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10 Rising Hearts: Knoxville figure skaters shine at national showcase

Fifteen skaters from Knoxville competed at the U.S. Figure Skating National Showcase Championship in Florida. One of them won gold; two others won bronze.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Freshman Kate Johnson spent the weekend before school started in the national spotlight. She and 14 of her teammates from Knoxville's Cool Sports competed at the U.S. Figure Skating National Showcase Championship in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

"It was very fun. The spotlights are really bright," Johnson said. "I did a little pairs routine. We did Bonnie and Clyde."

Johnson and her pairs partner, Connor Allan, placed third in their event. Campbell Thornton won the gold medal for his solo spotlight.

"I did Greatest Showman," 11-year-old Thornton said. "It's cool."

Nicole Rohrig performed in two ensemble numbers. She said she loved her time competing in Florida.

"It was really fun just working together with people," she said. "I liked getting to see other groups and how everyone was just so supportive of each other."

Credit: Julya Johnson

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Eight-year-old Kinsley Robinson said she was nervous at first. Then, she realized her team had her back

"I had a lot of fun because I was with my whole team," she said. "It didn't feel that scary when I was with all my friends."

Coach Kathy Wolff-Baradakov said her students had a great time competing at nationals.

"It was fabulous," she said. "It was the best one of the best experiences that we've had our year."

Credit: Julya Johnson

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Her husband, coach Konstantin Baradakov, said it was a new learning experience for everyone. 

"Showcase nationals and just a regular competition are completely different," he said. "Kids come to have fun and play and perform [at showcase]. Competition is little bit more stress."

Coach Corrine Oliphant-Smith hopes this experience is one they'll treasure forever. 

"It was probably really special for all the kids just to get to see a bigger world than their home rink," she said. "I think it was eye-opening for some of them and just a really good growing experience."

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