South Dakota figure skaters pass gold medal tests

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Joelle Simpson and Hunter Widvey, two figure skaters that belong to the Black Hills Figure Skating Club, recently achieved gold medals after passing the most difficult level in their testing track. As skaters advance in training and performance, they can progress up in levels by passing tests in categories like moves in the field, free skating, pairs and ice dance.

Hunter Widvey, U.S. Figure Skating Gold Test Medalist, explains that “the gold medal test is the highest level test that you can do, and so there’s eight different levels. And many skaters work in this for many, many years, and it’s the highest form that you can do, and it’s a big honor and accomplishment to get to this point.”

Her coach, Debbie Minter, is a Professional Skaters Association master-rated figure skating coach.

She explained the tests consist of performing “patterns which consist of different skating skills, gliding moves, advanced turns and edges, and they have to be exactly as they’re written.”

The skaters are judged on every detail, and more than one major error means and automatic fail, so the test must be repeated.

Of all the skaters that start out on the testing journey, only less than 3% ever get to this level,” Minter adds. 

Joelle and Hunter travelled to Colorado for the test, since there are no skating judges in South Dakota. Although this added pressure to an already lengthy process, the girls were happy to be able to support each other.

“One of the things that was really cool about this journey was the fact that they train together and they were they were training mates,” Minter says. “They fed off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They watched each other. They learned from each other. They helped each other. They cheered each other on and I just think that is, in a sport that’s so individual, very rare and very, very cool.”

The girls agreed.

“It was cool, like seeing what Joel was doing. Like, ‘Oh, I better practice that too’…staying on track and also just pushing each other to be better. And, you know, when we were struggling with things we could kind of relate to each other,” Widvey says. 

“I was super happy to have Hunter test with me the same day. I think having somebody who is going through the same same exact test on similar nerves and just having another person that you know and have known for a long time be there, I think that really helped me to perform better,” Joelle Simpson, U.S. Figure Skating Gold Test Medalist agreed.

Despite these successes, their skating journey and days on the ice are far from over. Joelle hopes to continue on the testing track.

I am planning to get two more gold medals, hopefully to become a quadruple gold medalist. So I have six tests I believe left, so I have one more senior free skate left and then I have five more dance tests until I reach two more gold medals.”

Minter, Widvey, and Simpson all agree that it’s never too late to start skating, and Joelle even teaches beginner classes locally.

I’ve taught learn skate classes for about five years now, and it’s honestly one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done. I love teaching others and to help share that joy skating.”

For more information on Black Hills Figure Skating Club, click here.

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