Chasing ice dreams in Great Neck

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Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes and her sister, fellow Olympian Emily Hughes, helped put Great Neck on the figure skating map. And Ilana Sherman hopes to continue in that tradition.

Sherman, a 12-year-old figure skater from Great Neck, took third place in U.S. Figure Skating’s North Atlantic Regional competition last week, earning her a place in November’s sectionals and a chance at making the national championships.

“Now I’m third in the whole entire region,” Sherman said in an interview. “I was really happy because it was my first year… in intermediates, and I never really made it to sectionals. So I was really happy and I couldn’t get a smile off my face.”

Sherman took to skating about four years ago at the prompting of her mother Nancy, a Great Neck-based attorney.

“My mom took me to learn how to fall and get up, and I just liked it,” Sherman said.

Sherman’s interest in the sport grew from those humble beginnings, and she now practices and is coached at a facility in Hackensack, N.J.

After taking a well-earned break for the week after the competition, Sherman is now back on the ice, practicing her program for the sectionals.

The competition will be tough at the upcoming contest, set to begin Nov. 19. And Sherman is practicing a new element for her routine, in hopes of another strong showing.

“I don’t have a double axel,” Sherman said. “If you want to make the nationals you have to have a double axel.”

Sherman’s goals are high, and include ambitions of making nationals and eventually the Olympic games.

Growing up in Great Neck has provided some local role models in that pursuit. Sherman said she was left star-struck after meeting Sarah and Emily Hughes and sharing the ice at Great Neck’s Parkwood sports complex.

“When I first met them I was like, ‘oh my God, this is so cool,’” Sherman said.

Sherman said she will be paying close attention to the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, but for now she has her sights set on sectionals, where she hopes to let her instincts and training take over.

“When you get on the ice and you just do something I don’t really focus. My coach says when you compete don’t really focus on something, just let it flow,” Sherman said. “So sometimes when I just jump it feels really natural.”

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