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Young Arkansas Skater Has Big Olympic Dreams

Go inside one of the few figure skating clubs in Arkansas to see what has propelled Alex Han halfway to his Olympic dreams.
LITTLE ROCK -- It's a sport known for it's beauty. "When you skate, it's like this feeling when you get up in the air," Alex Han said. In this sport, technicality is everything. "Sometimes the position of your arms and even your fingers may make a difference," Han said. However, athletic ability alone won't carry you to the top. "It's not really the most athletic kids that succeed. It's those that are determined," says Arkansas Skatium Skating Director Amanda Griffin. "It's addictive."

Han caught the figure skating bug in kindergarten. "I skated practically every day because it was so fun," he said. "It starts out with loving skating and grows into having a dream," Griffin said. Seven years later, Han is still lacing up. "Usually I skate about one to two hours every day," he said.

Inside Little Rock's Arkansas Skatium, bundled up beyond the glass you'll find a devoted skating parent. "It's like a second home," Han's mother Hong Wu said. "I talk to him and be like you can do it. You can do it." Learning to jump, spin, and spread eagle on ice comes with practice. "No matter what level you are, you have to be willing to fall thousands of times," Griffin said.

Alex competes at The U.S. Figure Skating juvenile level four. With four more to go, Han is halfway to his goal. "My dream is to be able to go to the Olympics and also be to represent Arkansas at the nationals," he said.

The ice may be smooth, but it's not on the budget. Unlimited ice time at the Skatium is $200 a month. That doesn't include lessons which run around $200 a week. Then add on $1,000 for skates and blades. "Financially it's very expensive," Griffin said. "You hear about the high level international skaters where their parents have taken out a second mortgage on their house." Sponsorships through the USFS aren't available until the senior level when the annual investment can reach up to $60,000. Right now, Wu estimates their is around $15,000 a year. But it's a sacrifice worth making for her future Olympic hopeful, who has goals beyond the rink. "I hope I can be a doctor or an engineer," he says.
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