Pair of Pa. teen figure skaters dazzle on ice internationally

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Saturday, March 18, 2023
Pair of Pa. teen figure skaters dazzle on ice internationally
Blake Gilman and Julia Epps grew up together on the ice. Their skills have so far taken them to California and Germany, but the best is yet to come!

ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- 17-year-old Blake Gilman was born into a family who recreated on ice. He learned how to skate at an early age within the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society.

And based on his preference in figure skating style, he would not be skating alone.

"Ice dance is a boy and a girl skating together," he said. "And it's kind of hard when you don't have another partner."

Around the age of 9, Gilman met Julia Epps at IceWorks Skating Complex. After testing out their skills together, the pair formed an inseparable bond.

"It really helps, like, for connection... how hard we practice every day and how much time goes into it," said Epps, who is now 13 years old. "And sometimes, we don't even have to talk to, like, understand each other."

Gilman and Epps have skated together in both casual and competitive settings for the last eight years. The students are in 11th-grade and 7th-grade at Lower Merion High School and Friends' Central School respectively. And when they're not studying or doing homework, they are practicing routines and conditioning their bodies.

Earlier this year, their hard work paid off both nationally and internationally.

"It was our first junior year competing on this level and they made it to US Nationals, which is a big accomplishment," said their figure skating coach, Slava Uchitel. "Not everybody can achieve it."

The teens took a trip to San Jose, California, where they were among the youngest competitors and earned eighth place in Junior Ice Dance.

Then, just a few days later, they boarded another plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They competed in the Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany, where they took home the 2nd-place victory in Advanced Novice Ice Dance.

Both teens said the experience was welcoming and even calming despite the pressure of performing on an international stage.

"It was like a different experience but, like, in the best way possible," said Epps.

For now, both teens will continue working hard to excel in both school and skating. But the best is yet to come.

"We both want to compete more for Team USA," said Gilman. "And then, like, looking farther ahead, we want to make the Junior World Team at some point and eventually make it to the Olympics and hopefully get a medal there."

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