Sun, 02 Mar 2003

It's a long run to `Disney on Ice' for young figure skater Ramita

Franziska Schill, Contributor, Jakarta

In the United States some say ice-skating is "a sport for babies" says figure skater Ramita Nasution, the number 1 in her age group of 15 years old. But she adds, "you should never let yourself be deterred by that."

She takes these words from her trainer Robert Esguerra very seriously. With these words he means to warn against possible disappointment in the U.S., as Ramita plans to take an admission test for the "Disney on ice" in Orlando in one or two years.

Passing the test would mean performing Disney films as musicals on ice, thereby traveling around the world. Until then she would have had to spend much more time on training and participating competitions. Now she trains at least two hours a day, not only at Jakarta's ice rink at the Taman Anggrek Mall, but also in ice skating halls in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, working with different trainers.

There are special trainers for jump and spin, and another for footwork only. She mostly does her training alone, but sometimes, for special competitions, she works with a group of girls or a partner, such as her 12-year-old sister, who also does figure skating.

A requisite to enter a competition is to make a program with the trainer, so in 2001 she performed "Britney Spears on ice" in Bangkok.

To sustain an audience one must constantly keep up with the times -- so Ramita is planning something new, "street dance" on ice. For this she will mix the two popular songs "Like I love you" by Justin Timberlake and "Work it" by Missy Elliot.

A fall or too comes with the job -- "Every time I learn a new step I often fall down, which hurts so much that the following days I can barely move," Ramita admits laughing, yet until now she says she hasn't suffered a really serious injury.

"Everything has to fit, the music, the dancing, the outfit, the light, otherwise there will be no effect," says her mother. Special stretch material which can endure all figure skating movements, but which does not hamper the skater, is not all that easy to find, nor is the tailor.

Ramita came into contact with the ice rink in 1996 at the Taman Anggrek Mall Ice Skating Hall, when she simply wanted to try out ice skating. It seemed a new challenge to her as she had done ballet from age four onwards.

She liked the new sport so much that she immediately wanted to take lessons. In the beginning, her mother opposed this wish, because she thought skating was too dangerous, but finally she gave in.

The first time Ramita entered into competitions was in Surabaya in 1997. But although she is already quite experienced, she says she is still very nervous before she enters the arena. The rules of such a competition are very strict. Contestants sign up and hand in their music tape one hour before starting their performance warm-up. The warm-up session lasts only 2 minutes to 5 minutes where one is only allowed to do a limited set of exercises.

In June 2003 Ramita will participate in the first Southeast Asian competition, which will take place in Manila." In July or August this year she will participate in the Ice Skating Institute in Chicago, where competition will come from all over the world.

"It will be harder than in Asia alone and it will be my first competition in the U.S.," says Ramita. Costs can be alleviated a little bit by registering with the state sports organization KONI.

But given the little support to athletes here in general, moreso for skaters in a metropolitan with only two ice rinks to speak of, Ramita and other aspiring skaters will be working hard to become as successful as her role model, the 18-year-old American Sasha Cohen.

Franziska Schill is a student at the German International School in Serpong, Tangerang. She has been at The Jakarta Post for two weeks as part of a work experience program.