In a land of palm trees and sloths, it’s hard to imagine a Costa Rican ice rink. Indeed, there’s only one – in all of Central America.
But the Castillo Country Club in Heredia puts its frigid facility to good use, thanks to a massive expansion completed earlier this year, as well as to their dedicated coaches. Members of the Country Club can participate in a variety of wintry sports, and this week the spotlight falls on synchronized skaters.
Mainly geared toward younger pupils, the synchronized skating course is available to all Country Club members. Classes are taught in groups and take place only once per week, but students have the unique opportunity to learn skating techniques on actual ice. Starting Nov. 19 and continuing through Nov. 30, the students are demonstrating their skills for family and friends, performing choreography they have learned throughout the year. As their instructors describe it, the performance doubles as a kind of final exam.
The program is very popular: There are four instructors and 110 regular students. Including part-timers, there are about 220 students in all.
One of the instructors is Jovanka Tesanovic. At 29 years old, Tesanovic has led a remarkable life: Born in Sarajevo and raised in Serbia during the Balkan conflict, Tesanovic also lived in Britain and Cuba before settling in Costa Rica. She is both an experienced figure skater and competitive white-water rafter.
“I came here for other reasons,” Tesanovic recalled recently. “And then someone said, ‘Hey, there is an ice rink in Costa Rica.’ And then I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ I was thinking maybe I could [teach] some classes. They gave me a job, and three years later I’m still here.”
The Tico Times caught up with Tesanovic, her fellow coach Sofia Elizondo, and their students during a weekend practice at Castillo.
Synchronized skating is its own kind of discipline. Groups of skaters carry out complex dance routines on the ice, much like synchronized swimmers. While the form is not nearly as popular as traditional figure skating, Tesanovic says the synchronized skating may soon be approved as an Olympic sport.
“I really hope someone will decide to take this more seriously than just as recreation,” said Tesanovic of her students. “They can go to the [United States], and they can skate more, and maybe we can decide to take them to a competition.”
Performance takes place Nov. 19-30 at Castillo Country Club, San Rafael, Heredia. Various times. ₡3,000 ($6). Attendants must be Castillo members or a member’s guest. Info: Castillo website.