by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman
Imagine a peaceful picturesque valley surrounded by majestic mountains. Add an outdoor skating rink with two youngsters separately practicing dance elements and an Olympian watching their movements.
That was the scene five years ago in Sun Valley, Idaho when Judy Blumberg suggested to Chloe Rose Lewis (10) that she try a skating exercise with Logan Bye (12). Lewis was on a family vacation, and Bye had traveled there for a tryout with another girl.
“Apparently it looked very good as she (Blumberg) was tearing up when we came back,” Lewis noted.
“It was amazing at how we clicked when we skated together on the ice for the first time,” Bye added.
“Neither of us lived there, (Lewis in Portland, Oregon and Bye in Colorado Springs), but we ended up in the right place at the right time,” Lewis recently reflected.
A few months later, the youngsters had a formal tryout at Bye’s Colorado training site. Since neither skater wanted to relocate, a long distance partnership was agreed upon.
The next two years the duo flew back and forth between Portland, Oregon and Colorado Springs, training two weeks together per month and two weeks solo.
In 2012, Bye (14) moved to Oregon. The team trained eighteen hours a week with former US ice dancer, Ikaika Young, and spent summers in Novi, Michigan with Igor Shpilband’s group.
The twosome won the US Novice National Championships in January 2013. Bye recently recalled that ‘Kiss & Cry’ moment in Omaha, Nebraska.
“We were second going into the Free Dance, and we knew what we had to do to win,” Bye said. “After the program, listening to the scores and hearing our names followed by ‘they are currently in first place’ was definitely one of my favorite times in skating.”
In the spring, Lewis & Bye moved up to the junior division and were named to Team USA, which gave them the opportunity to compete at ISU International events.
The team was given two assignments for the 2013 ISU Junior Grand Prix (JGP) – Mexico Cup and Czech Skate.
“We were so excited skating at our first international event In Mexico City,” Lewis remembered. “It was different than we expected, but it was very comfortable and inspiring to have Kaitlin (Hawayak) and Jean-Luc (Baker) as our leaders. The experience was amazing, and we became really close friends with Polina Edmunds and Nathan Chen.”
After placing sixth at the 2014 US Nationals in Boston, Lewis began a campaign to persuade her parents to allow her to train full-time with Igor Sphilband’s team in Novi, Michigan. It was a tough sell – she was only thirteen. They didn’t want her to grow up without her parents.
“I even forced my dad to watch inspirational videos about athletes who moved away from home to pursue their dreams,” Lewis confessed.
Finally, after countless hours of mother-daughter talks about how it could work, the parents relented.
“The day after my fourteenth birthday, June 19, 2014, we made the move,” Lewis revealed. “Although 100 percent worth it, it has been hard to adjust to online school and life without all of my family and friends in Portland.”
The positive atmosphere at Novi eased some of those difficult separation moments. They felt welcome from day one, which helped them to cope with their new training routine.
“We’re like a huge family with a thousand different home countries,” Bye explained. “We’re just always together.”
That includes not only training with other junior teams, but also observing some of the highest-level seniors.
“Their hard work ethic and positive energy truly pushes us and inspires us every day,” Bye said.
When it comes to their personal training, they have a battery of coaches led by Igor Shpilband, who works on every aspect of their skating. That includes body movement, stroking and skating skills – and every single step of each program.
“Watching Igor choreograph and coach in general is literally like watching a mad genius do some massive science experiment flawlessly because that is what he is – a skating genius,” Bye marveled.
Sphilband choreographed both their 2015-2016 season programs. Lewis described them.
“Our short dance, Valse Triste (Sad Waltz) is very intense, but not in a loud way,” Lewis said. “The music is so beautiful it touches your soul. Living up to the elegance and mature, intimate mood of the music has been a very important focus for us.”
“The free dance is a mature mix of selections from Astor Piazzolla,” Lewis explained. “Learning to move to a tango is so much fun. The music has such passion, intensity and range of emotions.”
“I think I speak for both of us when I say it (the tango) has been a challenge,” Bye added. “We train with our coaches to get the right mood, intensity, moves, etc. Definitely an exciting journey.”
The team performed the short and free dances at their 2015 JGP assignments – Colorado Springs and Logroño, Spain and earned fifth place at both events.
Lewis recalled skating the Tango at the Logroño JGP as one of her most awesome moments in her short career.
“The whole dance was so much fun to do; it felt so technically strong and passionate. I felt so excited during the entire program.”
The team has not competed since the Pacific Coast Sectionals in November, so they will have had two months to prepare for the US Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota. During the downtime they made a few minor program changes on the element exits to increase the GOE and the choreography to enhance the speed and comfort ability.
“At the moment we are also doing lots of interval training for stamina and strength,” Lewis explained. “We work with parachutes occasionally, and also do power skating.”
In a few weeks they will begin doing double run-throughs and then taper off right before Nationals in mid-January.
All this rigorous training is done with short-term and long-term goals.
‘”This season we want to skate two strong programs at Nationals and show everyone what we know we can do,” Bye noted.
“Our long-term goal – a dream we’ve both had since before we even met – is to compete in the Olympics and bring home the gold,” Lewis added. “We keep this in the back of our minds as we try to focus daily on the smaller goals.”
The partners know all the hours they spend training their sport means sacrificing fun activities most teenagers experience, but both agree it’s been worth every minute.
“When I visit home, I love to have those few little days of being with my friends and being a normal teenager,” Lewis voiced. “Overall though, there’s nothing like the feeling I get from skating – the intense work ethic – the way it feels when all of your work begins to pay off for even the slightest bit. It’s a feeling I can’t find in other places.”
“I miss my friends back in Portland so much, but never is there a time when I would give up what I am doing just to be a normal teenager and hang out,” Bye added. “I do what I do because I love it.”
Lewis & Bye recently learned they would represent the USA at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway in February 2016. The team qualified in July at Lake Placid, NY.
“We are so excited and want to put everything we’ve got out there and go for gold,” said Lewis.
Chloe and Logan know that to achiever their ultimate goal, they must remain focused on each intervening opportunity. In 2016, that begins with US Nationals followed by the Youth Olympic Games. The Novi coaches will give them the tools; they must accept the challenge.