Dancing desires: AHS senior Kowar puts aside college to chase skating dreams
When injuries got in the way of Klara Kowar’s acrobatics, local figure skating coach Teri Hooper suggested she take to ice dancing. One of the three Olympic disciplines in the sport, Kowar instantly latched on to its more artistic side.
“She has done a great job taking it a long way in a short time. Most of all, she’s just got beautiful lines on the ice,” said Hooper, who runs the Aspen Skating Club. “She is gorgeous on the ice. If she is out there skating in a session with other skaters, she is one who stands out and you notice her because of her beautiful extension and expression.”
Kowar, who often goes by her middle name, Belle, is a senior at Aspen High School and one of nearly 140 set to graduate Saturday at Buttermilk Ski Area. While many will jump right into higher education, Kowar is taking a different road.
A model student — she’s one of only a handful to graduate this year from the AHS International Baccalaureate program — and a devoted violinist, Kowar wants to see where figure skating can take her. She’s deferred her enrollment and scholarship at Syracuse University in New York and will train full time this next year to chase her on-ice dreams.
“I’ve always loved skating and like many sports it very much has a time limit on it, so it’s not something I can do after college,” Kowar said of her decision to take a gap year. “I just want to explore my options and give it a try and take a more competitive, serious route and know that I explored that option, even if it doesn’t go how I hoped.”
Kowar’s first step is to move to Denver — she already travels there for training multiple times a week — to maximize her ice time. Along with Hooper, Kowar has worked the past five years with 1984 Olympian Carol Fox, who is based out of Denver. With school not in the equation, Kowar will have the chance to make figure skating a full-time job over the coming months.
“She could go the distance in the sport, for sure,” Fox said. “She has a great track record. She’s a very positive girl and she sets goals and she works hard to achieve them. That certainly can be seen in her academics, as well. It’s always been a pleasure to work with her.”
Unlike pair skating, ice dancing doesn’t include many of the physically demanding jumps and tosses, which Kowar has difficulty with because of the knee injuries she sustained in middle school. Olympic-level ice dancing does, however, require a partner and mimics traditional ballroom dancing in a way. And while the male-to-female ratio in the sport can make it difficult for women to find a partner, Fox said those with the right ingredients like Kowar will often rise to the top and standout.
“Now she’ll be able to have full devotion to the sport,” Fox said. “So even though there might be hundreds of girls looking for an ice dancing partner, who has some of the best techniques and who has shown themselves to be a very consistent mind, body and soul skater? Whose reputation is stellar as far as standing out?”
Kowar jumped head first into ice dancing early on in high school and has competed at nationals every year, making the podium nearly every time. Her big highlight came as a freshman when she won a national championship in juvenile free dance at the National Solo Dance Final in Delaware.
She’s only ever competed solo, however, so competing as a pair would be a new experience for her.
“She is a good candidate to hopefully get matched up with somebody and take her skating to a whole different level,” Hooper said. “She’s got an inner confidence about her. She puts it out there when she needs to. I’m excited for the opportunity she’s going to be able to have this year. I can’t wait to see how far it takes her.”
While her gap year means she won’t be on campus anytime soon at Syracuse, Kowar did say she plans to take some online classes in the fall to at least get started on her higher education. She’s been admitted into the university’s business program and wants to minor in product or industrial design, and knows her figure skating detour could be short lived.
Certainly, the novel coronavirus pandemic isn’t making her plans too clear at the moment. She’s trained in Denver over recent weeks mostly because the local ice rinks in Aspen have been closed, and many of the upcoming figure skating competitions have been canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. With no clear path forward, Kowar will train as much as she can and simply see what unfolds.
“When someone is young, that’s when they need to pursue their sport and to be able to have that opportunity and to never have regrets,” said Bonnie Kowar, Klara’s mother. “To have that opportunity to pursue that dream is such a gift and that way looking back she can always know she gave it everything.”
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