Many assume ice skating is solely dedicated for young individuals who possess ample strength, endurance, and agility necessary for such a graceful sport. The combination of a bone-chilling rink, slippery surface, and a natural fear of injury all make skating extremely daunting to any inexperienced onlooker, especially one of advanced age.
Meet Leslie & Charles…
an inspiring couple who defies the odds.
But Leslie Bryan, 65, and Charles Luce, 72, prove otherwise. The Weehawken residents are avid ice skaters at the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, New Jersey. This inspiring couple defies all stereotypes of age and ability, confident in their skills as they savor every exhilarating moment on the ice. While their love for skating has been fueled by different driving forces, there is no doubt that the sport has left a profound and positive impact on their lives.
For Luce, the “pleasure principle” is what draws him to the ice. Ever since his mother put him on skates as a young child, he fell in love with the “freedom of flying” that comes from skating, and the sport rapidly became one of his favorite wintertime activities.
On the other hand, Bryan possessed a deep hatred for skating after her first childhood experience, and instead devoted her life to a career in ballet. She did not return to the ice until her 50s after meeting Luce, but she refused to let her age or her late start thwart her progress in any way. She did struggle at first, but she soon strengthened her skills and grew quite fond of the sport. Pleasantly surprised by the positive results she received, Bryan now refers to skating as her “happy place” and shows up to the rink with Luce almost every day.
“Dance used to fill a certain place in my life,” she said. “Ice skating has fallen into that place.”
Bryan’s dance background continues to remain an integral aspect of her life. As she had always aspired to learn ballroom dance, she turned to ice dance after realizing the striking similarities between the two. She convinced Luce to give it a try and under the guidance of their Olympic ice dance coach, Kenneth Foster, they have developed a deep passion for this discipline of skating.
The pair have mastered the first four dances so far - the Dutch Waltz, the Rhythm Blues, the Canasta Tango, and the Cha Cha. While they have no desire to test or compete, they are eager to continue acquiring new skills with each new dance. They are currently focusing on mastering three-turns, a difficult skill that involves turning from forwards to backwards on one foot, as well as improving their unison as they dance together.
Not only do Bryan and Luce enjoy the unique artistry of skating, they also appreciate the myriad health benefits that occur as a result. Skating burns calories and increases one’s heart rate, in addition to improving balance, building muscle, and strengthening bones. Especially for older individuals, bone strength is vital to reducing osteoporosis. As skating is currently their primary form of exercise, the pair undoubtedly receive all the advantages the sport has to offer.
“[Skating] has really helped me focus on other things that I’ve never done in other forms of exercise such as agility, finesse, and grace,” Luce said. He also appreciates the “mental boost” he receives from skating as it allows his mind to be freed from all of life’s problems.
Bryan shared Luce’s positive sentiment and described skating as the “ultimate physical and mental puzzle.” She likes breaking down the mechanics of each skating movement.
Bryan and Luce have also been rewarded with long-lasting relationships with others in the skating community. Due to the amount of time they spend at the rink, they refer to themselves as “rink rats” and are constantly forging new friendships on the ice. They often travel to skate at Sun Valley, Idaho, where they have created a large circle of friends across the country who share the same interest and dedication to the sport.
Age is clearly not a determining factor when it comes to skating. If anything, people of older age actually benefit from skating. Bryan and Luce prove that this lifetime sport is open to all ages and skill sets, and they hope their positive skating stories will inspire others to join them on the ice.
US Figure Skating offers various programs such as Learn to Skate USA, Compete USA, and Adult Competition Series where older skaters have the opportunity to participate in the sport and discover their passion. Whether you possess a competitive drive or you simply desire fun and fitness, the world of figure skating has endless possibilities and will allow a simple pastime blossom into a greater sense of personal fulfillment.