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Fifth-grader Alena Budko spends her days training for gold medal at 2022 Winter Games

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Alena Budko, 10, shows off her skills at Hillsboros Winter Village skating rink in December, ahead of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif., where she placed fourth.Axels, salchows, lutzes — Alëna Budko knows them all.

The 11-year-old figure skater from Hillsboro has been busy this week, competing at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif.

Budko placed in the top four in the competition's intermediate division. Winners of the senior division will be selected for the U.S. Olympic team.

Budko started skating at the age of 5, and has never wanted to leave the ice.

"I like to feel free on the ice and jump around and spin," she said. "My dad used to skate and he taught me a few things. I really enjoyed doing it, so I started taking classes."

Those classes led her to Inner Edge Academy in Beaverton, where she trains with coaches Sofia Inthalaksa and Ikaika Young.

Budko trains six days a week, often skating for three-and-a-half hours each morning — and sometimes in the afternoons as well.

That schedule doesn't leave a lot of time for studies at Jackson School Elementary. To give her time to do both, Budko now takes her schoolwork through Oregon Connections Academy, the state's largest online charter school, run through the Santiam Canyon School District in Mill City.

By taking her classes online, Budko is able to spend more time on the ice, she said.

"I'd have to wake up early, and I still wouldn't have enough time to skate and make it back in time for school to start," she said. "I want to focus on my skating, but I also want to keep my grades good."

Inthalaksa said it's common for serious skaters at Budko's age to turn to online schooling instead of traditional classroom settings.

"It's becoming much more normal," she said. "If you want to be really good at anything, you have to put in the time. Some school systems are adapting more to meet athletes' needs, but her participating in these programs has been a huge benefit to her training."

Budko was one of the youngest skaters in her division in the national championships, going against athletes much older than her.

Budko isn't content with her fourth-place finish. Dreams of winning Olympic gold have been running through Budko's mind for years.

She said she'd like to one day skate in the Olympics, and hopes to try out for the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

"I want to keep training well," she said. "I want to stay focused and keep believing in myself that I can do it. I want to do a triple axel."

Inthalaska said that move — a signature move requiring skaters to jump in the air and spin a full three times before landing back on the slippery ice — is something her young protégée will be attempting soon.

"She is an anomaly ... she's very special young girl," Inthalaksa said. "Physically, she's strong, and [with] her mental strength, she's very capable of reaching the Olympics. I think she's even capable of tackling a quadruple jump."

For now, Budko said she'll be watching the 2018 Winter Olympic Games — which begin Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea — from Hillsboro, but said she's not rooting for any particular skaters.

"I don't have any favorite skaters," she said. "I like skaters that have a good attitude. Those are the people I look up to. I want to have that attitude so I can do well in skating, too."

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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