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by LOIS ELFMAN Dianne de Leeuw has lived most of her life


in Southern California. She appreciates the year- round warm weather and proximity to the beach, but her busy coaching schedule generally keeps her looking at the view instead of lying on the sand.


Te 1975 World champion, 1976 Olympic


silver medalist and six-time Dutch champion has been teaching skaters of all ages and abilities since the mid-1980s, which gives her a tremendous sense of satisfaction. “I’ve had a great career from skating,” de


Leeuw, 58, said. “I like to inspire the kids, to instill a love of skating. Obviously, the talented ones and sometimes the moderately talented hard workers can find a lot of personal success in it. “Tere have been so many amazing people in my coaching career that I’ve enjoyed teaching,” she added. “Tere are several children that I start- ed in tot class and have seen through senior lev- el. I used to teach a 74-year-old lady that started skating when she was 65 and learned up through loop jump and flip jump and she wanted to try an Axel.” She coaches at Te Rinks Westminster Ice


and Anaheim Ice, which are owned and operated by the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL. She appre- ciates the organization’s desire to promote figure skating among its fan base and be actively en- gaged in the community. Depending on the time of year, de Leeuw


has between 30 and 40 students, ranging from learn-to-skate to elite competitors, as well as adult skaters. For many years she coached Vanessa Lam, who competed on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and finished seventh at the U.S. Championships in 2011. One competition was held in Innsbruck, Austria, site of the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, where de Leeuw waged a fierce battle with Doro- thy Hamill for the gold medal. “It was really, really interesting to go back


to the same arena and see things I had not seen during the Olympics,” said de Leeuw, whose hus- band Doug Chapman — who coached de Leeuw in her competitive days — was also Lam’s coach. When de Leeuw thinks of Olympic mem- ories that extend beyond the skating arena, she thinks of Sapporo, Japan, where she finished 16th at the 1972 Olympic Winter Games. Accompa- nied by her father, she had a blast — going to various events and soaking up the atmosphere. “I was the wide-eyed kid,” she said. “Te


Dutch Olympic Team consisted of speed skaters. I was the lone figure skater. My father and I went to everything: skiing events, ski jumping and hockey games. It was wonderful. In Innsbruck, I was one of the favorites. Tere was nothing else, just blinders on me toward the competition.” In 1976, other than serving as flag bearer for


the Netherlands in the Opening Ceremony, de Leeuw focused solely on the competition. “We spent the rest of the time scrambling


to find ice time,” she recalled. “We were traveling back and forth to Germany every day to get ice time. Tat was back in the day of school figures


and you needed a lot of ice time.” When she returned to Innsbruck in 2011,


she was taken by how beautiful it was. “It seemed strange. How did I miss all this


stuff?” she said. De Leeuw got into skating because her


mother, who was from the Netherlands, skated. Her mother belonged to a coffee club (adult skat- ing group).


“Tey put all the little kids that were there


behind the cones. Tat’s where it started for me,” she said. “I can’t even remember when I did not skate.”


As time went on, she worked harder and


harder. When her grandfather visited from Hol- land, he’d push de Leeuw to be a better skater. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the op- portunities for U.S. skaters to compete interna- tionally were quite limited. “Once I had my gold tests out of the way, which was when I was about 12, my mom de- cided she’d let me try representing Holland,” de Leeuw said. “I went to Holland and became national champion in 1971 and that was pretty much it.” She repeated as Dutch champion in 1972, but was told she wouldn’t be able to go to the Olympics unless she finished in the top 10 at the European Championships. A ninth-place finish got her a surprise Olympic berth. After her sil- ver at the 1976 Olympics and her second bronze medal at the World Championships (the first was in 1974), de Leeuw turned professional and toured with Holiday on Ice and Ice Follies. Te traveling was exciting and there were


unique opportunities, such as performing in Washington, D.C., as part of President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural festivities, which she described as thrilling.


After she decided to forgo life on the road, de Leeuw continued to perform, skating for sev- eral summers in the show at Knott’s Berry Farm. “Tat show was more intimate with the au-


dience and I really learned a lot about perform- ing,” she said. She got to compete at some of the early


World Professional Championships in Landover, Md., and also took part in “Superstars,” a made- for-TV competition created by Dick Button, where athletes competed in a variety of sports other than the ones for which they were known. “I realized that a figure skater is not real-


ly competitive in anything that was timed,” de Leeuw said. “Having to go at the gun was a big obstacle to overcome. I didn’t do that great in any of those sports. I did end up winning golf and I got third place in bowling. “It was very interesting to meet and talk


with elite athletes in other sports,” she added. “No matter what sport you did, you still had kind of the same common philosophy and common ground.”


When de Leeuw began coaching, compul-


sory figures were still part of competition, and she said the demands of compulsories made the


De Leeuw takes a break with students after a test session. “As a skater when I was competing, I would


try to figure out how I could do better,” she said. “Back in the day, it was obviously working harder on your figures, score higher in figures and try to be consistent on what you did in your free skat- ing.


“I’m a very methodical, detail-oriented per-


son,” she continued. “With IJS, I probably would have enjoyed the challenge of looking at the point system and seeing where I could maximize the points and figuring out where I could gain points. “I’ve had several students be successful in IJS


that maybe weren’t the best skaters, but I figured out a way to maximize their points.”


SKATING 9


distinction between recreational skaters and com- petitors distinct. As competitions segued into free skating only, the line became more blurred — with many skaters training and competing for the love of it, but not necessarily at the elite level. She teaches weekly power skating classes, so de Leeuw gets her blood pumping on the ice, and she also keeps herself in good shape by working out at the gym and doing yoga. Beyond her own on-ice memories, she trea-


sured being a medal presenter at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles. De Leeuw is a technical specialist with U.S.


appointments for technical specialist, data and video. She said it’s helped her understand the judg- ing much better and has also made her a better coach. She thinks she’d have done pretty well com- peting under the international judging system.


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