Chloe Blair had grown dissatisfied with competitive figure skating.
Fearful of high jumps and deadly spirals and wary of the acrobatic sport’s physical wear and tear on the body, the Tacoma teenager was prepared to hang up the skates.
That’s when she turned to a new coach and discovered a different way to express herself on ice.
Classically trained in ballet for 15 years, Blair is as much an artist as she is a skater, which is why she immediately embraced solo ice dancing.
It fit her personality – a precisionist who is swift, strong and graceful on skates.
“I’m extremely competitive with everything in life,” Blair said while overlooking a quiet and empty Kent Valley Ice Centre, her training ground.
“I’m very stubborn.”
“That’s an understatement, by the way,” said her coach, Paul Askham, a four-time British senior ice dance champion who has competed internationally throughout a long, successful career before establishing an academy at the Kent rink. “But that works out good, actually.”
Under Askham’s tutelage, Blair has blossomed. As a junior ice dancer, the 18-year-old Blair captured her first-ever national title in four appearances. Blair, representing the Kent Valley Figure Skating Club, won the pre gold pattern dance event and wound up fourth in the combined (short and free dances) event at the Sept. 4-7 USFSA National Solo Dance Final in Provo, Utah.
Blair was one of six skaters from the Kent ice rink who competed. The others included Sabrina Fang, Tiffany Tu, Luly Furukawa, Sofie Gershaft and Sydney Thayer-O’Brien.
Askham has coached figure skaters of all levels since 1991, beginning in his native Manchester, England. Having competed against and coached world-class skaters from the UK, he decided to ply his trade stateside and Kent, where he landed some talented skaters, including Blair.
“He has taught me everything,” Blair said.
The 5-foot-2 Blair has the makeup to be something special in a sport that demands devotion and consistency, her coach said.
“(Ice dancing) has lots of flow in it and speed to it,” Askham said. “It has a lot of edge work. It’s very hard. You have to have the commitment, strength, flexibility, control and core strength. It’s a lot of work … and she works hard at it.”
Next up is a trip to Vacaville, Calif., for a Pacific Coast sectional in the National Solo Dance Competition Series in March. Blair vows to qualify at the senior level for the 2020 nationals in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sept. 10-13.
Ultimately, Blair’s dream is to compete on the Olympic stage – in pairs, with the right partner.
“It is possible. She can do it,” said Askham, a past Olympian. “If we go in that direction, that can be done. We’re not going to put any limits on it. We’re just going to work …”
Blair, who grew up in a large family in Tacoma and graduated from Stadium High in June, has put off college to concentrate exclusively on her training while building a coaching resume by working with other skaters at the academy. Traveling and training can be expensive, and Blair and her team welcome help from sponsors.
Ice dancing has brought out the best in Blair. The reward can be traced to her smile.
“I find skating as such a big escape,” she said. “Putting on the music, it’s so relaxing … and I really feel like myself when I skate.”