MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of people will pack St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center this weekend to watch the best figure skaters in the country.
But some young skating fans have the best view in the house.
The skaters you see grabbing the gifts after performances are all local.
“It’s so amazing,” Ava Roy, a 10-year-old “sweeper” from Edina, said. “I get to pick up all the things and see all my favorite skaters.”
Roy is one of 50 sweepers at this year’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
“I feel like I’m free every time I step on the ice,” Roy said.
Becoming a sweeper is not easy. First, you must be under 13, but not so young you cannot pass the skating test.
“They have to be a certain level of skating so that they’re proficient on the ice,” Loni Keenan, co-chair of the National Sweepers, said.
The sweepers all local wherever the championships are held, which means this opportunity usually only comes around once. The last time the national championships were in Minnesota was in 2008.
If you do qualify, you enter the lottery and wait. For 11-year-old Lydia Debore from Blaine, that call was a dream come true.
“I was one that was picked and I was just super excited,” Debore said. “I was at my cabin when I found out, and I was just like, ‘I just want to go home and skate and practice for it.'”
They have a few practices to learn to skate while others are warming up, then they are on the ice with their idols.
“Just to see them be able to skate on a big arena like the Xcel Energy Center is really rewarding,” Keenan said.
Debore says she loves the view from ice level.
“It’s such a good rink and I really enjoy being able to see all the good skaters,” Debore said.
They are collecting gifts for the champions, until one day, the flowers are for them.
“I want to be an Olympic champion,” Roy said. “A lot of people are going to tell you, ‘You can’t do this. You’re never going to be able to do that.’ You need to overcome that feeling and prove them wrong.”
Click here for more information on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.