"After Nationals I just tried to focus on school boards, getting ready for SATs, and now I'm going to be on a flight to Torino," Hughes said in a conference call Sunday, according to a transcript published by a sports wire service.With heavy snow grinding airports to a halt this weekend, the Hughes family was unsure when they would leave for Turin, but Emily Hughes said she did not plan to miss much school. The figure skating competition, scheduled for Feb. 21 and Feb. 23, handily takes place during Great Neck's winter break.Hughes follows her sister Sarah, the 2002 figure skating gold medalist, as the latest Great Neck skater to compete at the sport's highest levels. Those who will watch her from home said they could not be prouder."I don't think there could be a greater honor than to have a second Olympic athlete to come out of this rink and this community," said Neil Marrin, the superintendent of the Great Neck Park District, which includes Parkwood Rink, one of Hughes's practice spots.Marrin lauded Hughes not just for her skating ability but for her compassion and kindness as well."Despite her successes, Emily will come and skate in our skate shows with some of our children," he said, as well as volunteer to teach children with special needs.Moriko Betz, the skate school director at Parkwood, said Hughes has been skating at the rink since she was 4 years old and continues to practice there two to three times a week.Betz described Hughes as "totally down to earth" and said she was not fazed when Kwan was granted an injury waiver-and the spot on the team that would have originally been Hughes's."Even after they didn't choose her, she was still bubbly," Betz said. "She said, 'You know, I'm going to Worlds next, and I have to train for Worlds.'"Hughes finished third at the 2006 US Nationals, and in the conference call she said her rigorous training for the upcoming Worlds competition was good preparation for the Olympics."I'm ready to compete, wherever it is, and now it's the Olympics," she said. "I feel ready."Hughes also said she has raised the ante, practicing a more elaborate program to get the judges' attention."We're going to try to change some stuff around, maybe make it more difficult so I could get a higher base mark in, a higher score and hopefully people can see my personal best," she said.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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