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Thread: Advice for a Possible Beginning Adult Skater?

  1. #1
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    Advice for a Possible Beginning Adult Skater?

    I always thought figure skating was kind of an interesting sport, and I swam and played volleyball and rugby in high school, so I'm 19 now, and decided to finally give skating a try over the summer, since my schedule/social life is kind of dead. I haven't gotten any lessons, but I've been watching a lot of tutorial videos online and got myself out to a rec center rink twice this past week. I can skate their public drop-in from 9am-5pm payng $7.00 for the facility if I don't use a coach; but if I do get one, the skating club charges about $12.00/15 min. session which seems kind of outrageous given it would cost me more to pay a coach for a couple hours of time than my volleyball fees for a club team season. I know it's an expensive sport, but I'm not ready for that commitment yet. My question is if it's worth it now to inquire about joining a club/finding a coach or getting private lessons. I think from what I've seen of them; I would be wasting my money with a Adult LTS class; but I could be wrong about that.

    I was there for about two and a half hours on my first session and got over a lot of the mental fears I had and got forwards/backwards skating down to the point where I could do both with some speed and confidence. The only stop I can do is the heel stop (I don't know what that's called, but it's when I'm pushing the heel of my leading foot forward going sideways? It scrapes up a bit of ice on the end?) but it does work for stopping before hitting the boards.

    I could also do backwards swizzles (i think that's what they're called? It's the first part of a crossover before you make the x?) faster than just skating normally backwards, but I don't know what to do with that other than it makes a cool pattern on fresh ice.

    Changing directions (from going backwards to forwards) is kind of difficult because what I'm doing for now is gliding forward until I slow down a little bit, and then going up on the toe picks to flip over to the other direction. I know that's probably not "right", but I did have the rink to myself for an hour and wasn't really embarrassed to try something from YouTube, either. No falls/accidents from that, at least!

    The next time I went back, I tried some two-foot jumps (just jumping over hockey lines going forward and backward) to see if I could do them and those weren't too hard. I fell a bunch of times, but not badly. Also tried gliding on one foot with the other leg straight, about knee high in front of me/behind me, following the pattern of the hockey circles, and could stay on the curve for about half the circle on each foot.

    I'm still stuck on backwards crossovers (I think it's a weird mental thing, because I can't get my foot to make the x without falling) but I can do forwards crossovers somewhat. I also haven't tried changing directions just on one foot, but the next time I'm at the rink, I definitely want to. Any tips there (or how to do a two-foot spin? I've seen the one where you balance on the back of one blade and front of the other...not sure I culd do that yet)?

    I have stock/rental boots with mounted blades purchased from the thrift shop for $10.00. Zero ankle support, but tying the laces tightly and wearing socks fixes that. I'm not even doing jumps yet, so I don't think that matters too much? There's no brand I can tell from the boots but there's not any rust on the blades and they feel pretty sharp after getting them sharpened in the sharpening machine. I know that's not good, but I'm not exactly competitive, either, and I don't know whether I'd be interested in adult/rec competitions at all yet I'm enjoying skating so far because I think it's relaxing. The rink is empty if I go between 10 in the morning and about 1 in the afternoon, and I only pay the drop-in rate to stay all day if I wanted, so it's a fairly cheap way to beat the heat, too.

    So, experienced adult skaters/coaches on this forum, do you think I need to invest in classes/coaching yet- or should I wait until I have the crossovers/simple jump/spin? What level would I be at if I did? Are the Adult competitions worth it if I did continue skating?

  2. #2
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    Sounds like you're in a similar situation as the poster in this other thread:
    http://www.goldenskate.com/forum/sho...ating-too-Late

    Maybe the two could be combined, or at least you can read the answers there and ask more questions in response.

    Quote Originally Posted by cassp035 View Post
    The only stop I can do is the heel stop (I don't know what that's called, but it's when I'm pushing the heel of my leading foot forward going sideways? It scrapes up a bit of ice on the end?) but it does work for stopping before hitting the boards.
    Snowplow stop?

    You're pushing the side of your blade sideways against the ice. You could think of the heel going forward, just don't dig the back of the blade into the ice, which is what I was afraid you might be doing when you called it a heel stop.


    Changing directions (from going backwards to forwards) is kind of difficult because what I'm doing for now is gliding forward until I slow down a little bit, and then going up on the toe picks to flip over to the other direction. I know that's probably not "right",
    Probably a two-foot three turn -- you shouldn't be going all the way up on the toepicks, but your weight should be further forward on the blade at the point of the turn (which draws a 3 shape on the ice, on each foot in this case) than during the glide in and out.

    After you master gliding on both inside and outside edges both forward and backward, then you can start trying three turns on one foot at a time, and also mohawks.

    Also tried gliding on one foot with the other leg straight, about knee high in front of me/behind me, following the pattern of the hockey circles, and could stay on the curve for about half the circle on each foot.
    That's great. If you can hold an edge on one foot at a time, you're ready to start figure skating!

    It really would help your progress to work with a coach at least occasionally, so you can practice techniques that are known to work and not try to reinvent the wheel from scratch yourself.

    $12.00/15 min would be a great deal for a private lesson. Is that what you're talking about? Group classes usually last longer than 15 min, unless they're just a small part of a club practice session.

    You'll save money/progress faster in the long run if you work with a coach who can point you in the right direction for what to practice, and give you the right terminology to look for further instruction online. Don't spend many months teaching yourself bad habits that you'll later have to unlearn.

    I have stock/rental boots with mounted blades purchased from the thrift shop for $10.00. Zero ankle support, but tying the laces tightly and wearing socks fixes that. I'm not even doing jumps yet, so I don't think that matters too much? There's no brand I can tell from the boots but there's not any rust on the blades and they feel pretty sharp after getting them sharpened in the sharpening machine. I know that's not good, but I'm not exactly competitive, either, and I don't know whether I'd be interested in adult/rec competitions at all yet I'm enjoying skating so far because I think it's relaxing.
    Pretty soon you will want some ankle support, but if you're comfortable and able to glide on one foot now, you can probably work with these skates for a while.

    The rink is empty if I go between 10 in the morning and about 1 in the afternoon, and I only pay the drop-in rate to stay all day if I wanted, so it's a fairly cheap way to beat the heat, too.
    Good deal. Enjoy!

    You shouldn't need to join a club before you're ready to test and/or compete, provided that practice time and instruction (group classes and/or private lessons) are available directly through the rink.

  3. #3
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    I'm the OP in that other thread gkelly mentioned- hi! Sounds like you're more advance than I am, so the adult LTS classes like I'm in might be a little basic for you (for instance, I just learned my first spin last night and can't go as far on one foot as you can or lift the free leg as high). What you mentioned about the two-foot turns- we were just working on those last night, and we started by doing them from a standstill- putting one arm in front, one in back, and using your weight on the balls of your feet/front of your blade (but not the toepick) when you turn to face the other way. Sorry if that's a kind of confusing description, I'm still a beginner!

    Otherwise, gkelly's advice has worked for me, so listen to the wise one Good luck!

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    I don't know if there's a clear-cut answer. I'm in my mid-30s and just started formally skating (i.e. taking classes rather than just going for fun) about a month ago in our local rink's LTS program, and have been having a blast. For me I definitely think the LTS classes are worth it; each half-hour class costs about as much as 1.5 two-hour public sessions, but what they do is teach you how to do a bunch of moves with the right technique in each class. The purpose I think is more so that you'll be able to practice those moves during the public sessions in a focused manner, rather than to think of each class as the only time you spend on the ice or just flailing about randomly during the public sessions. They complement the public sessions very well; if you only go to the LTS classes then you won't progress very quickly (because they'll have to keep repeating the same skills until your body gets them), but if you only go to public sessions it may be hard to learn on your own or to have someone pick up on what you're doing wrong and answer questions, which is something that internet videos don't do very well. For example, the coach at my LTS class picked up on that I tend to lean forward too much when I do different skating moves (probably because I'm afraid of falling and would rather fall forward than backward) and has been good about answering my questions about which edge, how far along the blade should my weight be at, what is the weight transfer during different moves, etc. You might pick up bits and pieces about these things from internet videos but I doubt any of them will have it all in one concise place.

    Even though I think our local rink's LTS program is definitely worth it, the reason why I say I don't know if there's a clear-cut answer is because I assume that LTS programs around the country probably vary a lot, not in terms of the content (which are standardized by the USFSA as far as I know) but in terms of how they're taught. For me, I'd say the factors off the top of my head that make the local program good are:

    1. Good coaches. They're attentive to what the skaters are doing and are knowledgeable about the different skills and how to teach them. The coaches I've seen so far have all been skating for over ten years.
    2. Relatively small class size. Each class session is around 4-8 students. I don't think the way the class works would go well if there were more students. For example, early on they taught us how to do one-foot glides, then a couple of weeks later, they asked for us to each individually do one-foot glides along a hockey line so they could give individual tips. That would not fly if there were 20 students. Also, since we only spend a few minutes on each skill during class (to go through a lot of skills), the small class size means that the coaches can still go around to each skater individually while we're trying out each skill.
    3. The students practice. I personally go twice a week to public sessions. Other students have also said they go around 2-3 times a week. This means that the classes keep progressing because we'll become proficient at each skill before the next class, so there's not much repeat of content other than to refine and polish.
    4. Discounts on the public sessions if you're in the LTS program. Yes, each LTS class costs as much as 1.5 public sessions. But, if you're in the LTS program, there are heavy discounts on the public sessions (reduced admission price, skate rentals are free, and a free public session after every 7 paid public sessions) such that each public session is effectively half price. This means that going to 3 public sessions if you're not in the LTS program costs as much as going to 3 public sessions and getting a half-hour LTS lesson if you are in the LTS program -- the lesson is essentially "free" if you go to enough public sessions. So it really does reward people who are interested in skating more long-term and go often rather than as an occasional one-off thing. (The discount is only available if you sign up for an LTS session which lasts two months, rather than "walk on" LTS classes -- so again, for people that are ready to commit.)

    I think these factors are individual to each LTS program at each rink though so they may not apply to your situation. I would however recommend checking out the LTS program, and perhaps trying out one class to see if it's suitable for you. (I personally did try out one class as "walk on" before committing to the two-month session.) Personally, I've learned more this past month than all the previous times I've gone skating put together. At the local rink, the adult LTS classes are split into an Adult 1-3 and an Adult 4-6 session which each run in two month session, but this past (first) month we've already covered everything in Adult 1-3 except for moving (forward to backward or backward to forward) two-foot turns and backward snowplow stops; this means we're already learned forward and backward one-foot glides, forward and backward swizzles, inside and outside edges, forward crossovers, beginning two-foot spins, etc. We've also learned the side toe hop and bunny hop even though those are higher-level adult skills. (For a list of the specific skills at each adult level: http://www.usfsa.org/Content/AdultCurriculum.pdf and yes, I have been checking each one off individually as we learn them.) I'm guessing we'll probably end up somewhere in Adult 5 by the time the session is up, since going backward is proving much more difficult to get used to than going forward. Not bad for a two-month commitment.

    Anyway, tl;dr -- I'd recommend checking out the rink's LTS program; it definitely works for me, hopefully it'll work for you. I'd say there's no real need for a private coach if the LTS program is cheaper and you get good enough instruction from it, I sort of see private coaches more for once you're in the free skate levels and beyond.

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    If you decide to stick with skating, then I recommend investing in a good pair of ice skates. Do not make the same mistake that I did - do not get "beginner" skates since they have plastic soles. You want a boot with leather bottoms. Why? with the plastic soles, you cannot make any adjustments to them; with leather soles, you can. I expect that you can get a new pair (skate with boot) for under $250USD.

    Good luck and have fun!

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    Further to concorde's post, I wanted to add:

    I know good skates seem expensive. I had to replace my boots recently and I put that off for too long just because of the price (and my boots aren't beginner boots). But I coughed up the dough in the end. Why?

    Because the money for the boots was cheaper than having to see an orthopedist or a physiotherapist about the excruciating pain my old boots were putting my feet through.

    These are your feet we're talking about. You only get one pair. Don't see the good skates as a horrible expense: see them as a good investment towards protecting your feet and ankles. (And they're a whole lot cheaper than medical bills.)

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    Does your rink have adult LTS classes split by levels, or is it just one adults class? Fwiw, I'm in an adult LTS class and I really enjoy it. It is a great way to practice and get pointers from different coaches. Most of the other participants are older than me (I'm 27) but it is still nice to skate with other adults. The instructors always introduce elements at varying levels - for example, the other day we were working on more power going backwards. For the beginners, it was doing a pump (or half swizzle) at the wall or around a hockey circle. For the rest, it was backwards crossovers and backward consecutive edges. Both focusing on knee bend and pushing into the ice. My point is, many instructors can work with varying levels at once, and there's always improvements that can be made to basic skills. My LTS class definitely works on the mitf patterns, and the Saturday class (that I don't take) even does more jumps and spins. (I think bc there are more teens in that class who are less scared to jump!)

    Also, I just started private lessons and it is $6 for a half hour of ice, and $30 for a 30min lesson. These are reasonable rates where I am, so your rates seem to be very good! A lot of the public sessions around here are about $5-7 for 1.5-2 hours!

    Like the others have mentioned, you don't need to join a club until you want to test usfsa or compete. For either of those things you will need private lessons. And by then you will definitely need new skates.

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    If you have enough time and money, I would suggest 1 private lesson and 1 group lesson a week. I would view the private lesson as the "real" lesson and the group lesson as more supervised practice. In my area, the group lesson fee includes the same number of "public ice" sessions (i.e., 8 groups lessons and 8 public ice sessions). If you follow-up that route, you will be at the rink 3x a week.

    A side benefit is that there are probably other adult skaters that are following a similar program and they will probably have a schedule that "meshes" with yours - I found this at my rinks. So you gain some new friends who will also encourage your skating.

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    Thanks for all the replies!

    I don't think that getting a coach is something I'm really ready for yet, for the sake of their time and mine. I'd rather have more of the basic stuff nailed down (like maybe even get a one-foot spin or single jump) down before I ask for some more help. I did speak with one of the club coaches when I went to skate today, but it seems to me like they want a club commitment before offering up any of their own time, which does make sense. I offered to pay the "public" rate ($18.00/15 min coached session) but the coach who I spoke to told me that was really a "hockey" rate for power skating classes, and they didn't really want to coach any non-club skaters. However, I'm totally welcome to come to public sessions and use free ice any time I want to. I don't know if that's USFS policy or the guy was just being difficult, but for now, it does seem like private ice time isn't really something I can get, even if I were willing to pay for it.

    On the skating front, I have the backwards crossover down and can get my left leg up to hip height kind of in a spiral position.I've found it's a lot easier to stop thinking of it as a spiral and kind of just lean forward until I can hold my right boot with both hands and just let my leg hang in the air for a bit while I glide. Also bad technique, but I can hold it steady for a few seconds like that, and with my arms in front of me for extra balance. I've also tried it with my arms crossed, but that's way too difficult and I faceplanted there. Oh well, better luck this week; I guess- and I'm really happy with my "progress" considering I've really only been skating for a few days. I'm skating for a really long time on the days I go, but still, I feel pretty good about where I am. That being said, I'm starting to get major shin splints from all the time I've been skating, thought that's probably just me being sore from exercising a completely different set of muscles LOL

     (For a list of the specific skills at each adult level: http://www.usfsa.org/Content/AdultCurriculum.pdf and yes, I have been checking each one off individually as we learn them.) 

    Speaking of the USFSA site, I did some exploring and noticed the Test section has some things like this http://www.usfsa.org/content/mitf/di...20Stroking.pdf which are diagrams used in tests, I think? There are also descriptions of how the sequences would be done in a test under the "Moves in the Field Descriptions" so I'm thinking I could print these out and just start practicing things like the "Forward Stroking" or spirals to give my sessions some more structure. It seems most of the PP level involves holding an edge (?) for longer and longer, which isn't impossible, and I think I'd rather try that than try to figure out what a "markuza" is. Oh, and there are direction changes of the figure 8 diagram. If I can do all the test patterns by the end of the summer, I think I'd be happy with it.

    The website has these for all the test levels so it's essentially a whole skating curriculum. If I start with Pre-Preliminary Moves, would I need to learn them backwards and forwards? Or just forward? I don't know- but it could be more fun adding some goals to work towards to skating.

    There are also a few solo dance patterns lying around on their sites, including a few, like a Waltz pattern and the Tango, which could be skated solo, so if I were to print these out to try them, that might fill in part of the gaps in learning "formal" skating without a coach or classes. I think the abbreviations on the diagrams are for left blade/right blade inside outside; and then you just follow the pattern on the rink? I hope so- someone tell me if that's wrong!

    Quote Originally Posted by bwayrose7
    What you mentioned about the two-foot turns- we were just working on those last night, and we started by doing them from a standstill- putting one arm in front, one in back, and using your weight on the balls of your feet/front of your blade (but not the toepick) when you turn to face the other way. Sorry if that's a kind of confusing description, I'm still a beginner!
    One of those videos I saw online said to imagine drawing a box on the ice for a two-foot turn. So the foot where your weight is on the front of the blade draws and L-shape, and you put your weight on the back of the blade of your other foot to draw the backwards L-shape and complete the square. At first it made no sense to me, but a few tries and I got two or three shaky revolutions out of it.

    I guess if you go faster the L becomes a curve and you really start spinning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Littlerain
    Does your rink have adult LTS classes split by levels, or is it just one adults class?
    It has two adult classes, Adult 1, and then Adult 2. My understanding from the posters is that Adult one covers Basic Skills 1-4, and Adult 2 is Basic 5-8. After that, Adult Freeskate (I think all levels from Preliminary+) and Dance, which is what I think most of the adult club skaters do.

    The classes seem to be absolutely huge, though. I hung around to watch one of the Adult 2 classes, just to see how it's done, and there were 24-30 skaters, between about my age to probably their 50s-60s sharing the ice in shifts. Granted, there are 3-4 coaches teaching the program, so the ration is 10:1, but it seems just a little bit beyond what I want out of skating.

    There are a lot of drills focusing on skating backwards/crossovers and holding an edge, which I'm noticing more and more is a balance thing, and this was the Level 2 class. So I think I'll skip the class, but try to go to a session where the other adult skaters do…I talked to a few coming off the ice and they do seem like a friendly group, so why not? A poster above mentioned making some new skating friends through adult sessions, and I'd definitely be interested in that.

    Quote Originally Posted by concorde
    If you have enough time and money, I would suggest 1 private lesson and 1 group lesson a week. I would view the private lesson as the "real" lesson and the group lesson as more supervised practice. In my area, the group lesson fee includes the same number of "public ice" sessions (i.e., 8 groups lessons and 8 public ice sessions). If you follow-up that route, you will be at the rink 3x a week. 
    Right now, I'm wanting to skate 3 "free ice" sessions weekly, so every other day, I'm going to make it out for the drop-in time and try to stay about 2-3 hours. I've done that this past week and found it works well for me, and because it's a major off-peak hour, it also works well for me to try a lot of new things without being too worried about sharing the ice (embarrassing myself, accidents, etc. LOL!). It's about 6-9 (planned) hours of practice/skating, which is about the same amount of time that I spent in sports practices…haha, so I'm somewhat serious about it? Extra public sessions would easily fit in on the Friday nights, etc.- so I think even without the coaching, at least I'm making up the time on ice!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cassp035 View Post
    I don't think that getting a coach is something I'm really ready for yet, for the sake of their time and mine. I'd rather have more of the basic stuff nailed down (like maybe even get a one-foot spin or single jump) down before I ask for some more help.
    NO NO NO NO.

    Do you want to know what a huge waste of time for a coach is? Having to go back and break a skater of bad habits because they think they can teach themselves stuff. Habits are easy to make and hard to break and I can almost guarantee that you will not teach yourself correctly, thus meaning that instead of progress, you'll be taking backwards steps as the coach tries to fix you.

    Figure skating CANNOT be self-taught.

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    ^^What karne said. Seriously.

    Unless all you want out of skating is purely recreational.

    If you have any interest in testing and/or competing at some point, do yourself a favor & start w/ a coach. Self-teaching will come back to bite you in a BIG way.

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    If your reluctance to start by taking lessons stems from a resistance to authority, you're probably doomed to teach yourself bad technique and never be able to reach the skill level you could reach with good instruction from the beginning

    A lot of the skills rely on subtle weight adjustments and muscle tensions that would not be obvious by watching from the outside. It took the 19th century worth of trial and error for the pioneers of the sport to develop the basic techniques that allow for the advanced skills skaters learn today. You don't have a century to figure it all yourself -- save time by learning from people who already know what works and what doesn't.

    Yesterday I skated with a friend of mine who has been taking learn-to-skate classes. For months she had been unable to hold a forward outside edge on her right foot, although she could do it on the left. Then she got a new instructor who told her to keep her weight further back on the blade, and she was immediately able to do right forward outside edges.

    She would never have figured it out by herself. Her previous coach had not. So coaches who are better at knowing the mechanics of what works and at seeing what each skater is missing in his/her attempts are very useful; coaches who are less good at coaching are less useful.

    If there are competent coaches available to you now, you'll save a lot of money in the long run by starting with lessons from the beginning. It might take a couple of lessons with different coaches to find one who works best for you.

    If you're practicing in some isolated hinterland where there are no competent coaches available in the first place, or if you're so poor that you can't afford even a brief lesson once a month, then at least try to learn from less hands-on sources of expertise, how-to books and videos written by experienced skaters/coaches.

    Make sure you get comfortable with basics like edges, especially back outside edges, and forward three turns in at least your good direction -- and with the concept of "checking" rotation -- before attempting waltz jumps/single jumps or one-foot spins.

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    You need to ask your rink's skating director for some additional background because I think this coach is telling you incorrect information. At my rink, no one is required to join a club to take private lessons. You don't need to a member of a club until you sign up for a test session and/or register for a competition.

    If you are serious about wanting to do some testing, then I agree with other posters that you need a coach. Granted you can learn the patterns on your own by reading the book (my 9-year old does this) but you need someone to critique your technique (correct edge maintained, foot high enough on spiral). To "pass" a MIF test, you are not graded on whether you can perform the sequence but rather the quality of you performing the actual sequence. The reality is that you probably won't sign up for your first test session until you have been taking lessons for at least a year.

    Coaches prefer to take certain "levels" of instructors and you need to find one that matches your current goals. We have certain instructors at my rink that only want older students (teenagers and adults); we have others that only want beginners so once you reach a certain level, they pass you off to another instructor. The skating director can probably give you some guidance on which instructor would be a good "match" for you.

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    It could be the club freestyle session is required for taking private lessons. Here you can't do that unless you are with a coach if you are at the lower levels.

    I suggest taking the adult class with the 10:1 ration. You get A. to meet other adults who enjoy skating, B. To meet a lot of coaches and have some idea of who you want when you are ready for private lessons.

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    ^^^
    I was thinking the same thing that loopy mentioned - club FS session typically requires club membership and you typically can't be on a FS session without a coach unless you are at a certain level.

    Skating cannot be self-taught if you are going to do it properly, as many have mentioned. Heck, it can't even be maintained! Look at Michelle Kwan at the 2002 Olympics where she went coachless. Her triple flip was getting "off" throughout the season and she really fought for it in the SP, but it let her down in the LP. A coach would have been able to adjust the issue she had in the SP before the result of the LP happened and I suspect that she'd be an Olympic champion today...

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