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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
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NOTL figure skater feels 'like myself again' thanks to backyard rink
Ashlee Hale demonstrates what skill and hard work can accomplish on the ice. (Richard Harley)

Parents built rink to help daughter’s return to the sport she loves

Niagara-on-the-Lake figure skating star Ashleen Hale says she has regained a part of herself after her parents built a backyard rink for her to practise on.

“When COVID first hit, I just felt super lost because I didn’t have school and I didn’t really have a social life,” Ashleen said in an interview.

Pandemic restrictions have led to extended closures of public ice rinks over the past two years.

Ashleen, 16, who was one of the top three figure skaters in Ontario in her division before the pandemic, often has had nowhere to practise.

“You just feel like you lose a part of you,” she said.

But mother and father Lolita and Jim Hale decided enough was enough and set about building a backyard rink for their daughter.

“It’s been a labour of love that took about five days of flooding,” Lolita said.

“But, you know, she’s been using it every day.”

Ashleen said the rink has helped her reclaim her identity as a figure skater.

“I felt like myself again. So, that was nice,” she said.

“It feels so nice to have a place again because we’ve all missed out on so much. Just skating feels super nice.”

“I’m so thankful that my dad did that because going three, four weeks without skating — you lose a lot of stuff.”

Ashleen said she is ready to work her way back to the top now that she has a reliable place to work on her skills. Her mom has no doubt the teenager can do it.

“She’ll get back to where she was before. She has the opportunity to skate seven days a week again,” Lolita said.

But it’s not all about gold medals for the Hale family.

“We enjoy watching her,” Lolita said.

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