Figure skating on a roll at Pan Am Games

Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:45pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - When Courtney Donovan arrived for her Pan American Games roller

figure skating short program and saw people in the stands an hour before the competition she was sure they were lost.

It was an understandable reaction for an athlete who has spent her entire competitive career in virtual obscurity, performing in dark suburban roller arenas in front of a few dozen spectators rather than the standing room only crowd that filled the venue on Sunday to a cheer her sixth place finish.

"When I saw people sitting down an hour before we started skating I knew it was going to be something big," the American said. "I was shocked people were sitting down before I skated, people are sitting down to watch us...oh my gosh.

"That was probably the biggest crowd I have ever skated in front of before in my life.

"A regular competition for me would basically be in a regular roller rink and the crowd might be maybe 20-25 at most.

"We never skate in a big venue like this. The Pan American Games, this is like our Olympics."

The Pan Am Games is as big as it gets for the roller figure skaters, who get to march in opening and closing ceremonies alongside 7,000 other athletes, live in the village and soak up a facsimile of the Olympic experience that for the moment remains a distant dream.   Continued...

Workmen add the finishing touches to an illuminated sign ahead of the 2015 Pan American Games, in front of city hall in Toronto, Canada, July 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Chris Helgren