Julie and Richard Westerlund are competitive adult figure skaters. They have skated pairs together since 1995. In 2004, they won the United States National Adult Pair Skating title.
In this article, Rich Westerlund shares about their skating.
The Beginning - 1995
"We started figure skating in December 1995. We knew how to ice skate from our childhood growing up in Minnesota but figure skating was new for us. We had always wanted to try figure skating but never could find the time. An event in November of 1995 changed our lives forever. On November 21, 1995 Sergei Grinkov (World and Olympic Champion along with his wife Ekaterina Gordeeva) died of a heart attack while practicing on the ice for the upcoming Stars on Ice Tour. It was shortly after Sergei’s death that Julie and I took up the sport of pairs figure skating to honor and to always remember their skating. We never really dreamed that we would take skating as far as we have. We began by competing in small ISI competitions at our local rink in Austin, Texas. We received gold medals in our first competition in November of 1996. Between the years of 1996 to 1998 we only competed in ISI competitions, winning gold medals every time we competed."
Early Years of USFSA Competitions
"In 1998 we joined the Austin Figure Skating Club and began taking lessons from a real pairs coach Barry Kamber. In June of 1999 we competed in our first USFSA competition, the 1999 Skate Austin Bluebonnet Open. We were very nervous, as this was our first real competition. There was one other couple, Suzanne and Heath Rogers, in the competition and we thought we would take second to them. We knew Suzanne and Heath since they were from San Antonio and had come to Austin to work with different coaches in the Austin area. They could do more advanced elements and had more experience. We skated very well and much to our surprise, we won in our first USFSA competition. We then set a goal to skate in U.S. Adult Nationals the next year in Lake Placid, New York. To do this we needed to pass three singles tests; our pre-bronze free style, bronze free style, a silver free style. We easily passed both our pre-bronze and bronze free style tests. But much to our disappointment, we failed our silver free style test in January 2000 and could not compete in Adult Nationals in Lake Placid. We decided to work on some moves tests and take our silver free style test again. We both passed our silver free style tests in May of 2000. In June of 2000 we competed in our second Skate Austin Bluebonnet Open and placed second behind Suzanne and Heath. We were still quite happy with our silver medals that year because we also competed against the 2000 U.S. Adult National Bronze Medalists, Kristy and Glenn Norman from Houston, TX. The best thing about adult skating is the friendships that develop between competitors. We feel close to our adult pair competitors because we share similar physical and time challenges. We stay in touch with Kristy, Glen, Suzanne and Heath through the exchange of Christmas cards and letters every year. We also always get a chance to visit at Adult Pair dinners during Adult Nationals."
Competitive Year 2001
"We were now set for the 2001 season and we put together our first Vocalise by Rachmaninoff program. In the spring of 2001, we skated at Midwesterns in Detroit, Michigan and our first 2001 Adult Nationals in Marlborough, Massachusetts. We took Silver Medals at Midwesterns and we were even announced as Silver Medalists on our plane trip back home to Texas! It was so nice that everybody on the plane applauded and wished us luck at Nationals. We went to Adult Nationals that year with high hopes of doing well and ended up coming in 7th place out of 15 pairs. We were disappointed but we did finish in the top half. However, we were very pleased to meet a lot of new friends while skating at Adult Nationals. The best things about competing in adult figure skating are the new people you meet and the friends you make along the way. In the summer of 2001, we attended the Adult Pair Clinic in Chicago hosted by Ellen Zurfluh and Les Ascher. While at the clinic, we worked with Oleg Vasiliev and Elena Valova who are the 1984 Olympic Gold Medalists. At Adult Nationals in Marlborough, we also met a pair team from Wisconsin Laurie Johnson-Krueger and Trevor Laak who were the 2001 Adult National Master Pair champions. In that same summer, we traveled to Wisconsin to work with Laurie Johnson-Krueger."