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Jumping For Joy

Difficult Skating Maneuvers Help Set Apart 12-Year-Old Beatrisa Liang of Granada Hills


Ice skating is a recreational sport for most people.

Something kids can do with their friends and parents for fun. Or to cool off on a hot day.

But Alice Liang has no intention of sharing the ice with her daughter Beatrisa. Not now. Not ever.

"It's not for me," said Alice, who has been on ice skates only once.

Alice's reluctance is more easily understood once you've seen her daughter skate.

Beatrisa's idea of a good time on ice is jumping three feet in the air while doing the splits. Or spinning like a top. Or making three revolutions in mid-air and landing a triple lutz, among the most difficult maneuvers for female ice skaters.

The Granada Hills resident is not your typical 12 year old, to be sure.

"I like to jump," said Beatrisa, who is 4 feet 6 and 63 pounds.

Jumping is what sold Beatrisa on skating six years ago when her mother took her and older sister Natalie for a group lesson. Natalie, then 11, was captivated by the 1994 Olympic skaters and insisted on taking lessons.

Beatrisa, then an acrobatic 6 year old, went along for the ride.

"I thought, 'If I'm taking one [daughter], I might as well take two,' " Alice Liang said.

Before long, a group instructor took Alice aside and told her Beatrisa was "very gifted" on ice skates.

Beatrisa, who has taken piano and gymnastic lessons since age 4, found her calling.

Finally, after two years of driving her mother up walls by climbing doors and executing somersaults and backflips around the house, Beatrisa found an outlet for her boundless energy.

"I always knew she was different," Alice said.

A year after her first group lesson, Beatrisa, known by friends and family as BeBe, was competing.

Although she finished last in her first three competitions and once forgot her routine in the middle of her program, Beatrisa's dedication has never wavered.

"She's not the kind of kid who took to the ice and you thought, 'Wow, what a wonderfully talented skater,' " said Tiffany Chin, a 1984 Olympian and professional instructor, remembering her first encounters with her young protege.

"What struck me most about her was her amazing ability to focus on something and her tenacity to learn at such a young age. That's what made me stop and look at her in a different way."

Beatrisa's ability to focus and learn, coupled with intangibles, have paved the way to her becoming one of the nation's most promising skaters.

"I think one of the things that endears her is she is so small and so young," Chin said.

And so talented.

Among the dozens of skaters Chin instructs, only Beatrisa is competing in the women's senior division.

She will compete this weekend in her first senior regional in the Southwest Pacific Championships at Pickwick Ice Arena in Burbank.

The top four finishers will advance to sectionals in Anchorage with the hope of qualifying for the national championships in Boston early next year.

By all accounts, Beatrisa is somewhat of a long shot to get to nationals and qualify for the 2002 Olympic Games. But even if she did surprise the field, Beatrisa is unable to compete in the Olympics because of an age restriction enacted in recent years.

"Despite the fact that she's too young to go anywhere internationally, she is still very artistic, a great jumper, a wonderful spinner . . . she can hold her own with the best of them," Chin said.

"What's nice about BeBe is she's well-rounded and that's what it's all about these days."

The jack-of-all-trades moniker applies to Beatrisa off the ice as well.

The Faith Baptist seventh-grader, a straight-A student, is also a skilled pianist. She won her first solo competition at 7 for playing a concerto and recently took silver in her age division at the Southwest Music Festival.

For a pre-teenager who wakes at 5:45 a.m. for a two-hour skating session, spends 6 1/2 hours at school and returns to the rink for another two-hour practice, Beatrisa is a testament to hard work.

"She's very focused," Alice Liang said. "That's one of the reasons she can get all of those things in."

Although quiet and shy, Beatrisa is driven by competition.

Little more than a year ago, her father gave her all the incentive she needed to perform a triple lutz.

"My dad said that if I ever landed it, I could get a cat," Beatrisa said, smiling. "And now I have a cat."

What Beatrisa's father believed would take years, took only months.

"My husband didn't know she'd get it that fast." Alice said.

Chin is counting on Beatrisa's ability to rise to the occasion this weekend.

"I'm expecting her to surprise them and shock them and give them a run for their money," Chin said.

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