Going for the Gold: Ice dancers dream of the biggest stage

Some people crave the bright lights and the big stage, and few stages are brighter than the Olympic Games.

Ice dancers Alex Benoit and Elliana Pogrebinsky fit that mold, which is why they are attempting to skate their way to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.

Pogrebinksy, a California native, started preparing for her journey at the age of three, whether she knew it or not after her mom put her in dancing classes.

“My mom put me in skating, gymnastics, ballet, ballroom dancing when I was little just to get me out of the house and tire me out,” she said.

Benoit has been on skates for most of his life, as his mother was also a serious ice dancer. Before pairing up with Pogrebinsky, Benoit performed as a solo figure skater before knee issues forced him to shift to partner skating.

The pair was brought together by their coach, Igor Shpilband, and have been skating together since 2014.

The Olympics aren’t the only thing happening in Benoit’s life right now, as he is currently playing the male lead in Oakland University’s rendition of “Bullets over Broadway.”

While that may seem like an odd thing for an Olympic hopeful to be doing an Olympic year, Benoit says it’s what allows him to give maximum effort during his time on the ice.

“I personally find that by having a balance in my life, it allows me to give 150 percent,” Benoit said.

While he is on the ice, his attention is focused solely on perfecting his routine with Pogrebinsky.

“It’s hours and hours and days and weeks of doing five second pieces, that same five seconds over and over,” he said. “Then, let’s make this change.”

The goal is to make the performance look effortless, but it is anything but.

“Every time down the ice we might be smiling and opening our eyes, but we’re feeling pain,” Benoit said. “We’ve worked so we can act through it and make sure we maintain that effortless quality because that’s what this sport is.”

The pair will continue to grind to be graceful as they skate on to the biggest challenge yet, a national competition in December, where they will have a chance to make their first Olympic team.

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