Ice dancer Christopher Davis comfortable in his skates

EVANSTON — When he was 4 years old, Christopher Davis walked into the Robert Crown Community Center for the first time and signed up for the hockey program.

After struggling to stop in hockey skates, Davis decided he wasn’t cut out for the sport.

“I wasn’t a very good skater,” Davis said. “One day when the Center was out of rentals, I had to use figure skates … and I liked the feel of them.”

Davis, now 20, is an elite professional ice dancer. In 2010, he and his former skating partner, Angelina Giordano, won the juvenile gold in ice dancing at the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland under the guidance of longtime coach, Chris Hyland.

In May, Davis became the first skater from Crown to pass the Ice Skating Institute’s Ice Dance Level 10 test, the “equivalent of being a black belt in karate,” according to Davis.

Hyland, 46, a former figure skater and competitive ice dancer, has coached Davis for 13 years.

“Chris’s greatest strengths are his pliability and his personality,” Hyland said. “He’s easy to coach because he’s open to advice, to try new things. … He watches film and does his homework.”

Hyland added that Davis excels at compartmentalizing his time.

“[Skaters like Chris] are experts of time management,” Hyland said. “In addition to their skating, they have to do physical conditioning, gymnastics, dance and cross-training.”

Davis, who grew up in Rogers Park, has been a full-time staff member for the past three years with the skating program at Crown, a place he calls his “second home.”

He is an assistant coach for the juvenile synchronized skating team and has worked with day-care children to teach the basics of skating. Davis hopes to provide inspiration in the same place where he once gained it.

“I owe a lot to the Center,” Davis said. “From [watching] the skaters who have walked through these doors to the encouragement from the staff … that’s what has inspired me.”

Some notable skaters who have trained at Crown are Olympic gold medalist speed skater Shani Davis, Olympic silver medalist ice dancer Ben Agosto and Four Continents silver medalist ice dancer Morgan Matthews.

Although Christopher Davis and Hyland have thought about the Olympic level in the future, their main focus now is the Bulgarian Figure Skating Championships in December.

Davis has teamed up with 15-year-old Mina Zdravkova, who was born in Bulgaria and lives in London, for the competition.

They have skated together only a handful of times, but Hyland and Davis are optimistic about what the duo is capable of.

“Mina’s very intense on the ice,” Davis said. “She’s very mature for her age and doesn’t let things get to her. The match between us is good because we move in a similar way.”

If everything goes according to plan, Hyland sees the dance couple as one of the top teams in Bulgaria.

“Both of these kids have competed and know the ropes,” Hyland said. “They don’t need any encouragement [from me], only the time to develop together.”

In addition to Davis’ full slate of coaching and training duties, he has qualified for the 2014 National Solo Dance Championships in late September in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“In ice dancing, there never really is an offseason,” Davis said.

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