TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Climbing onto the stand to receive Sunshine State Games Figure Skating medals is becoming a habit for a pair of Wesley Chapel sisters following their performances on the ice for the last five years.
Fourteen-year-old Haley Scott won Short Program gold medals from 2015-19 while advancing through the Juvenile and Intermediate Girls divisions and Novice Ladies division. In 2015, she earned the silver medal in the Juvenile Girls Free Skate, but won gold free skate medals from 2016-19.
Soon to be 12-year-old Jordan won a silver medal at the 2015 Sunshine State Games as a six-year old in the Juvenile Girls Free Skate. Since that time, she has won three gold, a silver and two bronze medals in free skate and short programs.
That’s a combined total of 12 gold, two silver and two bronze medals over the last five years. Also throw in that the sisters won the most prestigious awards of the annual Sunshine State Games Figure Skating event for three consecutive years.
Haley was the 2016 Betty Stark Award winner, awarded to the skater with the highest combined score in the Juvenile Girls Free Skate and Short Program. She followed up as the 2017 Dorothy Dodson Award winner, for the top skater in the two programs in the Intermediate Ladies division. Jordan was the 2018 and 2019 Betty Stark Award Winner.
This success should be no surprise to friends and family of the Scotts as mother Julie Scott was an All-American and SEC title-winning gymnast at the University of Georgia. In 1987, then Julie Klick closed out her senior year and collegiate career as a member of the first gymnastics National Championship winning team at Georgia.
With such accomplishments on the state level and travels to national competitions, what are two of Florida’s finest young skaters to do next?
While advancing into the Junior Ladies Division, Haley has been working on pairs skating for the last year. She has yet to skate in a pairs competition and is searching for a full-time partner.
The venture into pairs skating has led to learning some new skills to apply to her ever increasing repertoire. Over the past three years, her singles scores in free skating programs have increased from the 70s into the 80s and in 2019, into the 90s. The scores increase when more moves and maneuvers are added to the routines.
“I have to work twice as hard,” Haley said of the pairs skating skills needed. “Instead of working on two programs, I work on four. Besides the jumps and spins I do in a singles program, there’s also a lot of lifts, twists and throws in pairs.”
Haley’s small stature is also working in her pairs skating favor, making her a very sought-after partner, as well as a fearless demeanor, according to her mother.
“She has no problem keeping up with her partner, but her size makes it easier for her to be picked up and be in the air,” said Julie. “Being fearless is a big plus. Most girls don’t like to be picked up and thrown around.”
One of the benefits of training at the AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel is the wealth of national and international talent the facility has attracted. Haley and Jordan are trained by the husband and wife coaching couple, Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman. Both have a wealth of international experience in pairs skating. Zimmerman skated in the 2002 Olympic Games and Fontana represented Italy in the 2002 and 2006 Games.
The AdventHealth Center Ice facility, with four sheets of ice, is also the reason the Scott family relocated from Palm Coast, on Florida’s east coast, to Wesley Chapel, on the west coast.
“The facility management is very supportive of all of the skaters,” Julie says. “The energy from the international skaters and coaches leads to good development for the skaters.”
Before a back injury sidelined Jordan earlier this year, she earned the highest Juvenile Girls Free Skate score in the country. She fractured the L5 disc of her back and was in a brace for over a month.
The injury was not the result of a skating accident but a growth spurt, according to Julie. “Jordan grew six inches in four months,” she said.
Jordan’s time off due to injury and the time away from their currently closed skating facility has not hindered the progress of the Skating Scott Sisters. They’re making the best of it conducting morning off-ice workouts in an office building parking lot and strength and cardio training in the evenings.
“It has been an eye opener for sure,” said John Zimmerman, Haley and Jordan’s coach, about the practice situation. “Silvia (Fontana) and I have both been trained by Russian coaches along the way and they always talked about in the 60s, 70s and 80s, when skaters didn’t have ice, you find other ways. They got very creative. It’s something we’ve always had in the back of our minds, but we’ve never used methods like this; until now.”
The parking lot workouts, which were cleared with the owner of the building and limited to a crowd of under 10 have been cleared with local authorities, Julie confirmed. Haley and Jordan, along with three other skaters, work with a spinning machine, where skaters stand on a platform with a coach controlling the speed of the spin.
“The exercise helps with the skater’s equilibrium and rotation during their spins,” Julie said.
The off-ice training and weight training also helps to strengthen parts of the body significant in the agility and artistry of the skaters.
“Time spent in ice skating boots can weaken the ankles,” Julie said. “This is a time to work on ankle strength. It will give them the ability to come back stronger.
The amount of skills and training Haley and Jordan undertake to complete their three-to-four-minute Free Skate and Short Program routines is mind boggling.
Over the last five years, they have learned figure skating techniques, leading to back-to-back triple jumps and spins that result in high scores. To add more artistic flair to their performances they have learned gymnastics and ballet skills.
This all started when both were under the age of 10. Jordan’s first Sunshine State Games gold medal came when she was six years old.
“I was nervous, but I was having fun,” she said. “I was doing what I love to do.”
The success of the Scott sisters is no surprise to their coaches, who quickly point to their hard work and dedication to the sport. Something that may have been passed along in the DNA from their All-American gymnast mother.
“They have a drive that’s pretty unreal,” Zimmerman said of Haley and Jordan. “They come early to practice and stay late. They’re dedicated to their schooling and have well-rounded attitudes and personalities.”
With the successes of Haley and Jordan over the last five years at the Coral Springs IcePlex and AdventHeath Center Ice, skaters and spectators alike take notice of their Free Skate and Short Program performances.
“Everyone stops what they’re doing to watch Haley and Jordan’s routines,” said OJ Hill, the Sunshine State Games Figure Skating Event Manager. “There are only a few skaters people pay attention to like that, but they are definitely two of them.”
Haley and Jordan Scott are on the early side of their teenage years and their coach, John Zimmerman, is eager to tap into their potential for the next two years.
The Sunshine State Games and the Florida figure skating community have supported Haley and Jordan Scott since they started lacing up their skating boots. Those providing support along the way eagerly await more performances and trips to the medal stand.