Top Teens Perform

Brittni Svanberg, 18, and Claire Belhumeur, 14, are ascending figure skating’s competitive ladder
Brittni Svanberg will skate on Boston University’s team come the fall. Craig Macnaughton

    Among the some 50 youngsters who performed before a large crowd at the Buckskill Winter Club’s “Rock ’n’ Roll” ice show Saturday — the mildest day here in some months — were Brittni Svanberg, 18, and Claire Belhumeur, 14, who are ascending figure skating’s competitive ladder as they practice the year round.

    Svanberg, an East Hampton High School senior who will skate competitively for Boston University come the fall, is soon to take a senior-level figure skating test, she said during a brief conversation Sunday before going out to give a group class and private lessons.

    Belhumeur, who recently won the Empire State Games’ pre-preliminary ladies competition, Svanberg, and Riley Goldstein, who were among Saturday’s soloists, help Joanne Doran coach Buckskill’s younger figure skaters, whose performances Saturday they followed with special interest.

    Svanberg and Belhumeur, who is home-schooled, train five days a week year-round with Cathryn Schwab at the Rinx in Hauppauge, which, Svanberg said, has “the second-biggest basic skills program in the country, next to Wollman’s.” While Schwab is the girls’ head coach, Doran, Buckskill’s manager and figure skating director, has been and continues to be a mentor.

    Svanberg, who is several rungs ahead of Belhumeur on the figure skating ladder, said she liked helping with the young ones “because I know what they’re going through. I began skating here when I was 8 or 9. You can tell which are the kids who really love it; they’re always asking you questions.”

    Asked what it was she loved about the sport, Svanberg laughed and said, “That’s a hard question . . . I love how it makes me feel . . . I love how performing makes me feel. . . . I used to be shy, really shy. I’m not any more, I’m confident.”

    Studying ballet (as she did in Bridgehampton) served as a good precursor to figure skating, she said. “It helped me, and I know it’s helping a number of the girls I teach too.”

    Belhumeur, whom Svanberg is happy to see following in her footsteps, said she had skated at Buckskill since she was 10. Her father, Mark, the goalie on the Dartmouth men’s ice hockey team that made it to the Frozen Four in 1979, said he was proud of his daughter’s progress, and didn’t mind at all the frequent hour-and-a-half drives to Hauppauge. “I work in the city, so an hour-and-a-half drive is nothing. We’ve got a halfway crash pad now, an apartment in Sayville.”

    “I run on the trails with my dad, and I paddleboard,” said Svanberg, whose father, Lars, is a triathlete and a competitive open water paddleboarder. She also is trained at the Philosofit studio here. “They’re strengthening my ankles and working on parts of my balance.”

    Belhumeur, as is the case with Svanberg, would like to rise as high as she can in the sport. She needed, she said, to work on her jumps and her flexibility in spinning. Helping the younger kids helped her too, she said.

    Her minute-and-a-half program at Lake Placid, the site of the Empire State Games, was, she said, in reply to a question and with a smile, “flawless. . . . I haven’t fallen in a couple of months. I was swinging into an axel at the Rinx and fell on my back. . . . You get up and keep going.”

    Asked what she loved about figure skating, she said, “I like it that each time you reach a goal you set another.” Winning at Lake Placid had left her, she said, with “a great feeling of accomplishment.” Figure skating, she added, “keeps me confident.”

    She would, she said, very much like to compete in the nationals. “They were in Boston this year; last year they were in Omaha. I’d like to go next year, but I probably won’t be ranked high enough. Maybe in 2016 or ’17.”

    As for home-schooling, Belhumeur, whose favorite subjects are math and science, said she liked it, and thinks she probably is learning more than she would in a classroom. Nor, she said, did she lack for friends. Concerning college, she’d like to go to one with a strong skating program, she said, “perhaps Dartmouth.”

    Svanberg said when she learned in mid-December that B.U. had accepted her, she was “very happy.” It had been her first choice.

    Asked what she needed to work on in figure skating, she said, “I’m working on my triple jump.”

    “A triple axel?”

    “A triple jump,” she said with a laugh, “not a triple axel.”

Joanne Doran, the Buckskill Winter Club’s manager and figure skating director, for the most part keyed Saturday’s ice show choreography to rock ’n’ roll songs, some of which were “Chantilly Lace,” “Rockin’ Robin,” and (see above) “Jail House Rock.”
Claire Belhumeur, 14, recently won the Empire State Games’ pre-preliminary ladies competition at Lake Placid. Craig Macnaughton Photos