practice because we have to work around the rink’s schedule.  Sometimes we have to practice all night from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.”

Roller figure skating is not as popular in the United States as it is in other countries, such as Germany.

“You have to be good under pressure,” Hinkle said. “There are a couple hundred people at Worlds, and it is broadcast live throughout all of Germany, so you have to carry yourself well.”

Next year Hinkle will begin an internship. She is not sure if she will be competing still but will continue to skate on her own.

“I’m not going to decide if I’m skating until I get my workload,” Hinkle said.

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