Figure skating family heading to nationals

Sasha Lunin

It’s hard enough for teenagers and their parents to co-exist, but imagine a parent who is also coach of the child. No, not on a team, but in an individual sport. Oh, and it’s both parents and their 17-year-old son.

At least with a team, there might be a chance for both parents/coaches and athlete/child to mix in a little bit have a little bit of separation and not be the total focus, but Fort Wayne Ice Skating Club coaches Alena and Alexander Lunin are constantly working on the best way to direct their son Sasha on and off the ice. They are pretty good at it, and Sasha is a dynamic athlete, as they all leave this week so he can compete in United States Figure Skating National Championships in San Jose, Cal.

Fellow club members Andy Deng and Hailey Sundstom will skate in juvenile pairs, and Deng also competes in the juvenile boys division. This will be the third time for Lunin to compete at nationals.

“Basically, if your parents are coaches, it’s much harder,” Sasha said. “They make you do more, and you have to cooperate more with them. It’s difficult, it’s hard, but the thing is, they care.”

Parents can’t be faked out if you’re having a bad day on the ice, and it doesn’t end once you both leave the rink. However, the successes feel even greater and the joy lasts longer because everyone feels pride and accomplishment. Mom and dad know what buttons to push and they are used to the teenager always pushing the boundaries.

Andy Deng

“I really enjoy him as a son, but I don’t always enjoy teaching him as much because it is difficult,” Alena said with a grin. “You have to be able to switch it off when you go home. You have to find a balance to be able to survive.”

Alena grew up in Belarus as a skater in the Soviet National Team Program and competed in the Junior World Championships at age 13. She and fellow skater Alexander married and moved to Redwood City, Cal., where Sasha was born in 1999. He was drafted into the family business at an early age, and they moved to Fort Wayne in 2010 to work at the Parkview IceHouse where Alena is the skating director.

As the teenager grows, so does the coaching relationship.

“When I am coaching on the ice, I forget that I am his mom, but he has a hard time forgetting about it,” Alena said. “He doesn’t take me on the ice as a coach because he is still very young. When he is 25, his vision will be completely different, strictly business. Now he still skates out there thinking I am his mom. It comes with maturity, and hopefully, I will still be alive when he gets there.”

And then she laughed.

Hailey Sndstom

As hard as the partnership can be, it works. Sasha is already part of the United States Junior National Team, but he has to qualify each year by hitting a minimum score. If he can’t achieve the score, he’ll have to wait at least six months until the next season of competition begins. If he hits the mark, he’ll be able to compete internationally this year. He wants to do well, his parents want him to do well, and then there’s the actual competition.

“I am excited, but also kind of nervous,” he said. “I am under a lot of pressure to do well. It’s going to be a fun competition, but also a tough one. What I do is you have to stay dedicated. You can’t back up. You have to stay dedicated to everything.”

As his mother said, “The pressure comes from how well he prepared for the competition. If you prepared well, you have less pressure and you are confident.

That’s what he needs to really work on and he doesn’t have a lot of days to do it. The clock is already ticking. You have to train less but with better quality. That’s what we are working on and hopefully, he will be able to get there.”

But the great thing is that no matter what happens, mom and dad will completely understand. They’ll also know how to fix any problems or build for the next level.

This family is all in this together.