U.S. pair skaters Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig are still mostly unknown, but they gained some recognition when they won the Golden Spin of Zagreb last season. The couple finished tenth in senior pairs at the 2004 U. S. Nationals, up two places from 2003, but feel they are only getting started. “We’re trying to get better each year and keep going to Nationals,” Evora said. “We want to keep doing internationals and our far off goal is to make the Worlds team.”
To start the 2004-2005 season, the couple finished third at the Indy Challenge. They are next slated to compete next week at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Evora started skating when she was six. “My brother and sister had skated, but they both quit,” she said. “I found my sister’s skates in the garage and they fit me perfectly so I’ve been skating ever since.” She skated singles until 2003, placing seventh in junior ladies at South Atlantics in 2002. She began skating pairs about four years ago, first with Mike Adler and the last two years with Ladwig. “People said I’d be good for pairs, but my Dad didn’t want me to,” she said. “But I loved pairs and I like to learn new things.”
Ladwig began skating when he was five. “I lived in Moorhead, Minnesota,” he recalled. “There was a pond in the park behind our house that was frozen all winter long. I started playing hockey when I was three and I did Learn to Skate when I was three or four. My first competition was a riot. I finished dead last but then I poured more time and effort into it and got up to fourth in intermediates in Dallas.”
“I skated in pairs with Kelsey Solo until I was 19, but then she retired to play soccer. Then I skated with Kerry Blakenger. We were fifth in novice twice in 2000 and 2001. Then in 2002, I skated with Kristen Dean at Radio City Music Hall.” When Evora and Ladwig tried out together later in 2002, Ladwig said, “I was very impressed by her desire to be a pair skater. She wasn’t perfect but she had a lot of potential. There’s a lot of give and take when we skate. She has a lot of grit and determination. That’s something I admire. It helps me find the motivation to put things together, especially when I’m not feeling well.”
“It was hard to find a partner with the same goals and work ethic,” Evora said. “Mark is a very hard worker. He never says No or puts in less than 100 percent effort. He’s always excited to learn and I get excited when we make up new stuff.”
The skaters train with Kerry Leitch, Lyndon Johnson and Jim Peterson in Ellenton, Florida. They work for three hours on ice five days a week on pairs, another hour on singles, plus an hour of off ice work on lifts and pairs moves and an hour of fitness training. Evora has been working with Leitch for over three years; Ladwig for more than two years. “We hope to have some new and interesting lifts and some unique pairs spins for this season,” Ladwig said. “We’ve been trying throw triple flip. We have side-by-side triple toes, triple salchows, and double Axels already and a throw double salchow.” “I’m getting good spring on my jumps,” Evora said, “and we hope to have harder jumps in our program.”
Both of the skaters enjoy other sports and play soccer every week. Ladwig competed in the triple jump and pole vault in high school as well as diving, football and wrestling. He also took gymnastics for a few years and can do a back flip on skates, partly as a result of his pole-vaulting experience. Evora was involved in gymnastics for several years, where her favorite event was the uneven bars.
Peterson choreographs the couple’s programs. “Our coaching and choreography is team-based,” Ladwig said. “We give suggestions for music, but the team decides what is best for our strengths.” This season, they are using Aaron Copeland’s Theme for the Common Man for the short and Vanessa Mae’s Butterfly Suite for the long. Off ice, Evora listens to rhythm and blues, alternative and techno music, while Ladwig will listen to anything. Evora also plays the violin and performed in her high school’s symphony for three years.
When they’re not skating, they are working. “We pay for most of our skating,” she said. “We don’t have any sponsors.” “I work at a restaurant for 35 hours a week and then at The Igloo for at least another eight,” Ladwig said. “I cut music, sharpen skates, drive the zamboni and do woodworking.” Evora also works at the rink, putting in 20 hours or more at the fitness center, the help desk, and the accounting office.
If that’s not enough, she’s also taking college courses four nights a week at Manatee Community College, especially business and math courses. “I enjoy the business courses but I’m really good in math,” she said. “It’s just something that comes to me easily.” Ladwig has taken some college classes at the University of Minnesota, but isn’t currently in school. Neither of the skaters has settled on a future career although Ladwig said, “It will probably be something in production or design because I like to build things.”
Off ice, Evora just likes to relax. “I live with a skating family,” she said, “and I just like to relax in the pool or the hot tub or sit on the lanai and read or fall asleep.” She also likes to go out with friends. Although she used to collect Beanie babies, now she mainly collects pins and sand dollars. Ladwig collects pins, bottle caps, and the new state quarters. He also loves to watch movies like Oceans Eleven and The Italian Job and read science fiction and history books. In contrast, Evora’s favorite movie is Lilo and Stitch. Ladwig also likes to go out walking with his girlfriend and their pet beagle. Evora has cats herself, two of them named Sam and Theodore.