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JENNIFER H EURLIN-BRENNE “Not everyone is going to be the best jump-

er,” she added. “Freestyle is great for some people, but for others it’s not where their true passion is. Te solo dance has given opportunities to so many kids to continue on with skating.” A Chicago native who left home while her

age was still in single digits, she’s happily living in the Midwest in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and coaching at the Greater Kalamazoo Skating As- sociation (GKSA). Heurlin and Frederiksen began skating to- gether when they were 6 and 9. She was 8 when they moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tey finished their partnership training at the Univer- sity of Delaware. During those years away from home, she lived either with a coach or with a host family. In addition to four trips to the World Junior Championships, they also competed at St. Ger- vais, Oberstdorf, and Skate America after moving into the senior ranks. “Our parents paired us up,” she said. “Teir

philosophy was, ‘You will stay together.’” “We got to experience a lot of great, won-

derful things,” she added. “We traveled all over the world.” After retiring from competition in 1993,

Heurlin-Brenne moved to Kalamazoo to live with her mother, a decidedly different take on life than most young people have.

“I say I lived my life backward; I left home at 8 and then I moved home at 18,” she said. “My mom knew I was very independent. She told me it was time to grow up. I had to get a job. She was teaching me lessons. It worked out really well.” She started teaching at the Kalamazoo Fig-

ure Skating Club (now GKSA after merging with another club). “It was quite an adjustment period when

skating was over, thinking, ‘Now what do I do with myself?’” Heurlin-Brenne, 39, said. “I start- ed teaching and really dove into that full time. I got a job at the rink. Tey hired me as an assistant skating director. I had several years of experience doing that. Learning the ropes of running a learn- to-skate program. Creating other programs. All of the logistics of running a skating program.” Eventually, she started college, calling her- self a nontraditional student. She attended West- ern Michigan University, earning an associate degree in business and then a degree in merchan- dising, textiles and apparel. “After I finished school, my intention was that I wanted to be a buyer for a department store,” Heurlin-Brenne said. “After I started do- ing it, [I realized] walking into the office every day, the same cubicle space, was not for me. I was teaching at the same time. I thought I was going to move into a new direction, but I realized I really love the kids. I love making a difference. I

love when they discover a new skill. Te look on their faces is just priceless. “I enjoy the community at the rink,” she love being around people and

continued. “I

working with all different kinds of people from all different backgrounds. I decided that’s where I wanted to stay.”

Although she didn’t anticipate being in Ka-

lamazoo long-term, things just worked out that way. She met husband Richard, a high school science teacher: biology, physics and anatomy. Tey’ve been married for 15 years and are parents to Natalie, 9, and Jordan, 7. Te girls skate, but not on a serious track. “Tey skate on synchro teams at our club,”

Heurlin-Brenne said. “Tey enjoy that, but I don’t think they have a passion for it as I did, which is fine. Tey like to do it. It keeps them active. Both of them are learning to be musicians. My oldest plays drums and piano and my young- est plays piano. Tey also do ballet.” A decade-long partnership with Frederiksen taught her some things valuable in marriage. “You learn there are ups and downs and good times and bad times,” she said. “Tat defi- nitely teaches you that life is not perfect.” She has coached some pairs teams over the

years, but in her area there aren’t a lot of boys in figure skating. It’s a huge hockey town, and most of the boys in learn-to-skate classes want to go into hockey. Of course, she also coaches singles. Te rink is a hub for solo dance, which she really likes.

“I don’t know how my parents did it for 10

years with me being flung over somebody’s head,” Heurlin-Brenne said. “I do enjoy coaching pairs, but I much prefer when the skaters are on the ice on their own two feet.” Some of Heurlin-Brenne’s former training

The pairs team of Jen- nifer Heurlin and John Frederiksen enjoyed a decade-long partnership.

mates are amused to see a pairs skater so excited about dance, but she actually has a long-standing love of dance. In fact, she and Frederiksen trained in ice dance early in their partnership, winning intermediate dance at Midwesterns in the 1980s. She had tested through silver dance as a kid. An- other coach at the rink, Jennifer Miller, encour- aged her to finish her gold dances, which she did. “She says to me, ‘I created a monster,’

because then I was obsessed with it,” Heu- rlin-Brenne said. “I love coaching dance. I love the technical portion of it and working with kids, getting them to understand edges and lobes.” She’s still in touch with friends from the skating world, and thanks to Facebook, some she hadn’t seen in years have reentered her life. Oth- ers she sees at competitions. Tinking back on her skating days, she’s amazed she was so fearless. “I cannot believe I did that for so many

years,” she said. “It was the way of life. I did that every day with no doubt. John and I skated to- gether for 10 years. Tere was a trust he was go- ing to keep me safe. I never had any doubts. “I love that I had that opportunity in skat-

ing,” she added. “I’m so thankful to my parents. I got to meet so many wonderful people.” She thinks about competing in adult dance,

but recently she’s filled her competitive desire by skating on an adult synchronized skating team through Western Michigan University. “It is so much fun,” Heurlin-Brenne said. “I

enjoy having teammates.” SKATING 45

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