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Portland area figure skaters qualify for national championships

Samuel Mindra will compete in the Junior Men's Division. Three other skaters qualified for a prestigious national development camp.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Four of the best figure skaters in the Portland area will lace up their skates in Nashville at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January. 

Samuel Mindra from Happy Valley will compete in the Junior Men's Division. It will be the 18-year-old's fifth time competing at the national championships in the last seven years. Last year he took bronze in the competition, and two years ago he was selected for Team USA. 

Making the Olympic team someday would be "pretty cool," Mindra said. Even though he started skating at 4 years old, he still feels the competition nerves.

"I get nervous every competition, even if it's a small competition," he said. "But I just shrug it off. Can't hold back." 

Three other local skaters — 15-year-old Tia Hilbelink and 16-year-old Andriy Kratyuk from Beaverton, and 16-year-old Mark Williams from Lake Oswego — qualified for the National High Performance Development Camp. The highly-selective camp allows some of the country's best young skaters an opportunity to hone their performances and receive feedback from judges and officials.

Credit: Portland Ice Skating Club
Left to right: Tia Hilbelink, Andriy Kratyuk, Samuel Mindra and Mark Williams

"How to be a better skater, how to jump better, hit those quads, a triple axel," said Kratyuk. 

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For many of the skaters, it won't be their first time attending. Williams has now qualified for the camp three years in a row. Only a dozen skaters in each division are selected for the camp. 

Because of the ongoing pandemic impact, eligibility to nationals this year was based on the cumulative high score each competitor earned instead of individual rankings at a particular qualifying event.

Team USA selections are announced after the national championships wrap up. The U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team will be announced by Jan 10, 2022. 

Kratyuk said he's shooting for the 2026 Olympics in Italy. 

Nationals is the final qualifying event before skaters are nominated to Team USA. As the competition gets more fierce, Hilbelink said it's important to remember why she loves skating. 

"I really enjoy performing and competing, not only for getting medals and winning," said Hilbelink. "I enjoy performing and jumping and showing what I can do." 

Mindra offered advice to skaters young and old.

"Keep going. Don't give up, even if you fall." 

The 2022 TOYOTA U.S. Figure Skating Championships run from Jan. 3-9, 2022 in Nashville, Tenn. All events will stream live on Peacock. 

The 2022 Winter Olympics kick off with the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 4, 2022 on KGW.