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Where Olympic skaters train in SoCal




Skaters take to the ice at The Rinks in Lakewood.
Skaters take to the ice at The Rinks in Lakewood.
Leo Duran/KPCC

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To compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, some U.S. skaters went through one place in Southern California – The Rinks in Lakewood.

The facility is nestled in an industrial park near the Long Beach airport, and it hosts three rinks of ice for figure skaters and hockey players.

Olympians Adam Rippon and Nathan Chen both trained here, as well as alternates Ashley Wagner and Mariah Bell.

"We have people from all over the world who come and train here," says general manager Phil Zamora.

It first became an Olympic training ground two years ago when famed skating coach Rafael Arutunian migrated there.

"He's coached former Olympians Michelle Kwan, other national champions as well," says Zamora. "He was looking for a facility to train his athletes, and we were able to provide him with the amount of ice that he needed."

The Rinks in Lakewood provides a private, locked locker room for its figure skating athletes. These athletes might have skates that run around $3,000 per pair, and this space helps to keep them secure.
The Rinks in Lakewood provides a private, locked locker room for its figure skating athletes. These athletes might have skates that run around $3,000 per pair, and this space helps to keep them secure.
Leo Duran/KPCC

The Rinks has three separate sheets of ice, and that meant Arutunian was able to have enough room for his own training while the Rinks hosted other activities that generate more revenue, like hockey and open skating.

It also has details that make it more welcoming to athletes, like an off-ice training facility. It's a small, compact gym with free weights and several cardio machines, and it allows skaters to strength train close to the ice instead of driving elsewhere to work out.

Being in Southern California is another perk.

"Figure skating in Southern California you just don't think go hand in hand," says Zamora, "but for a lot of the athletes, when you spend the entire day in a cold building and you step outside in cold weather, it's not good for the body. So warm weather definitely plays a role in having athletes head down this way."



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