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The Washington Post Company

The Pride Of Puerto Rico

Fairfax Skater Wins Junior National Title

By Michele Clock

July 12, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Washington Post Company. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rican Junior National ice skating champion Amanda Wiest-Vives, 11, might have been a prize-winning horseback rider. Her mother, Linette Spano, was in the final stages of leasing a horse for the Fairfax resident when the then 8-year-old visited an ice rink for the first time

After that trip, Wiest-Vives knew she wanted to skate, but an unconvinced Spano took her daughter back to the stable.

"The trainer told us that the horse knew [Amanda] didn't want to be on it, that it could throw her off," Spano said. "And it's been ice skating since then."

Wiest-Vives, a second generation Puerto Rican American, is serious about skating and her dreams of international competition. She is home-schooled for four hours each morning so she can skate at the Fairfax Ice Arena in the afternoon while others her age attend school. Wiest-Vives practices twice a day, starting at 6 a.m., for a total of three hours -- two and a half hours on the ice and 30 minutes on land. She has two coaches and a choreographer, and eats a specialized diet.

Wiest-Vives' rigorous schedule paid dividends when she recently won the first Puerto Rican Junior National. The event was held in Pennsauken, NJ, home to the Puerto Rican Figure Skating Federation, where Wiest-Vives beat three older skaters to win the competition.

The victory was perhaps the first step in Wiest-Vives' ultimate goal: to represent Puerto Rico in the Olympics.

"It's an honor and I am really proud to represent my grandmother's island. If I could represent anywhere, I would represent Puerto Rico. . . . I love the island," Wiest-Vives said.

Said Spano: "What I'm excited and proud about is the opportunity Amanda has to represent my mom's country. . . . I'm here to support her throughout her journey."

A few months ago, the mother and daughter met with Arsennette Reiter, founder and driving force behind the PRFSF. Reiter, from New Jersey, leads an unlikely, but quickly growing movement to gain Puerto Rican ice skaters entry into international competition, including the Olympics, through membership into the International Skating Union.

"The problem is not if but when we will be a 'member country,' " Reiter said. "The International Skating Union is in the process of picking apart a number of issues. The process is very long but I do anticipate our [being accepted] this year.

The newly formed PRFSF accepts skaters with bloodlines to Puerto Rico to represent the island nation. Neither Wiest-Vives nor her parents were born in Puerto Rico, but her grandparents were and provide the link. PRFSF currently has 22 Puerto-Rican American members, ranging from three to 31 years old, from across the country with hopes to represent Puerto Rico. Ten of the 22 have competed as members of the PRFSF. Wiest-Vives is the only skater from the Washington area.

"I wanted to be like Amanda . . . and represent Puerto Rico [as a skater], but I started much too late. Quite frankly I'm not that good," Reiter said.

The Puerto Rican Olympic Committee has already recognized the PRFSF and is petitioning the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union on behalf of the PRFSF.

Wiest-Vives primary coach, Alexei Joukov, said even though Wiest-Vives began skating "late" at age eight, she has been able to learn in three years what it takes other girls five to six years.

"She's strong, graceful, and flexible. . . . Some have to spend hours and hours doing ballet," Joukov said. "She has natural flexibility. She's not stiff."

As for Wiest-Vives's chances for the Olympics, Reiter said that she could be one of the first to represent Puerto Rico when the country is approved. Under international figure skating guidelines, athletes must be 13 years old in order to compete at the highest level, and since Wiest-Vives is 11, she has time on her side. Reiter believes the time it takes to push approval through to the ISU provides more time for Wiest-Vives to train and develop.

"Considering she is good now I have high hopes for her," Reiter said.

Kristine Stone Cruz, 16, who skates out of Hackensack, NJ. is favored to be the first ice skater to represent Puerto Rico at the international level, as early as this summer.

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