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Wyandanch opens its seasonal ice rink with Olympic skater

French figure skater Surya Bonaly said she hopes to encourage children in Wyandanch to enjoy the exercise and discipline of skating.

Surya Bonaly of France competes in the 1992

Surya Bonaly of France competes in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Wyandanch’s ice skating rink is launching its new season Saturday with help from an Olympic figure skater.

French skater Surya Bonaly, who competed in three winter Olympic Games, will be there to offer pointers to children at Rinx, the skating rink that opened last year adjacent to the Wyandanch Village apartment buildings. The buildings are a focal point of the Wyandanch Rising revitalization effort for the hamlet, which has been called one of the most economically distressed on Long Island.

Bonaly, a nine-time French national champion, five-time European champion and three-time World silver medalist, will meet with people attending the rink’s opening and offer lessons on basic skills, she said.

Bonaly said she is looking forward to working with children in the largely African-American community.

“Because I’m an athlete of color, maybe all those kids will feel more comfortable knowing I look like them,” she said. “Seeing me face to face may help them figure out what they want to do in life and show them that there’s always a bright light somewhere.”

Bonaly, 43, is a coach in Minneapolis and splits time between there and her home in Las Vegas. She remains the only Olympic figure skater to land a back flip on one skate blade, which she did at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Asked if back flips will be part of the skills taught Saturday, Bonaly laughed and said no.

Skating doesn’t have to be a career, Bonaly said. It can be undertaken as a hobby or just a way to keep in shape. Skating can also help young people with commitment, discipline and focus.

“Skating is a good way to help you become a better person in life,” she said.

Wyandanch resident Tanya Crawford-Bryant, 49, said she’s excited to see Bonaly up close, remembering her Olympic performances as “awesome to see.”

“It was empowering, even to myself,” Crawford-Bryant said of Bonaly’s skating. “There aren’t many women of color on the ice, but especially to make it at the Olympic level.”

Crawford-Bryant said she is taking her two grandchildren, Milani Clark, 14, and Milijah Clark, 10, to meet the figure skating star on Saturday. Both children are already involved in dance with the Wyandanch troupe Venettes Cultural Workshop.

“She is someone I can direct them to say look, there are no limits as to what you can do regardless of where you’re from or the color of your skin, you can reach any level,” Crawford-Bryant said of Bonaly.

Figure Skating in Harlem also will be performing at the event. The nonprofit aims to empower girls of color through academic support, leadership development and the discipline of figure skating.

Saturday’s “Holiday Family Fun Day” includes one skating session per family member as space permits. All skate sessions and skate rentals will be free. There will also be a bounce house and a DJ playing.

The event runs from noon to 3:30 p.m. at Station Plaza, near 10 Station Dr. For more information call 631-253-1663.

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