Photo: David McGregor Isabella Keaton participates in the free skate portion of the Peach Open on Saturday morning at the Duluth Ice Forum.
DULUTH -- Nicole Miller, 19, of Lilburn has been a figure skater for the past 11 years. She finds time to practice seven to 10 hours weekly while balancing the rest of her life. Miller studies psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College and works at the Duluth Ice Forum, also where she practices.
She recalls the first time she was introduced to the sport more than a decade ago. Miller and her parents stumbled upon an ice rink that was opened at the Mall of Georgia for the holiday season.
"We would go almost every single day," Miller said. "When it got closed down, we found this place (Duluth Ice Forum) where I started taking group lessons and ended up in private lessons."
Now she participates in several athletic engagements throughout the year, including the 2011 Peach Open and Peach Classic Figure Skating Competition held this weekend at the Duluth Ice Forum. This is Miller's seventh year in the event. She trained for six months to skate in two categories: short program and free skate, both as a novice.
"I like this event because it's my home rink and is local," Miller said. "It's much more laid back (than other competitions) and if you're going to regionals, which is in October, it's a good prep competition."
Hosted by the Georgia Figure Skating Club, the Peach Open is held for pre-juvenile, juvenile, novice, junior and intermediate skaters while the Peach Classic is designed for adult competitors.
During Labor Day weekend, approximately 150 contestants from across the Unites States arrived in Duluth to showcase their skills on the ice. The highest numbers of participants came from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
The athlete who journeyed the farthest was Monica Brown who flew in from England to represent the Bracknell Ice Skating Club in the Adult Pairs Showcase.
The events continue today at 9 a.m. and ends at 2:40 p.m. Admission is free. The Duluth Ice Forum is located at 2300 Satellite Blvd., Duluth.