For Wendy Vuille, there’s no better way to live on the edge than skating on edges on the ice.
“For me, it’s all about the edges, I love the edges,” Vuille said. “When you figure out how to go forward on one edge, and then turn yourself backwards and only be on one foot, it just has such an adrenaline high to know that you did that.”
At the age of 62, Vuille just passed her Masters Gold Dance with the United States Figure Skating Association on Friday, Sept. 23 at the Arizona Adult Skating Camp. The honor means that she’s achieved one of the highest accomplishments in the masters test structure for dance, and has earned the title of U.S. Figure Skating adult gold medalist. It’s an accomplishment that on its own is impressive, but at her age, it’s even more of a feat, which is something Vuille said she doesn’t take for granted.
“I’ve had some bad falls from skating, sometimes I’m surprised I stick with it. I have a soft spinal cord from one bad fall in particular,” Vuille said. “My body certainly has its challenges with arthritis, so it’s hard, but when I’m on the ice I forget about everything and it’s just such a happy place.”
Vuille lives in Juneau with her husband and her children and grandchildren who all skate together at the Treadwell Arena in Douglas, where Vuille teaches an adult coffee club. Vuille said she’s been skating at the arena ever since it first opened in the early 2000s.
“I started skating when I was 45-years-old, when the rink first opened. Someone approached me because I was a roller skater and told me I should take a lesson, and I have not stopped since,” Vuille said. “I skated once in a blue moon on the lakes of Juneau, and I used to ski a lot, but then the rink opened and I never went back to the ski resort, I just kept going to Treadwell.”
Once the rink was officially opened, Vuille helped form the Juneau Skating Club along with friend Randy Rice, where she served as the registrar for the club. Vuille said that once the rink started offering classes, there were young girls taking figure skating lessons but Vuille had to go into the adult’s class.
“I went to the coach and said, ‘I really want to be over there with those girls.’ So, they asked if I could do crossovers and I could because of roller skating, so they put me over with the young girls,” Vuille said. “I have been one of the few adults that’s skated up through the ranks with young kids.I’m a very stubborn person, and I think that’s why I’ve gotten to where I am from being able to continue doing it. As a child, I grew up in a large family and they didn’t have money to let me do ballet or gymnastics. So, when the rink opened and the gentleman asked me to do lessons, I thought, ‘You know what? I can only blame myself if I don’t pursue doing something.”
The United States Figure Skating Association has what is called different venues and different levels within each venue. The categories break down as moves in the field, free skating, pairs, free dance, and dance. Moves in the field includes the categories of pre-preliminary, preliminary, pre-juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior and the dance category breaks down with preliminary, pre-bronze, bronze, pre-silver, silver, pre-gold, gold and international. Each category comes with a number of complicated moves that only get more difficult as the ranks advance and build upon each other as skaters advance. Vuille was not only able to complete the moves in field category but also managed to pass her final dance test within the dance category, earning her the title of gold medalist in ice dance.
“Once I started on the dance track, I’d say I’ve been working on it for 12 or 15 years, but the thing is the rink (in Juneau) is closed during the summer and the preparation consisted of me having to fly to Arizona to where there are men who ice dance because my coach Alex Sargent, she could get me through all of the dances but it’s different having a man who’s kind of bigger and most of the men I’ve partnered with have either been in the Olympics or been Olympic alternates,” Vuille said. “So, it was a lot of prep, I had to fly out of town a lot.”
With this accomplishment now behind Vuille, she’s far from planning to slow down. Vuille said she now has her sights set on returning to the moves in the field track, only this time she’ll go through the youth division.
“I want to go back to the moves in the field,” Vuille said. “I passed through the adult moves in the field and now I bounced over to the kid’s track, which is harder. I passed my intermediate moves and I’m working on my novice moves in the field. They’re very hard and I’ve been working on them for a bit, but I really have fun with them.”