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Little boy with big dreams

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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SILT – When Melisa Bellio strapped skates on her 4-year-old son Alan and hit the rink with him for the first time, she had no idea it would later come to consume her life.She didn’t know taking laps around the ice would give birth to Alan’s dream of becoming a professional figure skater.But Alan knew all along.”I always knew I wanted to get to a really good level where you start to appear on TV,” Alan said. “Hey, it’s a goal.”Not needing the assistance of skating aides like walkers or cones most require when they start skating, Alan was a natural on the ice. “I hadn’t been on the ice in 20 years, and I was surprised at how well we both did,” Melisa said. “He kept his balance pretty good.” Alan’s character mimic’s that of any great figure skater: dynamic, outgoing, attention-seeking and performance-loving. “He’s good at this because part of it is putting on a show,” Melisa said. “He has that showman quality.” His attributes bounce off him as intensely as the smile that overtakes his face when he’s on the ice.”His strength is his personality,” said Teri Hooper, his skating coach. “I think that it enhances what he does skatingwise. It helps him be creative. It helps him be expressive.”

Alan is 9 years old now and after going from making ice angles on the ice and cruising through skating lessons, he is now skating for the Aspen Skating Club. And the Roy Moore third-grader’s passion for skating hasn’t dwindled one bit.He still loves being set loose on his icy, blue canvas. He spins round and round, hitting waltz jumps, perfecting his body positions and practicing routines for future competitions.”He loves to skate,” said Hooper, also the head coach of the ASC. “He loves to participate. He loves being out there.” A busy scheduleAlan’s practice schedule is a blur. From travel to weekly gymnastics practice to hours upon hours on the ice, a lot goes into Alan’s skating.Alan travels 110 miles round trip from his home in Silt to get to his lessons twice a week. Competitions are sprinkled throughout the state in places like Vail, Denver and Colorado Springs.”We make it to three to four competitions a year because of the distance mostly,” Melisa said.Even when Alan gets to a competition, there’s another problem – very few male competitors. Around 78 percent of all U.S. Figure Skating Association registered competitive skaters are female. Sometimes, Alan is forced to skate against girls – and sometimes he wins.Skating is a demanding sport and the learning curve is constantly changing. As Alan improves, the demanding nature of the skating moves also increases in difficulty. With every higher level Alan achieves, there’s a new, more difficult physical challenge waiting for him.One especially taxing task is the spin. Trying to flex his body to be in perfect position, getting high enough, landing smoothly – it all takes hours upon hours of practice. Then he must confront his troubles with dizziness.

No matter what move he is trying to master, he keeps a watchful eye on his mother’s video camera – always making sure someone is watching.At home, when he’s not helping feed ducks, goats and horses or cut and bail the 105 acres of alfalfa fields on the Bellio farm, he’s trying to study videos of Aspen skater Jeremy Abbott or learning from competitions broadcast on Web sites. Alan’s life is filled with chores, school work and being a 9-year-old, but ice skating is always near the surface of his thoughts.dreams: see page 6dreams: from page 1″We watch 12- and 13-year-old male figure skaters on icenetwork (www.icenetwork.com),” Melisa said. “We were watching them and I said, ‘You can do a camel spin, Alan. You may not do as many revolutions, but you’re starting to.’ It really helps him anytime he can see other boys skate.”Figure skating is all about clearing the physical hurdles, but success on the ice begins with balance. To improve his balance, grace and flexibility, Alan moves from the ice to the comfortable confines of a gymnasium where he takes gymnastics classes. Again, Alan is dominated by a lopsided girls-to-boys ratio. As the rest of the class jumps and completes 360s, Alan crosses his legs and arms like a professional figure skater does and spins two complete rotations – transforming the blue gymnastics mats into blue sheets of ice in his mind.He knows time on the mats will translate into improvement on the ice.



A family affairCompetitive figure skating takes a lot of support – mostly from Alan’s parents Melisa and John. Helping Alan realize his dream is their focus, and they’ve changed their life for it.Melisa used to chauffeur Alan around in a diesel truck, with gas bills increasing faster than the miles on her odometer, but the Bellios traded the truck for a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta in September 2005. “My husband pointed out recently when he took my Jetta in for an oil change, that the mechanics could not believe that it is a 2006 with over 33,000 miles,” Melisa said. “We bought it new and even though I used studded tires through the winter, my regular tires I used the rest of the year are as bald as bald can get.”Outside of owning the Chocolate Moose Ice Cream Parlor on Grand Avenue, running their farm and Melisa’s artistic career that includes photography and a children’s book she is currently writing and illustrating, the Bellios try to schedule their days around Alan’s hectic practice time. Skating in Aspen on Fridays and Sundays, gymnastics in Glenwood Springs on Thursdays, competitions or holiday shows on Saturdays, and occasionally pulling Alan out of school early to hit up a public skating session in Glenwood or Eagle.With Alan’s outgoing personality and knack for captivating audiences, the Bellios even supported their son’s desire to perform as a magician in a talent show at his previous elementary school in Golden. He’s also taken guitar and piano lessons to get a better feel for music when he is skating rhythmically to songs in his free skate programs.Costumes are a big part of the sport, and that’s another time-consuming aspect of Alan’s dream.Melisa spends a large chunk of time designing and sewing Alan’s costumes for competitions. It’s hard to find figure skating outfits for boys, or if she does, the cost is too much. Melisa has created a cowboy get-up, a Hawaiian outfit and other costumes for her son.This winter, his father purchased a ski pass to Sunlight Mountain Resort so Alan can learn how to ski and improve his balance, strength and gracefulness – things that John hopes will spill over into his skating.

To realize the dream, it’s obvious there’s more than just time on the ice.Reaching for a dreamAs Alan gets older, his competition on the ice will become increasingly difficult.”When he was younger, he got lots of firsts and seconds, and now he’s getting maybe a third and a fourth in there, and he’s not liking it,” Melisa said of her son, who owns 16 medals and one ribbon from previous competitions. Despite long distances, when he’s older, Alan’s time in the rink will need to increase. Besides his outgoing personality, his ability to learn quickly is his strength. As he moves up in levels, he rapidly builds on tricks he used to struggle with.”The stuff then compared to the stuff now is a piece of cake,” Alan said. “Now I am learning new jumps like Salchow and waltz jump.”In the meantime, Alan’s parents will continue to encourage him to follow his dream.”He is doing really well. I am excited about it,” said Alan’s father. “As long as he’s having a good time with it, then I think it is good for him.”For now it’s back to the ice and working on a spin, a jump or another battle. And mom will be there capturing every one on camera.


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