Culver City Observer -

Culver Ice Rink Contributed To Skater's Success


December 31, 2015

By Sandra Coopersmith

Features Writer

Dedication, determination and discipline will all factor into destiny for middle-schooler Samir Mallya, who will be competing at the U.S. Figure Skating Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota in January.

As background, the 50 states are divided into nine regions. The regional-level competitions were in October. Customarily, the top four skaters of each gender in each of five competitive skating levels then advance to the Sectionals in November. The country has three such Sections. The Pacific Coast Sectional held in Burbank on November 21 was Samir's qualifying round for his level (Juvenile).

Samir, an eighth-grader at California Connections Academy @ Capistrano, a fully accredited tuition-free online public school that serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, is able to balance his demanding schedule by utilizing this innovative means of education.

That schedule includes spending six days and 30 hours a week practicing. The results showed on November 21 at the Pacific Coast Sectional as he earned the bronze medal in the Juvenile Boys category and qualified to go to Nationals. Although he has only been competing for two years and is relatively new to the sport, during this competitive season he prepared to compete in the advanced level with skaters that have been competing for more than six years.

During early childhood Samir was introduced to skating in addition to other sports, including soccer, baseball, swimming and martial arts.

"Skating did not particularly interest me then, so I did not continue it," he said. "Approximately three years ago I was reintroduced to the ice when one of my close friends invited me to the Culver City rink for a play date. This time around I liked the feel of the ice and wanted to learn skating techniques, so my mother signed me up for group lessons. After a few months we added private lessons. A year later we moved to another rink for more rigorous training. However, it was only in early 2015 that I started thinking of myself as a competitive figure skater." He finds inspiration in the abilities of skaters like Yuna Kim, Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner, Adam Rippon and Yulia Lipnitskaya.

A particularly memorable moment in Samir's journey came this past September when he won a competition at his current level, Juvenile, and "I felt very motivated after that."

The family moved to Culver City about four years ago. Because work required relocation from time to time, they've lived in different areas and Samir had always attended the neighborhood public schools. His mother, Sarita, explained what led her and her husband, Sanjay, to select the virtual school option that has enabled Samir to pursue his interest in competitive skating,

"We have some friends who have chosen the purely home schooling route for their children," she said. "The skating world further exposed us to students enrolled in online schools with set curricula. This seemed like something we could try for Samir if need be."

Sanjay's parents shared that they "had never envisioned moving out of traditional schooling. Not just given its social benefits but by all measurable yardsticks, Samir has done very well throughout. We had to switch, though, for a better academic fit. Thankfully, he has continued to thrive in this setting. Especially in math, Samir's strongest subject, it is encouraging that Connections Academy ( has acknowledged his advanced ability by placing him in appropriately matched higher-grade courses.

"With regard to skating, the inherent advantages that online schooling offers – no geographic constraints and, within reason, allowing the students to be in charge of their time and work at their pace – have allowed Samir to skate during the less crowded morning hours at the rink."

That flexibility has been a boon to Samir.

"In my figure skating training, activities could be dispersed through the day, so I'm often at the rink for several hours," he said. "One of the reasons I like online schooling is the flexibility of scheduling. Any quiet place with low distractions and adequate Internet connection can be turned into a learning environment where I can work and complete projects. At times I walk a block to the public library and use their study room."

Asked if he had a special online school-related anecdote he'd like to share, Samir recalled that "an exciting experience with virtual schooling was on New Year's Eve 2013. I stayed up studying until midnight and completed the entire coursework for the following week, so that was great!"

A National Junior Honor Society member, Samir has a passion for learning, and Connections Academy challenges him by providing access to advanced courses such as the Gifted and Talented Language Arts course. When he is not figure skating or doing school work, he engages in national and international math competitions.

"I am also interested in physical and life sciences, history, geography and law," he said. "Outside of academics, I have always liked music, dance and art. In my spare time I love reading comic books. I am considering careers in financial math, engineering and biotechnology."

"Samir is an excellent student and a great fit for online school," said Heather Tamayo, California Connections Academy middle school principal. "His schedule is such that the traditional school day did not fit his needs, and he found a great solution with California Connections Academy @ Capistrano. The school's flexible schedule allows him to follow his passion while also pursuing a high quality education. We wish him the best of luck at his upcoming ice skating competition."

Samir's advice to any aspiring young figure skater: "Work hard but still have fun. In the beginning, have short-term goals and, as you advance, develop long-term goals too. There most likely will be times when you think that you are not improving. Try to get past these roadblocks, and in the end you will see that you have progressed a lot."

In turn, Sarita and Sanjay Mallya delved into their experience and offered suggestions for the parents of such skaters: "Our usual challenges include staying on top of our daily tasks. Prioritizing and being organized and efficient are key. We've learned the hard way to set multiple reminders for anything out of the ordinary! As far as advice, we'd say pursue an activity seriously only if your child truly loves it. Thereafter, at each stage reassess your investment of time and energy based on your child's progress, while also considering the status of other obligations in life. Most importantly, breathe, have faith, be open to possibilities, roll with the punches, and celebrate successes!"

"The fact that I'm going to Nationals after being in this sport for such a short time shows that hard work and determination can get you anywhere," Samir added. Clearly, his winning outlook and work ethic are already invaluable trophies that will have a lasting impact throughout his life.



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