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Olympics spurs ice-skating enthusiasts to crowd local rinks


JILL KURMAN began taking ice skating lessons four years ago -- ever since she saw the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

And during the last two weeks, she has been practicing harder than ever, she says, striving to imitate her favorite, gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. "She's very graceful and pretty," said the 10-year-old from Pikesville. "Everything she does triple, I do single."

It happens every four years, said Lisa Lalor, a figure-skating coach at Northwest Family Sport Center in Baltimore. Every time the Olympic torch travels to a different winter resort, area ice rinks see a surge in skating interest and class enrollment. Crowds of hopefuls take to the ice, eager to match the triple axels and spins of the athletes at the games.

"We get record-breaking crowds, both joining and competing," said Ms. Lalor. "Sales are up on skates, costumes, admissions, lessons -- it's a glorious year."

Curtis Roberts, the assistant manager of the Patterson Park Ice Rink in Baltimore, also has spotted a few skating hopefuls flirting with spins and twirls. "They try to imitate the stuff they saw on TV," he said.

Mr. Roberts guesses the attendance at public skating sessions at the Patterson Park rink jumps by about 25 percent to 30 percent while Olympic excitement is in the air.

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