By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
One does not need a pair of ice skates to perform artistic skating. All Dick Lapponese of East Longmeadow has needed since he was a youngster was some wheels beneath his feet.
Artistic roller skating is a group of roller skating events similar to figure skating on ice -- the outfits for both often include sequins, too. The events include figure skating, single free skating, dance (couple), solo dance, pairs, precision (team skating, similar to synchronized skating on ice) and show teams.
Roller figure skating demands that its skaters combine a careful balance of precision, strength and artistry into a single, impressive performance, according to U.S.A. Roller Sports (www.usarollersports.org). The results are as spectacular to witness as they are to perform, and they demonstrate a mastery of the sport in all its intricacy.
Skaters use either four-wheeled or roller blades, but skaters who use different footwear usually compete in separate events and not against each other. Roller figure skating is often considered to be more difficult than ice skating because the ice allows the skater to draw a deep, solid edge to push off from when performing jumps such as a lutz or an axel. On roller skates it is not possible to use the same kind of deep edge in that context, because it will confuse in the rotation, making it difficult to land properly.
Lapponese doesn't see it as difficult, however. To him, roller skating is just plain fun.
He has announced that the upcoming Northeast Regionals of the U.S.A. Roller Sports, to take place at Interskate 91, 2043 Boston Rd. in Wilbraham, from June 28 through July 1, will most likely be the start of his last competition, though. At age 69, he competes in the Veterans Division (55+) and is currently ranked number three in the nation.
"I started skating at a very young age," Lapponese told Reminder Publications. "I started with the clap-on skates with the key. I was just fooling around, skating in circles, but as I got older, I took lessons and skated until I was 17. Then I went in the Army, left [the military] in 1962 and came back to skating 18 years ago."
When asked how he got back into skating after such a long break, he explained his friend Sylvia Haskey invited him to skate one day and he hasn't stopped since.
Pat Weway, head coach at Interskate 91, said she's known Lapponese for over 20 years. She also said that learning to skate artistically is a long process.
"It takes real dedication," she added.
"[Artistic skating] is quite demanding," Lapponese said. "I hadn't done much advanced skating when I was younger, like jumps or spins, but I think I've got it now. I really feel like I'll win [the championship] this year."
Lapponese added that if he does finish first this year, he may have to continue skating "to defend my crown."
"It's a nice sport, and a lot of older people do it," he stated. He added that once he finishes skating, he'd like to get into the judging end of the sport.
And, although he does skate with a team or with a partner on occasion, Lapponese said he prefers to skate solo. "It's because I'm a ham," he laughed. "I do that well."
"I'm not at all nervous [about the upcoming competition]," he continued. "I love it. I love to go out there, I like to laugh, to joke around and I like to have people watch me skate. I want to make sure they have a good time."
"This is entertainment," Weway said. "When it's over, everybody always says, 'Wow, I didn't know you could do that on roller skates!'"
Interskate 91 first hosted a regional competition for U.S.A. Roller Sports four years ago, which Weway said was "a big deal" for the business. This year's competition begins on June 28 with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Admittance is $6 per person, with $1 off if you bring a copy of this article from The Reminder.