Article by Karen Frank

kovaandross2“This is only the beginning!”

Kassy Kova and Justin Ross are an intermediate level team who train in the San Diego area under the coaching of Suzie Semanick-Schurman and Wendy Smith. Though they’ve been a team for a little less than two years, both are experienced skaters. In fact, Kassy began skating when she was only two and a half years old. Kassy remembers that as a toddler, she used to watch her older sister skate every day: “when I turned two, I got a chance to get started too. I quickly fell in love with skating.” Sixteen-year old Justin started skating nine years ago, taking up the sport partially because of geography. “We live a block away from the rink and my mother thought it would be a fun way to get exercise,” he said.

While it was Justin’s mother who got him involved in skating, it was Kassy’s mother who was instrumental in putting this team together. “My mother and I observed Justin skating when he first started coming to early morning freestyle sessions,” Kassy said. “We thought that he would make a great partner – which he did!” Prior to teaming up, Justin had little experience with ice dance. “I started ice dancing to increase my skills in skating,” said Justin. Meanwhile, Kassy was interested in taking up dance because she “liked how ice dancing portrayed the elegance in skating,” though she added that her body type also had an influence in the choice. “I was tall and therefore I wasn’t exactly a good jumper.”

Perhaps mother knows best, as both Kassy and Justin describe each other has having a sense of fun that helps their team stay motivated. “What I like most about skating with Justin is that we really get along well,” Kassy said. “We’re always laughing together, but we still work hard and keep a good attitude. Good times, good times!” Justin agrees. “I like skating with Kassy because she’s a goofball. There is no other way to put it. She’s goofy She makes me smile on the worst of days, and keeps me skating strong.” Even their coaches get into the fun. “Our coaches have fantastic personalities that we can really connect to. They make us work hard while still making us laugh.”

They may be laughing during practice, but for their third season together, the team has serious goals — “to place well in competition and to skate both a clean and energetic Freedance and strong and clean compulsory dances.” However, one thing that makes their task more difficult is that there are no other intermediate teams in their part of the country. “When we want to compete we have to travel each time to the East Coast.” While the competition is across the country, the motivation comes from a much closer source. “We have great coaches to push us, and we’re both really self-motivated and push ourselves to improve each day…. We have other, higher-level teams to look up to here in our area, even though they don’t skate at our local rink, we still go up to see them over the summer.”

Aside from the higher-level teams in their area, Justin and Kassy cite a couple of well-known Canadian natives as role models. “My favorite skater is Tanith Belbin,” Kassy said. “I know everyone says that, but she’s so graceful and energetic at the same time. She rocks!” Justin finds a lot to admire in Kurt Browning: “His footwork…Ah-mazing! His programs just inspire me.”

In their own skating, both skaters enjoy the creative stamp of the highlight elements in their programs. “Highlights!” said Justin. “I love the creative freedom that highlights bring to the program. It’s what separates all of the freedances.” Kassy has a similar point of view: “My favorite dance elements are the highlights in the circular footwork sequence. The highlights are really fun and creative, while the footwork is very edgy and has a lot of twizzles.”

Of course, even for competitive ice dancers, life can’t be all about skating, right? Or is it? “Off the ice…? What does that mean?” Justin asked. “When I’m not training, I’m either teaching people how to skate or relaxing at home. Sometimes Kassy and I go off for fun days. We’ve been skiing together in the local mountains and recently had a blast together at Disneyland. Sometimes we just hang out enjoying a movie and pizza night together. We also go to the opera together, which is way cool. We both really like ballroom dancing and love our weekly ballroom lessons and practice time. We really dig the jive!” Kassy spends the majority of her off-ice time in classes of some kind. “I’m usually either at school or doing homework. But last year I started going to modeling classes and am now I’m starting to do some modeling. It’s helping me in my skating too, with my poise and posture.” In terms of her favorite high school class, though, Kassy says it’s English. “My freshman seminar English teacher is awesome! He’s so funny.” Meanwhile Justin has always had an interest in music, and enjoys being a part of the school band. “I love getting lost in the music. It also helps me to keep time in dance.”

In the future, Kassy sees skating, her education, and her other interests continuing to be a part of her life. “Outside of skating, I want to succeed in my modeling career, while I am competing in ice dance and excelling in my high school studies. After I finish college and grad school, I hope to become a marine biologist. But I love to write too, so I also hope to write books someday describing my awesome adventures.” Justin’s goals are “to become a skating coach and an author.”

But that’s in the future. And, this…this is the beginning.