A 66-year-old southern Alberta university professor is competing in a figure skating competition this weekend, and he had his first lesson last year.

"It's fast and dangerous and challenging," Will Smith told CBC Calgary's The Homestretch on Thursday.

"I get to listen to music. Often when you are in an ice rink, you are around other people, so it is fun."

Smith says as a child, he skated in ditches and on ponds, but nothing serious. About nine years ago, he started skating, but he had his first formal figure skating lesson only last year.

"I skated with the club in the summer of 2008 with my two daughters. On the penultimate day of a five-week summer camp, I broke my right ankle because I got out of a turn too soon.

"That put a real damper on it. In 2010, I broke my left ankle trying to do a double turn. So I kind of laid off the jumping part because it was so painful," said Smith, who is a fine arts professor at the University of Lethbridge.

"I got involved with the figure skating club last year, skating on Thursday nights. On the very last night, my coach said, 'We have to try you in the harness,' and the harness didn't fit. It was made for small people.

"I had to create my own harness in order to start jumping this summer for the first time."

'The spinning part is glorious'

A harness is used to help skaters learn a move while reducing the risk of injury.

"Just in September, I started trying a double loop and then in November, I tried doing a double flip. It's fun," Smith said.

"The spinning part is glorious. I feel good after I spin. I turn both ways so that helps me not get dizzy."

Smith will be competing in the South Region Open competition this weekend in Calgary.

He says his program has a lot of elements.

"I have to do four jumps, a waltz jump, a flip, a loop one way, then a loop the other way, then a Lutz jump, then I have to do two spins."

He said he'll also do a back spin and a camel spin — the latter being a spin with the free leg extended backward with the knee higher than the hip.

Hopes for weekend tournie? No broken bones

As for what he hopes to skate away with this weekend?

"I hope that I don't fall down. My camel spin comes and goes. I get it maybe 80 per cent of time, so I would like to be able to do that. It's the last thing that I do."

And no broken bones, he adds with a laugh.


With files from The Homestretch