Blades of Glory: La Jolla youth places third at national figure skating competition

By Ashley Mackin

Max Lake, a La Jolla resident and Muirlands Middle School student, recently competed at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, and placed third in his division. Not only does 11-year-old Max want to compete at next year’s (and future) competitions, he wants to place even higher in future years.

“I want to do well at Nationals every year,” Max said. “I’m going to do my (skating) program a lot to make it consistent, so when it comes to nationals, it’s just another run-through.”

To ensure that happens, he practices two hours a day, five days a week, at the La Jolla Figure Skating Club at UTC Ice Sports Center.

Max also plans to perfect the jumps and spins he loves to do. “My favorite is the double axle,” he said, as if it was easy. “You skate backwards and you lean forward, put one foot in the ice and put your momentum forward and do two-and-a-half rotations. It just feels good to be in the air for a while.”

The maneuver took him a year to learn, but he started practicing when he was 6 years old. His skating career started when he was less than 2 years old.

His mother, Stina, said Max began skating because his older sister, Maya, likes to ice skate, and he would get impatient waiting for her. “She was 4 and he wouldn’t sit still and would disappear at UTC. I would be tying her skates andwould turn around and he would be gone,” she said. “So the coach said ‘put him on the ice’ and we thought, ‘you have to be kidding, he’s 22 months old!’’ but we gave it a try because it was easier to keep an eye on him on the ice. He just sat there the first time, but eventually stood up.

“(My husband, Edward and I) thought it would be cheap babysitting; ha! what did we know? It was cheap then, but not anymore.”

The instruction, traveling and competition entry fees add up, but Stina Lake saidit’s all worth it. “Max put in the hard work,” she said in admiration of her son’s success. “It’s a unique sport that requires a lot of time and discipline.”

She theorizes that he would have done even better if certain rules hadn’t changed. Age brackets were readjusted in recent years, so the juveniles category — which previously capped at age 12 — now includes boys as old as 14. “There is a huge difference when you look at an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy, and a lot of change when it comes to physical strength,” she said.

Max is working on building that physical strength with other athletic activities such as basketball, soccer, tennis, golf and bowling. But figure skating is still his first choice, and likes the fact that not a lot of young children ice skate.

“I think it’s a good thing because if a lot of people did it, I wouldn’t have as much space to practice,” he said.

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