It is somewhat difficult to explain what it is like to be a figure skater in Brazil. First, as you may imagine, winter sports are not very popular there. Quite often, ice rinks are set up only on a seasonal basis or for special occasions and performances, thus making it almost impossible to find a rink that operates all year long. Therefore, the art of inline figure skating is the athletic training, competing and performing medium that you will find Adélia Fernanda participating in during her life away from the ice. “Another difficult thing is buying ice skates. You don’t find ice skates for sale in Brazil, and you can only import a pair if you have big money,” said Adélia. “I got a pair of second hand Riedell boots thanks to a friend from the U.S. that I met on the internet. I know that there are better skates than mine, but this is what I have so, for me mine are the best skates…complaining about them wouldn’t make them better.”
Before we go any further, please allow me to explain a few of the technical aspects involved with inline figure skating. For many reasons, it is much more difficult to execute a successful figure skating program on inline skates than on the more traditional bladed skates, primarily because of the types of skate-to-surface contact, skate weight, and balance distribution during spins, jumps and landings. While it is relatively “easy” to spin on ice with the typical solid-edged ice blade, it is not that simple to execute on inline skates.
One must consider that the nature of inline skates are just that – wheels in a straight line. It takes a very, very sensitive feel and finesse to be able to accomplish any type of spin by using a closely balanced combination of traction control and rotation from the skate’s wheels (sometimes all eight at once) as opposed to the natural scratch effect that is done on solid ice blades. For the same reasons, it is equally more difficult to launch and land a jump in the traditionally required manner.
Since inline skates do not typically use a toepick, the skater must attempt to get a solid “pick” traction from an edge on the forward-most skate wheel for the type of jumps that require pick assistance. The hard part is if the wheel being used as the pick rotates even slightly during that crucial moment of contact, the result can be disastrous for the skater. Edge jumps can be somewhat tricky as well due to the equal distribution of force required across multiple wheels of the skate at the same time. Landings from jumps also have unique challenges that need to be conquered in order to have a successful and safe result.
For example, if a figure skater on ice initially lands a jump on the wrong angle of the blade edge, they can often “step out” of the mistake for a minor point deduction from the judges. However, if the same thing happens to an inline figure skater, she/he will most likely fall flat on their face – very quickly. Also, keep in mind that in the event of a fall, ice is a very slippery surface on which the skater can sometimes slide to some degree in order to avoid a scraping injury. This is not a luxury afforded to inline figure skaters as the surface for inline skating needs to be dry as well as rough enough to provide solid wheel traction and is not exactly what you would call a “forgiving” surface to fall on. “Once, I read Maria Butyrskaya saying in a skating magazine, that she couldn’t do any elements on inline skates. She said it was impossible to jump on them,” said Adélia. “There are many other technically critical issues involved in the comparison of figure skating on ice to that of inline figure skating.”
Adélia Fernanda, who hails from Brazil, started skating on roller skates at the age of 10. She has been involved with figure skating since the age of 13 when a temporary ice rink was set up in her city, Fortaleza. From the first moment that her feet hit the ice, it was obvious to her (and to those around her) that she was indeed a natural at the sport. It didn’t take very long before she was attempting and successfully completing technically difficult skating elements. “I might not do triples or fancy spins,” admitted Adélia, “but considering the training and financial conditions – I am, I actually do a lot!” From that point, she was very successful in continually improving on her natural abilities. Sadly, the ice rink was later to be closed down, but her love for the ice has never diminished and her ambitions of competing full-time on ice are still very strong. “I know that I’ll not be Olympic or world champion someday, but I just want to skate,” said Adélia. “I want to know what it’s like to wake up early in the morning and go to an Olympic-sized rink and get instructions from the coach, and then hear him/her screaming and complaining that I’m not doing it right. It is nothing for most skaters out there, but it’s a lot for me.”
After the ice was gone, Adélia was able to begin perfecting her abilities on inline skates. It was a strange transition at first, however, Adélia was able to adapt her natural skating talents to inline skating just as well as she had done on ice. Her father, who was initially skeptical of Adélia’s skating abilities, was one of the first to notice her accomplishments and eventually financed a training program for her. Before long, she was participating in organized Brazilian inline skating competitions. She has since teamed up with a qualified coach, Jorge Leite, who is also an accomplished figure skater. Jorge shares his time between Finland and Brazil, and is credited with helping Adélia to learn many of the highly technical aspects of competitive skating. “Jorge is everything in my skating and also in my life,” said Adélia. “I don’t know any other skater that can call his/her coach at 2:30 am to say, ‘Man, I’m depressed and I need a shoulder to cry on. Could you get some snacks at McDonalds and come over here?'”
Adélia’s first win came at the Jovem Pan Radio competition where she competed in the pairs discipline with a partner. “After that competition, I decided to skate solo because my partner didn’t take the training too seriously,” said Adélia. “I also wanted to be guilty for my own mistakes on skates. These competitions weren’t official of course, since Brazil doesn’t have an ice skating or inline figure skating federation. I wanted to move from Brazil to train outside but my family didn’t have money or any sponsor support.” Since her win at the Jovem Pan Radio competition, Adélia has also skated well in other competitions to include the Circuo Miliar. She has also been repeatedly invited to various events and organizations to dazzle spectator crowds with exhibition performances and presentations – some of which even received televised coverage. “I suffered from panic attacks in 1999, and I performed that way, in front of crowds and TV cameras. It was a nightmare to feel the symptoms and pretend nothing was happening until the end of a program,” said Adélia.
“I’m enrolled now in a University and start classes this week,” said Adélia. “I’ll be studying Journalism, Publicity, & Advertising! It’s a 4-year course and hopefully when I finish, I’ll be able to write articles about skating so that people in my country will actually know what an “Axel” or “Salchow” is,” she added with a grin. “Actually, if they know or learn anything about the sport of figure skating, I’ll be very satisfied.”
Though she admires and respects many skaters from all over the world, Adélia is a big fan of Russian skaters. Her own skating style has been inspired by many of her favorite skaters, including Ilia Kulik, Tara Lipinski, Nancy Kerrigan, Elena Sokolova, and especially Alexei Urmanov who is currently her favorite.