Vickroy: ‘Sky’s the limit’ for teen skater
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy September 6, 2013 9:38PM
Paige Rydberg, of Plainfield, will wear an orange and brown dress for her short program at this week's Challenge Skate in Salt Lake City. The outfit was handmade by Barbara Gerritsen, of Tinley Park. | Supplied photo
Updated: October 9, 2013 7:50PM
It has been a championship year for Paige Rydberg.
The Plainfield 13-year-old has choctawed, camel-spun and triple lutzed her way to the top of every one of her figure skating competitions.
As a result, the ice is about to heat up.
Because she qualified for U.S. Nationals last year, she received an invitation to compete in this week’s Challenge Skate event, held in conjunction with the U.S. Senior International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City. Though she will compete against 11 other American skaters, it will be her first exposure to international competition.
The event, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday, aims to provide up-and-coming athletes who have not competed on the international level some experience in that environment. Paige will perform a slow, classic-style long program and an energetic tango-like short program.
For the girl who embraced skating when she was just 3, it is an exciting opportunity and another step in the direction of her dream — to compete in the Olympics one day.
“I’m pretty confident,” Paige said. “I try to focus on just doing my best. I keep that in my mind, just do my best.”
Her best already earned her a spot in the Novice Ladies Finals in June at the 2013 Broadmoor, where she was awarded the Jack Might special achievement award for the most outstanding performance by a novice skater.
“Paige is a combination of raw talent, perfect mental competitive brain and a lot of rhythm and dance moves,” said Mary Antensteiner, who has been her coach for more than six years.
“Skating is a technical sport for sure. You need strength but you also need artistic skills and showmanship ability,” Antensteiner said. “Paige is the whole package.”
Just barely a teen, Antensteiner said, Paige already is doing three kinds of triple jumps.
“If she continues to work as hard as she has, the sky’s the limit,” Antensteiner said.
There are eight levels in figure skating. Paige, a member of the Northern Ice Skating Club in Woodridge, is at level 6. To maintain and improve, she puts in long hours of training. She gets early release from Lukancic Middle School in Romeoville and heads to the rink. She also gets up at 5:30 every Saturday morning to put in three more hours.
“She juggles a lot,” said her mom, Theresa Koras.
A single mother, Koras works two jobs to support her only child’s passion.
“I’m doing this for her. She wants to be the best and I want her to realize her dream,” she said.
Koras said Paige learned about figure skating when she was enrolled in ballet class. Someone suggested she give it a try. So she got her daughter a pair of skates and signed her up for a class.
“She just took off,” Koras said. “Before I knew it, she was in private lessons.”
When times got tough a few years later, Koras had to stop the lessons.
“I tried to steer her toward other things, less expensive things, like cheerleading,” she said.
But Paige was having none of it. Finally, after a two-year hiatus, Paige resumed lessons — and hasn’t looked back.
As Paige has improved, Koras has been able to secure local businesses to help sponsor some of the travel and competition costs. Those include Granite City Food and Brewery and Alison Andrews Day Spa, both in Orland Park, as well as Triple Toe Skatewear in Burr Ridge and Hampton Park Social Athletic Club in Romeoville.
Despite her demanding training schedule, Paige maintains good grades and is a member of the Junior National Honor Society.
Next month, a new season begins and the competition cycle starts again. Paige will compete at the higher novice level, first at regionals and then, if she qualifies, on to sectionals and hopefully nationals, Antensteiner said.
“We think she can do just as well as last year,” she said.
Antensteiner said Paige’s drive separates her from the crowd of wannabe champions.
“She loves the sport so much,” Antensteiner said. “You don’t see this in every 13-year-old. She has a special inner drive.”
When Paige was 10, she lost Junior Nationals by a tenth of a point.
“She was devastated, crying, talked about quitting,” Antensteiner said. “But she came back fighting and ended up on top.”
To learn more about Paige Rydberg, visit paigerydberg.com/
To learn more about the Challenge Skate, visit usfigureskatingclassic.com/challenge-skate/