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Clearwater girl ready to train with Olympian

Published Oct. 13, 2005

Ice-skater Jennifer Tew, 10, will leave Clearwater next week to spend five months training with Olympic gold medalist and national coach Carol Heiss Jenkins at the Winterhurst Skating Club, in Lakewood, Ohio. Mother Deanie and sister Courtney, 7, will set up an apartment in Lakewood for the summer and father Joel will visit on weekends. When school resumes, Courtney will go home with Dad while Jennifer gets a tutor and remains with Mom through November.

"When Jennifer got this opportunity to train with Carol Heiss, we felt it was something we had to do," Deanie said. "This is something she really wants to do, and we feel we've got to give her the chance."

Jennifer, 10, skates twice a day Monday through Friday _ a total of 25 hours. She skates six more hours during the weekend. Add traveling to and from Centre Ice and SunBlades and there's not much time for anything else.

"It has to be a family affair," Deanie said. "There's no way it can be anything but total commitment. If anyone had told me five years ago that all we'd do or talk about was ice skating, I wouldn't have believed them.

"But we're so involved both with Jennifer's training and ice skating organizations, there's always something to discuss."

There was no master plan for Jennifer to become an ice skater. Quite innocently, a casual walk through Countryside Mall at the age of three led to a Saturday morning half-hour class for Jennifer when she turned four (classes weren't open to three-year olds). She's been skating almost non-stop since.

"I just really liked it as soon as I started doing it," said Jennifer of ice skating. "All the skating keeps me pretty busy, but my friends understand when I can't do something with them. Some of them are now even taking lessons."

Jennifer has skipped a lot of parties, overnighters with friends and other kid-like activities to allow time for ice skating. The decision has been Jennifer's, though, according to her mom, and she has no regrets.

"I'd like to go to the Olympics someday," said Jennifer. "And maybe go on a world tour, like Holiday on Ice."

Jennifer is the only skater selected outside Jenkins' year-round skaters for the summer program. Jenkins also coaches Jill Trenary, 1990 World Ladies Champion, and national competitor Lisa Ervin, 1991 U.S. Junior Ladies Champion.

In April, Jennifer won the overall intermediate ladies championship in the Cherry Blossom Invitational in Washington, D.C. Last year, Jennifer reached the final round of the intermediate ladies division in the South Atlantic Regionals in Pittsburgh, Pa., and was the youngest competitor there.

"At about the age of 12 one can determine what their potential is in ice skating," said Deanie. "These next two years are a do-or-die situation for Jennifer. Joel and I want to be able to look back and say that we did all we could _ provided every possible opportunity _ for Jennifer."

Jennifer represents the Tampa Bay Skating Club, in Clearwater.

Roller skating: Brooke Johnson won two first-place medals in the Port Richey Roller Skating Competition last weekend. Johnson, who skates at the Southland Roller Palace in Pinellas Park, won Level 1 Division B girls figures and solo dance. Other Southland skaters placing first were Dorian Levy, Jill Svarzkopf, Deanna Szura and Billy Coombs.

The Regional Skating Competition is June 18-23 in Pensacola. Twelve skaters from Southland will compete. The top four skaters advance to Junior Olympic nationals.

Synchronized swimming: Jill Hammar won the girls 15-16 solo and figure competitions and was on the first-place team in the Junior Olympic regionals in Fort Lauderdale during the last weekend in May. Hammar and Elise Wendell won the girls 15-16 duet event. Lorna Fountain and Cheri Peterson were in the team event with Hammar and Wendell.

Fountain won the girls 13-14 solo competition. Cara Burns, Cathy Cady and Jill Dizona were triple winners in the girls 11-12. Team winners were Burns, Cady, Dizona, Brigett Barclay, Danielle DelBello, Jeanne Anne Drapala, Jennifer Harper and Susan Greenfield.

The swimmers train with the Suncoast Waterworks, in Largo.

Girls soccer: The Countryside Lightning girls soccer team won the under-12 division in the Orlando-Seminole Memorial Day Tournament. Countryside defeated the Orlando Eagles 2-1 in a semifinal and West Pasco 1-0 for the championship.

Countryside completes its season with a 24-4-7 record, fourth best in the state, according to Dr. Wayne Phillips, the under-12 coach.