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Adult figure skating advocate, now skating into her 60s

By Sherisse Pham, CNN
updated 6:04 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A growing number of figure skaters compete well into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s
  • "I fell in love with it again," Beth Delano says of returning to skating after a decade-long break
  • 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S Adult Figure Skating Championships

Rockville, Maryland (CNN) -- If you've been glued to the Winter Olympics, you might be feeling inspired to get out there and move. Maybe take up curling? Or hit the slopes? Well how about stepping onto an ice rink?

Sure, teenagers dominated the figure skating podiums at the Sochi, Olympics, but here in the United States and around the world, a growing number of skaters lacing up to compete are well into their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.

At 63, Rhea Schwartz skates almost everyday.

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"Someone dared me to skate when I was 30," Schwartz said. "And I fell in love with it."

After that first group lesson, Schwartz signed up for more classes, and then for semi-private lessons, and then for private lessons. But as the years went by, she felt something was missing.

"I realized there was no program for adult skating," she said. "And there were more people who looked like me and not like kids."

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Schwartz started lobbying the U.S. Figure Skating Association to recognize adult figure skaters in 1990. It took five years to get the governing body to come around. Schwartz was named chair of the first U.S Adult Figure Skating committee in 1995.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S Adult Figure Skating Championships; 600 skaters are expected to compete, including 47-year-old Beth Delano.

"The plan is to qualify, compete, and hopefully win," said Delano, a three-time national champion.

Delano started skating when she was 7, but stopped when she was 17 to focus on college. She returned to the ice when she was 27.

"I fell in love with it again," said Delano. "Where else can I wear a pretty dress, skate to beautiful music, and be dripping in Swarovski crystals? This is what I want to do!"

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Gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, right, and silver medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea take part in the flower ceremony after the women's free skating program in Sochi, Russia, on Thursday, February 20. Some are questioning the scores given to the skaters since Kim seemingly had a better overall performance. Gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, right, and silver medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea take part in the flower ceremony after the women's free skating program in Sochi, Russia, on Thursday, February 20. Some are questioning the scores given to the skaters since Kim seemingly had a better overall performance.
Controversy on ice
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Photos: Controversy on ice Photos: Controversy on ice

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the International Adult Figure Skating Competition, held each year in Oberstdorf, Germany.

"They come from all over the world, every continent, it is just amazing," said Schwartz, who now chairs the international competition.

Schwartz expects that 500 skaters representing 35 countries will compete.

Delano was 38 when she stepped onto the ice and first heard the words: "Representing the United States of America."

"That was really a dream come true," said Delano, who earned silver at the inaugural competition.

"You are never too old to skate," says Schwartz.

Indeed, the oldest competitive adult skater at D.C.'s Washington Figure Skating Club is 75-year-old Barbara Murry. And Schwartz says one woman from Lake Placid, New York, is well loved by many adult skaters.

"(She's) well into her 80s now, who still skates at adult nationals, and is an inspiration," said Schwartz.

"You just keep doing it, because it's wonderful," said Schwartz. "Not only is adult skating wonderful exercise, but it creates a fabulous community of friends all over the country, and all over the world."

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