OU Student Uses Physics & Math Knowledge to Pursue National-level Figure Skating

It turns out that the OU Men’s Golf team members aren’t the only athletes taking their sport to the national stage this year. In July 2011, Louisa Barama ’12 will skate in the U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, representing Oglethorpe.

Louisa does a layback spin during one of her performances.

A Physics major and a Math minor, Louisa knows that in skating it’s good to know a little something about energy and force—especially when you’re trying to land a double axel, lutz, a Salchow jump, or rotate in a proper camel or layback spin.

“My coaches talk a lot about maintaining angular (rotational) momentum and center of mass/gravity…to me, that’s good stuff!”

Not surprisingly, figure skating is a sport that demands an exorbitant amount of time and focus; and Louisa’s probably one of the best candidates for the job. Since taking to the ice skating rink 10 years ago, the aspiring atmosphere physicist has become adept at managing her time and resources throughout the year. When school is in, she spends several hours a week at the rink, juggling her studies while finishing up her season, which runs through the fall semester. During the summer, with no classes, she visits the rink twice a day and gets in at least one gym session during the day. She also works with a skating coach and a choreographer to help her perfect her routines. At most figure skating competitions, athletes perform both a short and long program, requiring Louisa to work on her endurance and master her moves with precision and with textbook form.

“Most of it is repetition and muscle memory,” adds Louisa. “Once you get [a move] down, you have to do it over and over again until it is second nature to your body….There’s a lot of falling down and getting up.”

Most skaters at Louisa’s age and skill level have forfeited school to excel in their sport, but Louisa has attended traditional school throughout her career. “For me, education has always come first,” stresses Louisa. “There have been times when I’ve had to call my coach and tell him that I won’t be coming to practice because I’m working on a project or taking a test. But for the most part, I’ve figured out what I need to do in order to get everything done.”

That dedication has landed Louisa a wall full of medals and a string of honors, including an impressive 12th place finish at this year’s U.S. South Atlantic Regional Championships.  Her performance ranked her the number one junior division skater from Georgia and the number two skater from Georgia overall.  Her score of 81.66 was her highest ever, and motivates her to improve the details of her performance, one that could take her around the world.  An internationally-qualifying athlete should have at least 90 points to compete at the international level.

“I’m certainly going to take my education further….so I am definitely going to graduate school.  But I also want to take [skating] as far as I can go with it.  Because I was born in Denmark, I have citizenship there.  I’ve always wanted to represent Denmark in national competition, and I’m not that far away.”

For now, though, Louisa looks forward to lacing up her skates and donning her Oglethorpe gear for the collegiate championship, which takes place July 21-24.

“I feel honored and excited to be representing Oglethorpe for the first time, doing something I love.  I hope to deliver two solid, clean programs and an overall good performance.”

Read about Louisa’s results!

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