Suburban figure skaters set to take international stage
Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard have come a long way from skating as toddlers at Rolling Meadows Park District's Nelson Sports Complex.
The pair was selected to compete April 13-17 at the 2022 International Skating Union World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.
But even as they prepare for international competition following the excitement of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, they continue to foster their Rolling Meadows Park District roots by teaching at Nelson.
"Nelson Sports Complex is a great rink to start in," said Martins, 15, of Barrington, who teaches tot-level skating classes for the district. "Growing up, I always felt really welcome and excited to skate here."
A sophomore at Barrington High School, Martins herself set foot on the ice for the first time at age 1. Her mom, Jennifer, is a skating coach at Nelson.
"For two years, all she did was march," Jennifer Martins said. "She didn't glide. She just marched."
Now Martins is landing complicated jumps, spins and other maneuvers with Bedard -- the two most recently competed together at the 2022 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championship in Nashville, Tennessee, where they were selected for the World Junior Team.
Although Martins and Bedard paired up in 2015, they have known each other since early childhood. Jennifer Martins is close friends with Bedard's mom, Mimi, who also is a skating coach at Nelson.
"Mimi and I grew up skating together at Rolling Meadows Park District," Jennifer Martins said. "I was her maid of honor, and I'm Ryan's godmother. We teach together. We work together."
When the friends decided to see how their kids would do skating as a pair, it was a natural fit. Bedard, who was competing in singles, had previous experience in pairs. Isabelle Martins was 9 at the time and had started landing axles and double sows. They train together five days a week in Geneva.
A former gymnast, Bedard said having a partner in competition makes the experience less nerve-racking.
"There's someone else on the ice," said Bedard, of McHenry. "The elements are really unique and differ from ice dancing and singles. It's more acrobatic."
And having the right partner is a major key to success in pairs.
"It definitely makes a difference if you've been together for a while," said Bedard, 21, who works one-on-one with skating students at Nelson. "Those elements are a lot easier to do. You don't even have to think about them. They just happen. Having that experience of skating together for years is a bonus."
While both Bedard and Martins have Olympic dreams, they also want to continue teaching the sport. For Bedard, there's something "random" about gliding across the ice with "metal blades on your shoes," and he loves sharing that freeing experience with others. He also wants to teach choreography.
At World Junior, the pair will skate to "House of the Rising Sun" by the Heavy Young Heathens for their short program and "Caruso" by Lara Fabian for their long program.
Rolling Meadows Park District Skating Coordinator Leanne Walsh said the success of Bedard and Martins is a testament to where students in the district's skating program can land. The park district offers classes from tot level and basic to freeskate and specialty classes for more advanced skaters. Adult and teen classes and freestyle ice time also are available.
"We're so proud of what Isabelle and Ryan have accomplished here in Rolling Meadows and beyond," Walsh said. "The inviting atmosphere of our programs and talented coaches helps skaters develop the support and skills they need -- whether they want to compete someday or just enjoy this phenomenal sport for recreation."
For more information, visit rmparks.org or call (847) 818-3200, ext. 1333.