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Skaters take the ice for Prairie Rose State Games

More than 2,000 amateur athletes begin two days of competition in 28 sports this morning at the Prairie Rose State Games in Grand Forks. Figure skaters started a day early when they took to the ice for test sessions Friday afternoon in Eagles Arena.

More than 2,000 amateur athletes begin two days of competition in 28 sports this morning at the Prairie Rose State Games in Grand Forks.

Figure skaters started a day early when they took to the ice for test sessions Friday afternoon in Eagles Arena.

"The tests determine what level they will compete at," said Karen Brekke, chairwoman of the figure skating competition. "They'll compete in any or all of five categories: free skate, compulsory, artistic, solo dance and spins."

Each of the 47 skaters was accompanied to the ice by Bruce Montemayor, a figure skating professional who has helped out with the skating tests at the games since he moved to Minot eight years ago. He's been coaching since 1990.

"I used to teach high level competition when I lived in Pittsburgh and Ohio," Montemayor said. "Some moved on to national competition and some to the senior level, which qualify for world and Olympic competition."

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Montemayor said the size of the skaters poses different challenges.

"I normally try to guide them by the shoulders or the hips," Montemayor said. "People might be surprised, but the smaller ones are more difficult to work with because you don't have anything to hold onto."

Montemayor said all the skaters, regardless of their size, are strongly determined.

"It's good to see all the dedication and hard work they put into their sport," he said. "Their successes at these test sessions are a testament to that."

Some of the competitors paid $15 for 30 minutes of extra ice time to practice Friday evening.

The skaters are from Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot, East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls and Lakeville, Minn. Their scores will be determined by seven judges, two from Canada.

"There was a delay in the start of testing," Brekke said. "One of the judges flying in from Alabama on Thursday had health problems, and we had to wait for another to fly in today. You're not prepared for the unexpected, but you roll with it."

Brekke said 130 individual programs will be performed. Competition begins at 8:30 a.m. today and should conclude by 6 p.m.

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Grand Forks drew about 4,100 athletes when it last hosted the games in 2004. The number of athletes competing has gradually decreased since then, and officials are considering holding the games every two years.

With the extra demand on hotels, restaurants and stores, Julie Rygg, executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a conservative estimate is that each visitor from the games will spend $125 a day.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to jjohnson2@gfherald.com .

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