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Figure Skating in Estonia

There are about 300 young people in Estonia doing this beautiful sport competitively. Most of them are singles skaters (mainly women). We do have though one pair team, some ice dancing teams and one junior precision team consisting of about 20 girls. Lately quite a few new young ice dancing teams were formed and there is a whole bunch of young girls who try synchronized skating.

It is enough, I think, when to consider the number of ice rinks we have in this country. In the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, we have 3 olympic-size indoor ice sheets and one smaller outdoor ice rink( for 450 000 habitants). During winters most of our lakes and rivers cover with ice and interested people can skate on these but no official practices are done on such ice.

We have an under-roof rink (it has a roof but no walls) also in Narva where the Pääsuke Club works. They are pretty successful, especially with lower level skaters. And the town has promised that they will start building the walls around that rink in the nearest future.

In Kohtla-Järve we have another indoor rink where there should be one club on it (it's mainly for hockey). Though I must say that most of the good coaches are in Tallinn working in the indoor rink here.

There are plans building 3 new rinks in Tallinn. Also, the idea to build walls for the Narva rink and a house around the Tallinn outdoor rink is in people's minds but cannot be done because of lack of finances again.

The latest rumors about Tallinn rink is that the city wants to shut it down and build a conference center in its place. The idea is to build a new rink some distance away from the current one. However, from sources that work in the city council I have heard that the city does not really intend to build a new rink since ice sports are not very popular over here and almost no Estonian children are involved. I must object to this though. From the young groups that have started in the last 2 or 3 years we have a number of Estonian kids skating and playing hockey and skating is getting more and more popular each year (and what's the difference whether the kid is Estonian or not?). The biggest reason why skating/hockey isn't a national sport is that it does not advertise itself at all. We had big international competitions here both in figure skating and hockey and there was absolutely no media involved. If you did not visit the rink 3 days before the competition started you would have never known it was going to take place. If the rink was to be shut down it would mark the death of hockey and figure skating in Estonia.

We have alltogether 11 figure skating clubs: The biggest news is that the during soviet system formed Ice Sports School is pretty much bankrup and the city intends to close it in the summer (the law does not allow to shut down schools during schoolyear). So now the clubs have to find new ways to exist. For that a new organization was formed: Union of Skating Clubs which has been operating for a while now and is doing pretty well. Currently 7 clubs belong to the union. Still some children belong both to Sports School and to the Union but due to the fact that she sports school doesn't have many finances left for ice renting quite a few are stepping out of the school. Where the school put some millions of kroons that were given to it in the beginning of the year is under investigation.
There are pretty much no private lessons in Estonia like there are in USA or Canada. We have group lessons all the time. I think this might be one of the reasons we don't have any champions. At least from time to time the skaters should have individual lessons.

It was so that during the soviet times Estonia had only Ice-Sports School. But by the requirements of ISU we had to lose this system and go over to the club system. So it came out that every coach got a club. Only some coaches who coach mostly low-level skaters belong to the club of another coach. The worst thing is that the skater couldn't choose his coach and also the coach couldn't choose his or her students usually (they might get kicked out of the sports school, which practically means the end of their career). Often the students got shifted from one coach to another. The coach must have had a required amount of students so that he would get paid by the government. Yes, the government pays our coaches, not the students. The money the students pay straight to the school goes mostly towards the ice rent.

The system is changing rapidly now due to the foundation of new independent figure skating clubs and the Union
About twice a year we had so-called tests which every skater had to pass in order to be able to skate in the club. I think Oiler and Skating were the only clubs in Tallinn to which you could belong without taking the test. But if you wouldn't take the test and pass it you couldn't belong to the Ice-Sports School. The tests itself weren't that bad, but they take away the possibility from anyone to start skating after the age of about 6 and also posed a big problem for kids who went through a growing phase during which they lost their jumps for a year or more (they might have gotten kicked out of the school). There were some exceptions but those were very rare. We definitely didn't have any official adult skaters. I think we now have actually only 3 so-called adult skaters who have started skating after the age of 20 in a club. I am one of them and I must admit I develop pretty much with the same speed as my little clubfellows. Actually I have developed faster than some of them.

Another big thing is that the city wants to build a conference center into the place of the Tallinn Ice rink and build a new rink a mile or less away from it. While I think Tallinn really needs a new rink I hope they will first build the new one and only then close the old one and preferably keep the old one open too since Tallinn actually needs 2 or 3 indoor rinks to accommodate everyone and produce good results.

Links to Estonian skating articles on the Internet

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In Estonian

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