Pint-size skater impresses her Lincolnwood coach
Four-year-old Jada Gogea (left) takes weekly figures skating lessons with her coach, Stephanie Lecheler, at the Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood. | Natasha Wasinski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:34AM
LINCOLNWOOD — Jade Gogea is a shy 4-year-old girl with a big grin whose quiet demeanor causes her to slip by unnoticed.
But, alone on a gargantuan ice rink, she knows how to grab everyone’s attention with her pivots, forward cross-overs, two-foot jumps, and “swizzles,” in which she taps her heels together to form a “V” position with her skate blades.
The toddler ice skates at Lincolnwood’s Heartland Ice Arena under the direction of skating director Pam Lecheler, who created the center’s figure skating program nearly two years to introduce more kids to the sport.
Initially Jade took group lessons. Since her skills exceeded that of her pint-sized peers, she began working solely one on one with a coach, namely Lecheler’s 22-year-old daughter, Stephanie.
“I normally don’t get private students her age,” Stephanie said. “But she’s really good. She’s much more involved in it.”
Chrystal Gogea takes her daughter to ice skate at various north suburban arenas five days a week for 30- and 45-minute sessions at a time. They visit they Jade’s preferred venue in Lincolnwood twice weekly.
Though she’s only been strapping on and gliding with skates for less than year, her practice is paying off.
The past winter Jade took first place in a national figure skating contest when she was 3.
She next competes at an Ice Skating Institute world championship competition July 25-27 in Dallas, where her solo number and four spotlight routines will include special costuming for a country western song “I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and dancing with her favorite doll to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
“She’s one of the younger ones,” Lecheler said, “but she’s doing real good for her age.”
At a June 14 competition in Wilmette, Jade skated away with two first-place finishes, bringing her total number of gold medals to 19. She also has a single silver medal.
“She not only has the technical stuff, she likes to perform and that’s hard to teach,” Lecheler said.
“And she doesn’t have to talk,” her coach chimes in.
Gogea, of Zion, said Jade had previously participated in gymnastics, swimming and tap and ballet classes, but immediately took a liking to coach Stephanie and, thus, the sport.
Stephanie plays games with young skaters so they don’t realize they’re learning new techniques.
With Jade, the instruction is fun but a bit advanced for others her age.
“Her body naturally want to do it,” Stephanie said. “There are a lot of things I have to explain to kids that I don’t have to explain to her.
“She just gets it.”