As 3-year-old Zack Sidhu grew tired of the oppressive summer heat in Las Vegas, his mother, Cheri, decided to take him to the now-defunct ice skating rink at Santa Fe Station.
“I thought it would be a good place for him to get out of the heat,” she said. “He started watching figure skating with me because I’ve always been a fan, and he wanted to learn to jump and spin like the people on TV.”
Little did Cheri Sidhu know that her son would grow up to be a talented figure skater with the potential to one day compete in the Olympics.
Zack Sidhu, now 18, teamed with Tori Vollmer, 15, to win the short program for novice pairs Sunday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash.
The duo also finished third in the free skate, or long program, Monday to place second overall and win a silver medal one year after finishing fifth at the event.
“It was really exciting, and it took a lot of work and a long time of training,” said Sidhu, who trains 20 hours a week, on and off the ice. “We actually weren’t focusing on placing, per se. We really wanted to improve our speed on the ice, our aggressiveness and our presentation.
“Last year, we were mostly just trying to get our tricks done. But this year we stepped up our presentation and showmanship.”
Sidhu and Vollmer, of Corona, Calif., performed their short program to the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” as performed by Jeff Beck, and their free skate to music from “West Side Story,” by Leonard Bernstein.
Sidhu and Vollmer showed vast improvement from last year with coaching from three-time U.S. pairs champions, world medalists and Olympians Todd Sand and Jenni Meno.
“Their improvement from last season to this season was very evident, especially in the way they skate, interpret music and do their elements,” Sand said. “It was a big change from last season.”
Sidhu, who has lived in Southern Nevada and been a member of the Las Vegas Figure Skating Club since he was 3, moved in with his grandparents in Aliso Viejo, Calif., two years ago so he could train with Vollmer at the All Year Figure Skating Club, which is also home to three U.S. senior pairs teams.
“I knew it was something I needed to do in order to become a better skater and follow my ultimate goal to go to the Olympics,” Sidhu said. “We look up to all the teams (there) and strive to be more like them. It’s really beneficial. You can see how we need to skate to progress through all the levels.”
Sidhu and Vollmer plan to move up to junior pairs this year and ultimately to seniors, which competes in the Olympics.
“He definitely has that potential,” Sand said of the 6-foot-1-inch Sidhu. “He’s got the size and all the tools already; it’s just a matter of maturing and developing with his partner.
“He doesn’t have a lot of mileage at this level, but he’s really come a long way in a short time.”
After finishing fifth at nationals last year, their first at the novice level, Sidhu and Vollmer earned spots on Team USA and competed at the Junior Grand Prix in Poland, where they placed eighth.
“That was one of my main goals, to make the Olympics and make Team USA, so I’ve already accomplished one of my biggest goals,” said Sidhu, who was ecstatic in July when he received some official Team USA apparel in the mail. “That was amazing, getting that Team USA jacket in the mail. It was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life.”
At 18, Sidhu is still young for a male pairs skater, of which there are several in their mid-30s. But there’s still a chance he could contend for a spot in the 2014 Olympics.
“I have a lot of time,” he said. “(The) 2014 (Olympics) would be cool to go to, but I don’t think I’ll be at a level to place yet. At the 2018 Olympics, I should really have a chance to go to the (medals) podium.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or at 702-383-0354.