Louisville Champions have Olympic dreams - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville Champions have Olympic dreams

Josephine (left) and J.T. (right) won the National Championship in Boston. Josephine (left) and J.T. (right) won the National Championship in Boston.
Luke and Claire Purnell Luke and Claire Purnell
Christopher and Sophia Elder Christopher and Sophia Elder

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The U.S. figure skaters won bronze in the team event during the 2014 Winter Games, thanks in part to Meryl Davis and Charlie White who placed first in free dance. Davis and White may have the best chance for gold in Sochi, but here at home some young Louisville skaters are now on the Olympic trail, just like White and Davis were 17 years ago.

"It's kind of like a feeling you don't get anywhere else," explained skater Claire Purnell of being on the ice.

Teammates J.T. Michel, 13, and Josephine Hagan, 11, agreed, "I'm at home on the ice and Josephine said, "The breeze in your face," she smiled, "that's good."

Young and in love with the ice. It's was true for Olympians Davis and White when they began at ages 9 and 10 and it's true today for talented young athletes nipping at their skates.

Flying across the Iceland Sports Complex rink in Louisville with precision, strength and artistry are some of the country's best skaters. The Louisville Skating Academy recently took several team members to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston. J.T. and Josephine brought back the Louisville club's first National Championship.

"We're just so proud of them," LSA Skating Director Becca Hatch-Purnell said of the junior ice dancing champions.

Their coach Susan Caudill remembered the moment the duo won, "It was so exciting because we weren't sure until the marks came up that they were actually going to win it!"

Josephine said, "We practice really hard, so it made everything worth it and we're going to keep practicing to hopefully win again." 

Up at 5:30 in the morning, practicing twice a day and getting homework done also makes the win huge for their parents.  J.T.'s parents, David and Jodie Michel, said, "To finally get to that plateau and to achieve what they did it's very special not only for them but for us and all their coaches and the people here at LSA that support them."

For J.T. skating is breathing. David Michel said of his son, "I don't think I've ever heard him once say, I don't want to go skate today."

And Josephine was just 5 years old when one of her coaches told her dad Joseph Hagan they saw a star underneath her wobbly knees. "She said maybe you should buy her own skates," Joseph recalled the words, "I think she would be really good."

The champs were joined at nationals by two Louisville brother and sister teams Christopher and Sophia Elder, both Kentucky Country Day students who know a lot about togetherness.  We asked Christopher and Sophia if they ever get sick of each other? "Yes!" They laughed.

The Elders placed an impressive 5th in their tough division. Also placing 8th nationally, Claire and Luke Purnell, who happen to be the children of the skating director. 

"I ask them a lot, are you sure you want to be here?" Hatch-Purnell said, "Are you doing this for me?" The answer is no. While mom got them started, Claire and Luke said skating is their passion.

The sibling pairs have come a long way fast considering they used to skate freestyle. They discovered a brother sister advantage on the ice. Luke joked, "I live with her, so I know what she's going to do before she really does it, a lot." 

Christorpher agreed, "Sometimes when we're going to work on something, we don't have to say it, we just know."

Purnell said of the club's skaters, "They all have dreams and I think all the kids have a dream to be in the Olympics some day."

These dedicated teams could get there if they stay focused and injury free. Dealing with the costs, time and travel their parents are equally committed.

And meeting their heroes makes them want to lace up their skates even faster. At nationals  White and Davis stopped to meet and take pictures with the Louisville skaters, as did free skate Olympian Gracie Gold.

Claire said, "It's really motivational to watch them skate they're so good."

Going for the gold, a dream for skaters and parents alike. Joseph Hagan said of getting his daughter to the Olympics, "I think about it all the time and I think that would be the most fantastic thing ever." Claire said of watching the Olympics, "I'm so excited because one day I just think maybe that could be us."

The dedicated young athletes are not only on the ice six days a week, but when they are off the ice they work on strength training and ballet. You can see more Olympic ice dancing next week with competitions beginning Monday on NBC.

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