For siblings Stephen and Elicia Reynolds, competing at last month’s United States Ice Dancing National Championships in Boston, Massachusetts was a dream come true.
The Aston residents, who train at IceWorks Skating Club, were one of 18 teams across the U.S. to be chosen to compete for the coveted three berths in the winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.
The duo finished in 14th place overall with a combined score of 101.
Even though they did not make it to the Olympics, the experience was well worth all of the hours of hard work and dedication.
“We are very pleased with our performance,” Elicia said. “It was a wonderful, magical experience.”
The duo, who reside in Aston with their parents Stephen and Jeannie, moved from Florida in 2011 to train at IceWorks, which has become synonymous with producing champions, including 2006 Olympic Silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
For Elicia, 23, and Stephen, 20, the road to the National Championships was not an easy one.
Born and raised in Florida, Elicia began skating when she was six and Stephen was four. The duo’s talent was soon evident, so the family moved from the east coast of Florida to the west coast of the state to pursue a higher level of coaching. In 2000, Stephen was invited to portray a young Scott Hamilton at the Olympic champion’s farewell performance at Stars on Ice in front of an audience of 7,000 people.
“I got to speak with Scott (Hamilton) at nationals and he remembered me,” Stephen said. “The entire experience at nationals was amazing. People were asking for our autographs and seemed to be moved by our story.”
It wasn’t until1992 when the siblings met Olympic Ice Dance silver medalists, Paul and Isabelle Duschesnay that their focus would change to ice dancing.
“Isabelle told the children they had all the right ingredients for a successful ice dance team,” Jeannie said. “But, they were not convinced until their first competition when they captured the gold medal at the 2003 South Atlantic Regional Championships in York, Pennsylvania.”
Stephen and Elicia also won gold medal at the 2007 South Atlantic Regional Championships and the silver medal at the 2007 Junior National Championships.
The young team was headed in the right direction until financial disaster struck the family in 2008. Their father, a successful real estate developer, was hit hard by the recession. The family ended up losing their home and were forced to sell some of their belongings to make ends meet.
The expense of coaching and ice time was no longer feasible, and the siblings’ dreams and ice dancing career were put on hold indefinitely.
“We watched as our friends competed and we wished them well,” Elicia said. “What happened was nobody’s fault; it was just our reality.”
The duo wanted to compete in the Junior Nationals, but that was not meant to be. So, for the next three years, they focused on finishing high school and searching for sources of income which would allow them to return to the ice.
“The kids were determined,” Jeannie said. “They are not spoiled and we never heard anything like, ‘why did this happen to us’.”
“My children kept the faith,” said their father. “They never once gave up.”
In addition to being champion ice dancers, Stephen and Elicia are also expert violinists. Elicia began lessons when she was five and within a year was asked by the youth conductor to join the Palm Beach Youth Symphony. She also played in the Florida West Coast Symphony for six years and at age 13 auditioned for, and was selected to perform with the Venice Symphony.
Locally, Elicia has performed with the Delaware County Symphony and Rose Tree Pops.
Stephen began playing when he was three. He, too, played with the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony at age six and performed with them for six years, serving as concert master and assistant concert master. He then auditioned for The Venice Symphony and was accepted at age 13. He has also performed with the Sarasota Pops, the South Shore Symphony Orchestra, Anna Marina Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, and like Elicia, locally with the Delaware County Symphony and Rose Tree Pops.
Known professionally as The Reynolds Duo, the siblings have utilized their incredible musical talent to help return to the ice. Stephen and Elicia offer lessons and play for weddings, parties, business gatherings and other occasions. They also teach ice skating.
The move to Aston was a good one for the Reynolds family. Stephen and Elicia began taking lessons from 1980 Olympic Ice Dancing Champions Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov. But, due to the expense of lessons and ice time, their savings were quickly depleted. So, they made the decision to continue skating — minus a professional coach.
Stephen and Elicia were determined to compete at the senior level, so they watched videos, did their own choreography and took the necessary testing. Within six months, the pair had reached senior level status.
“We watched YouTube and taped other skaters to see what we were doing wrong,” Stephen said. “It paid off and we moved to the senior level.”
The two are quick to compliment their parents, who have stood by them every step of the way.
“It was not easy on them,” Elicia said of their parents. “Stephen and I are so grateful to have such wonderful, supportive parents.”
The pair is also thankful for the professional assistance offered them by internationally recognized coach and choreographer Uschi Keszler, one of several owners of IceWorks.
“Uschi has been wonderful to us,” said Elicia. “She has so much passion and energy and is great at explaining the physics of the moves.”
Elicia and Stephen finished fourth at the Eastern Sectional Championships in Ashburn, Va. In November which qualified them for the National Championships.
Upon their return from the Nationals, the siblings took one day off and returned to the ice for training. On any given day, visitors to Ice Works can watch the world class skaters.