Ilia and Katerina Kulik are living a dream in Orange County, California. Now they are looking for people to join them in living that dream.
Ilia Kulik, the former Olympic gold medalist, and his wife, Katerina (formerly Ekaterina Gordeeva, also an Olympic gold medal winner) are owners of Kulik’s Skating of Lake Forest, Calif., (www.kuliksskating.com), an ice rink solely dedicated to figure skating. They began operations in April, testing the ice temperature and other mechanical issues that crop up in the opening of a new facility, but have been fully operational for several months now.
“We are very excited about how things are going,’’ Ilia Kulik said. “I’m pretty much doing the rink operations myself, but I am very happy that we have made the facility successful.”
Kulik’s Skating is dedicated to figure skating at all levels. The word “dedicated’’ is very real in this instance, because the rink is not designed for nor will it be offered to open-skaters or hockey teams. As of Thanksgiving, Ilia reported that Kulik’s Skating is currently only operating at 30 percent capacity of ice usage, but he anticipates greater occupancy once the rink receives more attention, and he gets out the word that he welcomes all comers, skaters and coaches alike.
Because the rink is for figure skating use only, Ilia was very particular about the temperature he wanted the ice set at, and “played around with it a little,’’ as the facility was broken in.
The Kulik’s Skating facility also has a ballet studio, a gymnasium, dressing rooms and a large and comfortable reception/waiting area. Requirements for use by coaches are proof of active U.S. Figure Skating membership, proof of active PSA membership, and proof of liability insurance.
Kulik’s Skating offers coaching and lessons at all age groups, including the youngest possible skaters. Ilia and Katerina are doing most of the coaching now, but they welcome all coaches and skaters to use the facility.
It is also, in fact, Kulik’s goal to see Kulik’s Skating become a place that engenders the free exchange of skating information and coaching ideas. He and Katerina want to try to eliminate some of the secrecy factor that sometimes enters into coaching.
“We want to see the sport develop and grow, and the only way you can achieve that is by collaboration and exchange of information,’’ Kulik said. “The sport is difficult enough not to share information, to make sure people have all the available and best information to date. Going into the figure skating life and trying to reach to all levels, I understand how difficult and important cooperation is.
“You see people trying to figure out things on their own from the beginning, which is difficult and can be dangerous, too,’’ he said. “It feels good to keep open lines of communication so people can stop by and pick up information they need.”
Kulik admitted that competitive spirit can harbor a need for secrecy, but he said skating need not be that way.
“The element of competition brings out the best in everybody, but it should be reasonable, it should be respectful,’’ he said. “It is the nature of the sport, you need to learn how to compete properly and respectfully, and value what you are doing.”
Any facility that has the words “Skating’’ on the side of the building, as “Kulik’s Skating” does, is going to invite the casual skater looking for a place to stretch his or her skating legs. The Kuliks are polite, but set in the fact that their facility is for figure skating lessons and practice only.
“We get some calls like that, but we tell them we are not providing those kinds of services,’’ Ilia said. “We tell them there are plenty of rinks who are providing public types of activities. We are more oriented as the figure skating training school, but we are happy to work with all ages, from beginning competitors and skaters to adult skaters.”
Ilia said the occasional hockey calls are turned away or, occasionally, ignored.
“There were a couple of calls, but I wasn’t paying attention to them,’’ he said with a laugh. “We advertise on our website that this is for figure skating. Besides, our rink is a figure skating size rink, its two-thirds the size of an NHL rink.”
Even in cold weather cities, there are issues and difficulties in finding ice time. In Southern California, ice time is at a premium for serious skaters. Ilia and Katerina are confident word will get out that they have the facility and want to share it.
“Right now, we are very happy with how everything has turned out, but we are just trying to get the word out that there is a place in southern California with good coaches that are ready to get to know the skater and move them forward in this wonderful sport,’’ Kulik said.