BOWLING GREEN - Ten-year-old figure skater Marissa Avery has her sights set on the Olympics, but she's already making history.
The Crim Elementary School fifth-grader recently became the first African-American skater in Bowling Green to pass the U.S. Figure Skating Association Prepreliminary Moves in the Field level, her coach Shelly Bressler said.
It's quite an achievement but merely a small stepping-stone on the long, hard path to Marissa's dream.
"I hope to get to the Olympics. I think I'm a good skater, and I just need a little bit more practice to get to the Olympics," the young skater said.
After just two years of lessons, Marissa has been in numerous competitions and is doing well, her coach said. On Saturday, Marissa and eight teammates will showcase their skills competing in the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] Classic Youth Figure Skating Competition in Columbus.
Passing the USFSA prepreliminary test is the first of many prejuvenile and juvenile figure skating and freestyle levels Marissa will have to complete before considering regional, national, and world competitions or becoming Olympic-bound.
"For about a good, solid year, she's been working on that test," Coach Bressler said. It means "she's a beginner skater [who] has completed all her full jumps."
The 30-plus-year veteran coach has seen a lot of talent in her career and a lot of skaters with dreams just like Marissa's. "I've probably taught hundreds of kids who all say they want to go to the Olympics," Coach Bressler said.
Alissa Czisny, a former student of the coach and a Bowling Green native, might make that dream come true. She recently won the bronze medal at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships and hopes to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Coach Bressler said the first time she saw Marissa skate, she knew there was raw talent there.
"Marissa has natural ability. I see the athletic ability in her. She has the potential to take her far," the coach said.
To a coach, there's no better combination than someone who has natural ability, works hard, and translates instructions into actions.
"Marissa is in that mold. She's a very nice girl with a great personality. She's just very well-rounded. She listens to what you say and she takes it very seriously."
When Marissa, then 8, first laced up a pair of skates at open skate, her mother Kelly Avery was in shock.
"She skated around that rink like she's been on them for years," Mrs. Avery said.
Marissa's two sisters were still holding on to the wall, their mom remembered, while Marissa was skating backward and forward.
"I said, 'Where did you learn this because you've never been on skates?' And she said, 'It's easy Mom.'•"
Soon after that open skate, Mrs. Avery signed her daughter up with Coach Bressler. Marissa takes private lessons twice a week and group lessons on Saturdays at Bowling Green State University Ice Arena.
Skating comes naturally for her. "It just feels normal," Marissa said. "It's just fun it's my favorite sport."
Marissa says she likes to practice and she likes to compete.
"I take first, second. I get really nervous, but I get it over with and I'm really happy," she said.
The hardest part, she said, are jumps and spins in the air.
"I'm pretty good, but sometimes I fall on my axel."
Seeing Marissa's talent and determination on the ice, Mrs. Avery has no doubt her daughter will skate in the Olympics.
"I really believe she will make it," she said.
Contact Julie Njaim at: