Skating with the Stars Leads to Skating for Brazil

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Stephanie Gardner

Stephanie Gardner became the first figure skater to compete for Brazil in an ISU championship when she placed 26th at the Four Continents Championships in February 2007. Simone Pastusiak was Brazil’s first international competitor just a few weeks before that when she competed at the 2007 University Games in Torino, Italy in January. “My Mom was born in Brazil,” said Gardner, who was born in Newport Beach, CA after her parents immigrated to the United States in 1975. “Her whole family is there and we go to Brazil for two months every year. I love the culture and I want to live there in the future.”

“They mostly have tiny ice rinks in Brazil in malls,” she continued. “They’re about one eighth of a normal rink. People skate there for fun, but lots of people come to watch. But they have one full size rink and are building two more. In 2006, a Brazilian television station called me and asked me if I wanted to be in the second season of their edition of Skating with the Stars. I was paired with a novella soap star. We did pretty well and eventually won. The producers were so happy they asked me back for the 2007 season.”

“The leader of the Brazilian winter sports federation saw me on the show and called me to ask if I wanted to skate for Brazil,” Gardner went on. “At first, I was going to try ice dancing, but the guy couldn’t make practice. Then a few weeks before the Four Continents Championships, the federation called again and asked if I wanted to go. I had never skated a senior program and had never done a four-minute long, but I’m the type of person who can see opportunities in everything. So I learned a short and a long program in two weeks. It was very hard to do, especially having enough stamina.”

Gardner remembered being five or six when she first started skating. “I saw Tara Lipinski in the Olympics,” she recalled. “She went crazy with emotion. I loved it at the end of the program when the crowd went wild. When you perform and the crowd gets into it, that’s so cool. My Mom took me to the rink and I had one lesson. I was the best one in the class and the coaches wanted to move me up to a more advanced class, but I liked the class where I was so I started crying and quit. But then I started lessons again when I was nine.”

“I tried everything else,” she continued. “I did skiing, swimming, ballet, soccer, tennis and gymnastics. I was in gymnastics for three years. I liked the bars the best. It helped when I began skating again, especially with jumps and flexibility. I skated singles until I was 13 or 14, then I wanted to quit skating again, but my Mom wouldn’t let me. She said I’d worked too hard too quit.” She has learned up to a double lutz and expects to work on triples during the summer. “I used to do triples,” she said. “I plan on working on my double axel and triple salchow.” Gardner also skated synchro for three years with the Ice’kateers before she had to stop to do Skating with the Stars.

Sherri Terando and John Saitta coach Gardner, who trains in Anaheim, California most of the year. She usually practices for two hours before school and an hour afterwards three to four days a week but said, “I plan to work harder now and try to improve enough to go to Worlds next season. Brazil is planning to build an Olympic size ice rink in the next two years and we hope to have both single skaters and ice dance by the time of the 2010 Olympics.”

Lia Trovati choreographed Gardner’s 2006-07 programs. For the short, she skated to “The Girl from Ipanema” by Antonia Carlos Jobim. She used another piece of typical Brazilian music for the long, “Cariolca – Copacabana” by Erich Kunzel and his Orchestra. “I thought they would be appropriate,” Gardner said. Off ice, she likes all kinds of music, especially Brazilian pop music, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. She has played the piano for the past seven years.

Gardner is very artistic. She has been attending a charter high school specializing in the arts for the past two years. She was a junior at the school last season, specializing in studying acting and singing. “I plan to go to college and study art, theater or business,” Gardner said. “I’d love to be a Brazilian soap opera star. I do shows at school and sang in ‘Seussical the Musical.’ I was going to audition for American Idol before I got the job on Skating with The Stars.”

When she’s off ice, Gardner enjoys photography, ceramics, photography, and dancing. She likes visiting family and friends and going to the beach in Brazil in the summer. She also likes sewing and makes a lot of her own clothes.

For more information on the Brazilian Ice Sports Federation, see www.cbdg.org.br.

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