14LPIDC-IntPDRF-7465-PP-KW 595Our seventh edition of the Siblings in Skating series focuses on two brother-sister teams that share the same training base and coaches.  Both Sophia Elder & Christopher Elder and Claire Purnell & Lucas Purnell have been training at the Louisville Skating Academy (LSA) in Louisville, Kentucky, with the husband and wife coaching team of Kelley Morris-Adair and Donny Adair for the past five years. 

Claire Purnell & Lucas Purnell

The Purnells finished 23rd in their first trip to the U.S. Junior Championships in 2012.  The junior and senior U.S. Championships were combined in 2013, and the team just missed qualifying.  They were eighth in 2014 at the juvenile level and finished ninth at the intermediate level at the most recent U.S. Championships in January in Greensboro, NC. 

How were you each introduced to skating and, particularly, ice dance?

Claire:  We were introduced to skating by our mom [Rebecca Hatch-Purnell] who is a coach and director of LSA. 

Lucas:  Around age 7, I started skating with my friend, Ana, because we liked to hang out together on the ice.  We did one dance competition together, and then she moved, so Claire stepped in.

What has been your favorite skating memory in your career so far?

Claire:  My favorite memory was making Donny cry during our winning juvenile free dance in Lake Placid in 2013.

Lucas:  For me, it was placing 2nd at Sectionals last year.

What do you like most about ice dancing? 

Claire:  Everything!  I especially like having Luke by my side and the different places we get to go and the amazing people we get to meet and become friends with. 

Lucas:  I like that I don’t fall down as much as when I competed singles.  I like having my sister with me when I practice and compete.  I love that we travel farther away for dance competitions. 

15USNats-IntFD-7624-PP-DB 595Which program has been your favorite?

Claire:  My favorite program is the one we are working on now.

What is the best thing about having a sibling who is a skater?

Claire:  The best thing is that I have one of the most important people in my life share all the amazing moments with me.   He makes me laugh and have fun.

Lucas:  The best thing is being able to talk to her about everything.

Tell us about a typical training day. 

Claire:  We go to skating, then school, then skating and conditioning or ballet, then we do homework and go to sleep.

Lucas:  We go to a full day of regular high school which is really challenging, especially when we miss for competitions.  We skate 6 days a week and do off ice classes also.

Tell us what you like most about training at LSA and working with your coaches?

Claire:  I have been at LSA my whole life and the skaters and coaches are like family to me.  I like being so close to everyone.  And our dance program is getting stronger and it is cool to be part of the growth since the beginning.

Lucas:  At LSA there are a lot of teams and other skaters that I am really close to.  We have been together for a long time.  Mr. Donny is funny and outgoing and is able to communicate in a way that makes me improve all the time and Miss Kelley knows everything and is so knowledgeable about skating and works on our free dance.

It has been said that sibling teams have less options for music choices/program themes.  How do you come up with your programs each season?   

Claire:  As a sibling team, we are limited to certain themes, but Kelley is very creative and can use a piece of music to work best for us.   She comes up with our programs.

Lucas:  We may have a disadvantage about themes, but we have a big advantage that we have been together for so long and we know each other better than anyone.

Tell us what it is like training with Sophia and Christopher.

Claire:   It is amazing to train with other siblings.  We have known each other since we were very young (5 and 6 years old) and have been best friends for years.  We have had many sleepovers, share many inside jokes, and have been together on the ice and off the ice for most of our lives.  It is very special to share our skating career with them.

Lucas:  It is fun to be friends with them.  They make us better because they are so good.

EldersSophia Elder & Christopher Elder

The Elders are the 2015 U.S. intermediate champions.  Prior to 2015, they finished fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships (intermediate) and fifth at the 2013 U.S. Championships (juvenile).  Sophia and Christopher are ages 12 and 14, respectively.

How were you each introduced to skating and, particularly, ice dance?  

Sophia:  My mom used to be a speed skater so she started me off skating when i was three.

Christopher:  My mother, former Russian speed skater, introduced me to figure skating with alacrity. Though at first hesitant and unwilling, I soon fell in love with the sport. As Sophia and I grew up, we decided to pursue ice dance.

What has been your favorite skating memory in your career so far?  

Sophia:  My favorite skating memory was right after I finished my free dance last year at nationals. All of my hard work payed off and I knew that I had just done my best performance I have ever done.

Christopher:  My most memorable experience in regards to ice dance was earning the gold medal at last year’s national championships. This showed me that all of our assiduous efforts paid off.

What do you like most about ice dancing? 

Sophia:  The thing I like most about ice dancing is competing. I love the feeling right after I compete and everyone is clapping. I also love traveling and hanging out with my friends at a competition. Its also fun at competition to get ready to compete with my friends. My favorite program was our malaguena free dance. I loved the character and the choreography.
Christopher:  The reason I enjoy ice dance is simple; I am able to utilize the connection between my sister and achieve anything.

Which program has been your favorite?

Christopher:  My favorite program was our Russian medley piece which we dedicated to our mother.

Tell us about a typical training day. 

Sophia:  Some days I skate in the morning and some days I don’t, but, when I do skate in the morning I skate for an hour from 6:20-7:20. Then I go straight to school. After school I come to the rink and skate another 50 minute session. Sometimes I also have off-ice classes like Pilates, conditioning, and ballet. Also, Christopher and I go to ballroom for an hour on our break days. If we don’t skate in the morning we skate two 50 minute sessions and a power or edge class.

Christopher:  A typical training day would entail usually two hours of on ice work and one hour of off ice work. We avidly practice each day because we know that we must ameliorate our abilities every time we step on to the ice.
What is the best thing about having a sibling who is a skater?

Sophia:  The best thing about having a sibling as a skater is that you are very close with them. You have spent your whole life with them so you understand them better.  

Christopher:  The advantage of skating with is my sister is that we always can count upon the other. Our teamwork, which may not seem usually evident, is what keeps us together.  

14LPIDC-IntFD-0100-EE-KW 595Tell us what you like most about training at LSA and working with your coaches?

Sophia:  I love working at LSA and working with my coaches Donny and Kelley. LSA has a very successful program. They have ballet, Pilates, and off-ice conditioning with helps us a lot. They also give us a lot of ice time. They are even giving the teams their own ice in the summer. All the kids are also really friendly and nice at LSA. Donny and Kelley are great coaches to work with. They care a lot for all of their students and always want the best for us.

Christopher: Training at LSA is such a privilege because there so many other hard working skaters that inspire us to become the best versions of ourselves. Our coaches do not work everyday because they enjoy waking up at unreasonable times, but they truly care and want what is best for us.

It has been said that sibling teams have less options for music choices/program themes.  How do you come up with your programs each season?   

Sophia:   We used to just do what Donny and Kelley thought would be a good choice, but this year they thought we were old enough to have some input. So this year, we helped pick out our music. I think the challenge sibling teams face with are that they are always together, so they get sick of each other faster.

Christopher:  Our inspiration towards our programs stem from our coaches painstakingly research appropriate pieces that complement our personalties.

Tell us what it is like training with Claire and Lucas.

Sophia:  It is really fun because we are all best friends. Even out of skating we hang out with all of the dancers and pairs teams. We are like one big family.

The Elders and Purnells share the ice and coaches with three other teams including Isabel Blahunka & William Shawver who finished sixth at the U.S. Nationals in the juvenile division.  Prior to last season, Shawver skated with his sister, Sarah Rose, who left ice dancing to pursue other interests.  Blahunka and Shawver are moving up to intermediate this season.  Several new teams round out the group including the juvenile team of Sarah Dutton & Emmet King and Gianna Buckley & J.T. Michel who will skate at the novice level.  Michel, who won the 2014 U.S. juvenile ice dance title during his three-year partnership with Josephine Hagan, has joined forces with Buckley, a national juvenile and intermediate competitor, who is relocating from Seattle to Louisville.