2024 Sunshine State Games Events

2024 Sunshine State Games Figure Skating Championships Welcomes Ambitious Athlete

As Sunshine State Games Figure Skaters enter and leave the ice at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, coaches await their skaters offering advice and encouragement.

That wasn’t the case for nine-year old Dasha Koval. She came to the Sunshine State Games without her primary coach Rafael Arutyunyan, who stayed behind in her current residence of Irvine, California. Dasha attended the 2024 Games with her father, Alex, offering the pre- and post-skate encouragement.

Their plan to build confidence at the Sunshine State Games, skating on her own, worked for Dasha, as she won the gold medal in the Juvenile Girls Free Skate Saturday morning.

“She’s been skating now for seven years,” Alex said. “She’s very familiar with many of the skaters here and is comfortable in this surrounding.”

While Alex made this comment Dasha was casually chatting with other skaters and posing for selfies. When it came time for the five-minute warmup prior to her group, she was poised on the edge of the ice, leaning out and ready to go when given the ok by the public address announcer.

As the third skater to take the ice in her group, she paced around the holding area, in her pink and purple sequined skirt and matching sequined gloves. Every couple of minutes she grabbed the handrail of the stairs leading up to the seating area and bounce up and down with the skateguards over her blades.

While the second skater of the group was on the ice, Alex approached. Dasha seemed to wave him away, but he continued in for a last word and hug before she burst onto the ice.

She completed her free skate routine that included a series of jumps, spins, ballet moves and poses across all parts of ice. Her gold medal winning score of 48.22 was nearly five points higher than the silver medalist, Katherine Frey, of the Tampa Bay Skating Club.

“I hit my triple sal so I’m pretty happy,” Dasha said with a smile. “I’ve been working on it since September to be able to do it today. It’s been hard.”

For Dasha to admit she struggled with the triple sal takes a lot. This young lady rattled off a strict six-day a week life stretching from 5AM to 7PM, that includes multiple on- and off-ice training sessions throughout the day and schoolwork.

Following her performance in Ellenton, she and Alex will drive to Fort Lauderdale to visit friends and leave on an early flight Sunday morning. Upon their return to California, Dasha will prepare for a piano recital in the evening, playing Mozart’s Sonata Facile.

Next weekend, she will be in a music studio recording three tracks including Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive,” and ABBA’s, “Chiquitita,”

Find it all hard to believe for an ambitious nine-year old?

It’s all to see on her YouTube channel.

“I was negatively surprised when my six-year old daughter came to me wanting a YouTube channel,” said Alex. “But I manage it to make sure everything is presented properly.”

Having now completed a triple sal, Dasha looks to Alexandra Trusova, a 2022 Olympic silver medalist known as the “Queen of Quads.” She looks to follow in her footsteps and complete a quad jump.

When the mention of the Olympics comes up, Dasha jumps to attention and smiles wide. This has been part of the plan all along as her training has gone from South Florida’s Pines Figure Skating Club and Panthers Skating Club to train with Rafael Arutyunyan. The California-based coach also trains Nathan Chen, a 2022 Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time World Champion.

Along the way, she has trained in Boston, Colorado Springs and spent a grueling two weeks of training in Russia training when she was six years old.

Dasha Koval wants to be “the Best Skater on the Planet.” The 2024 Sunshine State Games is one step along the way to accomplishing her goal.

The 45th Annual Sunshine State Games is a program of the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization of the State of Florida. Since 1980, the Games provide amateur sports opportunities for athletes of all ages in an Olympic-style Sports Festival. The Sunshine State Games are the longest continually-running State Games in the U.S.