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Local woman takes home medals at Colorado skating event

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Cara Zanella, at right, performs an ice-dance routine with partner Lance Holton in early November at the Pikes Peak Classic in Colorado. Submitted photo.

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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Cara Zanella has big goals when it comes to her love of figure skating.

One was achieved two years ago, when she skated with her ice-dancing partner Lance Holton at the rink at Lake Placid that was the setting for the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic hockey team victory over the Russians.

Another goal — skating in Colorado, the location of the U.S. Figure Skating headquarters — was checked off earlier this month, and Zanella came away from the Pikes Peak Classic in Colorado Springs with three medals.

Zanella, 47, a North Huntingdon resident and the director of communications for the Gateway School District, won silver, bronze and pewter medals with Holton in three different patterned ice dances against several other skating teams from across the United States.

“It was really thrilling to be in the World Arena and skate where a lot of the champions and up-and-coming skaters train,” she said.

Zanella, an amateur skater who represents Center Ice and Blades Figure Skating Club of Western Pennsylvania, based in Delmont, skated for 13 years as a child, and returned to competitive skating seven years ago after a 24-year break from the sport.

Zanella said she's extremely grateful to still be able to take part in a lifelong love of figure skating.

“I'm thankful my body is still allowing me to skate, because it is still a passion of mine. I have rheumatoid arthritis, and that presents its challenges,” Zanella said. “To be able to compete and win medals with Lance is a pretty cool thing.”

Her rheumatoid arthritis is in remission.

“Hopefully, my story will give people in their 40s and 50s the idea they can still accomplish things even though they are a little older,” Zanella said. “You just have to be a little smarter about the way you do it.”

Zanella currently is working on her pregold adult ice dancing USFS test medals. She has three more tests for pregold, and then she goes for her gold medal, which requires four additional tests.

“I've never really thought about how long I will be able to skate,” Zanella said. “I still haven't reached my goals that I set when I started back seven years ago. I intend to keep skating as long as I can.”

On Saturday, Zanella and Holton performed together for the first time in front of a local audience.

The performance was part of a Shop ‘n Skate holidays show, sponsored by Center Ice and Blades, at Center Ice Arena.

“We had a really good time,” she said. “I had a lot of friends and family come to the show. My husband is always there with a video camera. He's always really supportive of our efforts.”

Zanella credits Holton, who became her lone coach a couple of months ago, for making her a better skater.

Holton also resides in North Huntingdon and is a member of the USFS and the Professional Skaters Association.

He is a USFS gold and international medalist and a regional, sectional and junior national medalist.

“Lance's done a great job these past six months,” Zanella said.

“He's worked on cleaning up a lot of things in my skating. His efforts have really paid off.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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