With the Progressive Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular just a day away, area gymnasts and ice skaters got a sneak peak of what's in store for audience members on Thursday evening.
Best of all, however, they got a chance to meet their heroes.
At Stroup's Gymnastics, owner Karen Stroup and her students welcomed former Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin and three of the five members - Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber - of the famed "Fierce Five," the group that excelled at the London Olympics this past summer.
Above, World Figure Skating Champion Adam Rippon poses with Warren’s Ian Montour during Thursday night’s SkateFest at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena. Below, Nastia Liukin, the 2008 all-around Olympic gymnastic champion, practices her upcoming routine in the Progressive Skating and Gymnastics
Spectacular.See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Reagle
"It was very exciting and the kids were just out of their minds happy," Stroup said. "(Douglas, Liukin, Raisman and Wieber) were very, very nice. They not only took photos with the team girls, but they allowed the class kids to come in as well.
"I now have a photo of four Olympians and 20 extremely excited kids."
Not only did Stroup's group get a chance to meet, talk and take pictures with the four Olympians, but they also got a first-hand, insider's look at the kind of hard work that goes with putting on a show of this magnitude.
"They were all working on their routines for the floor show," Stroup said, "and it was a rare privilege to see how they prepare. They worked for 4 hours with their choreographer, just getting ready. It was amazing for us to see how quickly they learned it all."
At the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, meanwhile, members of Sherry Melson's Falconer Flyers, the Jamestown Skating Club and anyone who wished to take part, were greeted by 2011 World Champion duo Meryl Davis and Charlie White, 2012 Junior National Champion Gracie Gold and a host of others.
"It was all so very exciting," Jamestown Skating Club board member Ellen Darrow said. "Several skaters came out onto the ice as our coaches were teaching and they went around to each of the groups, showed them how to do some things and were really quite encouraging to all of them."
Melson, who had shirts made for registrants this season bearing the Flyers' logo and the words "I love the Fierce Five" written on them, received numerous text message photos from her students that took part in the JSC's SkateFest event.
For the young gymnasts and ice skaters, meeting these athletes, each of them at the height of their respective sports, was akin to how a little leaguer would feel were he given the opportunity to spend the day shooting the breeze with his favorite New York Yankees.
"It's only been a couple of months since the Olympics," Melson explained. "These kids watched it the whole time and were thrilled when they won the gold medal. So it's thrilling for them to be able to meet their idols and athletes of this caliber."
It was a fitting way to kick off the festivities of this soon-to-be nationally televised event, and should do much to add to the young athletes' excitement as they recognize faces of people they've met on center stage, either on the balance beam or on the ice performing.
The Spectacular is slated to begin at 7 p.m., and in addition to the big figure skating and gymnastics names participating, it will also feature music from Nickelodeon's Fresh Beat Band, along with Disney's Ross Lynch and the R5 Band.
"Everyone is really, really excited," Melson said. "It's not often we see (events) of this magnitude."