Lydia Manon looked like a favorite to represent the United States in ice dancing for the 2006 Olympic Games when she and Ryan O’Meara finished third at the 2005 U. S. Nationals. But the couple split soon after. Now she has another chance and so does her partner, Brandon Forsyth. He narrowly missed a chance in 2002, when he finished third with Jessica Joseph, one spot to low to go to the Olympics in Salt Lake City. But the couple are skating for their personal enjoyment as well as a chance to go to Torino. “Our partnership is for completely different reasons than just results,” Forsyth said. “We’re skating because we love doing it.”
The couple began skating together in March 2005. “We had been dating for two years as well as coaching together,” Forsyth said, “so we knew each other well. I missed competing and decided to give it one more shot. We’re not skating together for just one season so this year won’t make or break us. “This is just the beginning,” Manon added. “We want to make it work out for several years.”
Manon began skating when she was eight. “My Dad worked at the University of Delaware and saw a flyer for group lessons so he took me to skate,” she recalled. She competed in freestyle for several years, beginning dance lessons when she was about 13 or 14. “My coach had a boy who was looking for a partner, so I gave it a try,” she said. “I didn’t like falling and I really enjoyed everything in between the jumps more than the jumps in singles. And I liked skating with somebody else as well.” She competed with Chris Obzansky, then with O’Meara.
Forsyth’s grandfather, a recreational skater, was the cause of his entry into the sport. He took the youngster to group skating lessons when Forsyth was four. “I was very upset the first day every time I fell, but my grandfather told me I could do it,” Forsyth said. “The next day I made it all the way across the ice without falling and have been skating ever since.”
Forsyth competed in almost every discipline, including figures. He made it to Junior Nationals twice in both Intermediate Men and Intermediate Pairs before concentrating on dance. In 1992 and 1993, he partnered Karen Ferrara in both disciplines finishing fourth in pairs and winning the gold in intermediate dance in 1993. Later he finished second in senior dance twice with Emilie Nussear in 199 and 2000 and third and fifth with Jessica Joseph in 2001 and 2002. He also took the silver at Junior Worlds in 2000 with Nussear.
The dancers train with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in Canton, Michigan. “We skate in the morning for about four hours, then do an hour of off ice work,” Manon said. “Most of the rest of the day, we’re coaching,” Forsyth added. “We have a novice dance team and several solo skaters. I spend 10-13 hours a day with my skates on.” Forsyth has been seriously coaching for about seven years and also works with Team Elan and the Michigan State University synchro teams, mostly doing choreography. Manon also does a lot of choreography and works with young figure skaters, helping teach Moves in the Field and aiding them in their expression.
Shpilband and Zoueva choreograph the couple’s dances, although they did a show number themselves using “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” from “Closer”. “We wanted to get the Latin feel,” Manon said. “It’s a slow romantic number.” “We picked Vanessa Mae’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for our free dance,” Forsyth noted. “It’s a piece of the love story that tells our story. I love performing it.” For their original dance, the couple are doing a cha cha, rhumba, and cha cha using “Oye Como Va” and “You’re My Everything”. “I enjoy the two different styles,” Manon said. “The Latin rhythm’s more fun and fast.”
“Igor brought in two ballroom dance instructors to help all the teams with the Latin dance,” Forsyth said. “We’ve watched a couple of ballroom dance competitions and shows already. The Latin ballroom dance champions of the United States are in Michigan so we got a lot of ideas from them.” “I love salsa dancing,” Manon added. “There’s a lot more footwork. The cha cha is spicy and fun.”
Manon has an extensive musical background. She first took piano lessons, and then learned to play the oboe. She played the oboe in her school’s band until high school when band practice and skating practice conflicted, but continued private lessons afterwards. Off ice, she listens to “everything from country to alternative to hip hop to Latin, but not heavy metal.” Forsyth enjoys more alternative music as well as classic rock oldies.
Off ice, both skaters enjoy visiting friends, mountain biking, water sports and going to Detroit Tigers games. Manon said, “I just started painting, flowers and landscapes and things. I’m still experimenting.” She also likes to read different kinds of books that “catch you off guard.” Forsyth is into woodworking, building furniture in a workshop in his garage. “I just built a huge seven-foot cat condo for our Siamese kitten,” he said. “We wanted one for a long time and Mary Parr brought us one. We named her Kiska which is Kitty in Russian.”
Both skaters have attended Oakland University, where they are about to start their sophomore years. “I want to pick up some more classes when things settle down,” Forsyth noted. “I’d love to finish college.” “You can only skate for so long, but you can go to school your whole life,” Manon explained. Both dancers plan to continue working as skating coaches.