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FIGURE SKATING: Bemidji figure skater Warne-Jacobsen set to go to Italy

Wren Warne-Jacobson, 11, is looking to travel to Italy this summer to participate in a skating camp run by Russian coach Alexei Mishin. The Bemidji native recently won a 2014 Minnesota State Figure Skating Championship. Submitted photo

BEMIDJI — Wren Warne-Jacobsen loves figure skating.

That might be an understatement.

The 11-year-old Bemidji native, who most recently won a 2014 Minnesota State Preliminary Girls Champion, is traveling to Pinzolo, Italy, next month to train with a coach of multiple Olympians.

“I love skating so much,” Wren said. “I really want to make the Olympics some day, but my main goal is just to be the best I can be and have fun doing it.”

The training will be hosted by Russia’s Alexei Mishin, who is widely considered as one of the world’s best figure skating coaches.

But in order to get to Italy, Wren and her family are seeking the help of the community through an online crowdfunding site called RocketHub and will host a fundraiser on Saturday.

“To help her reach her goals of being on Team USA will take a lot more than what my husband and I can provide,” said Wren’s mother, Debbie Warne-Jacobsen. “It will also take the support of the community and those close to us and we are very grateful for all of it.”

A ‘full-time job’

Wren’s figure skating career was born when she was 5-years-old. She was practicing skating so she could go to a party in Minneapolis.

“She had never skated before, so I bought her a pair of figure skates as an early Christmas present,” Debbie said.

“I took her to the rink a few times before the party, but we never made it to the cities because of an ice storm. But she loved it and we went skating every day of that winter break.”

Her passion for skating grew quickly as she soon caught the attention of high-profile figure skating coaches in Minneapolis.

“Wren has been working with an international team of coaches in the cities for about four years,” Debbie said. “We started by spending single days in the cities and after about six months, we were making trips back-and-forth every week.

“Now, we spend most of the week in the cities and come back to Bemidji for the weekends.”

Wren eventually caught the attention of Ann Eidson at the St. Paul Figure Skating Club, who has also coached and mentored several international athletes over the years.

“Debbie introduced herself to me and told me she was interested in me working with Wren,” Eidson said. “I went to watch Wren at a local competition and she was amazing. She had polish and quality that was exceptional for the level she was at.

“I said yes, I was definitely interested in working with her.”

Wren has been working with Eidson for nearly three years now and has drawn praise for her ability to learn new information and make improvements on her own.

“Her progression has been very steady,” Eidson said. “She is a wonderful girl to work with because she learns very quickly and has the ability to retain information and make corrections on her own.”

Her work ethic, especially for her age, has also stood out to Eidson.

“She has the work ethic of an international competitor,” Eidson said. “She is always eager to come to the rink and she is always paying attention. Another quality she has in common with some of the best international athletes is that she is an over-achiever. When you ask her to do something, she will do more than you asked.”

Debbie, as a coach and a mother, is also proud of her daughter’s work ethic, as she puts in enough time on the rink to consider it a full-time job. Combine that with her school work (she is homeschooled) it makes a lot of work for an 11-year-old girl.

“Wren is incredibly dedicated and self-motivated,” Debbie said. “She spends about eight hours a day at the rink five days a week. It is like a full-time job for her.”

Obviously, Wren is not the only one who treats skating as a full-time job. Her parents both dedicate upward of 12 hours each day to help their daughter reach her goals.

For Debbie and her husband Andrew, they see it as a duty to help their daughter reach her full potential as a figure skater.

“My husband and I recognize that she has a special talent and we take it as a great responsibility to provide her with the opportunities to achieve as much as she can,” Debbie said. “I am fortunate enough to work at the rink coaching so I can be with her and supervise training. Andrew works nights as a musician so he spends his days packing Wren’s lunches, cooking dinner and making sure she does her homework.”

While there are many sacrifices made by the family, both Debbie and Wren say they would not trade a thing.

“I cannot imagine my life without figure skating,” Wren said. “I love competing and performing, but my favorite part is being at the rink with my friends and working as hard as I can every day.”

Italy training will help development

Wren went to a seminar with Mishin last summer in Estonia and Eidson said it was a positive experience. “It works well for her to go to Italy because what she learns there, she brings back we can continue to develop it throughout the season,” Eidson said.

“It was a lot,” Wren said of her experience last year. “I learned so much and was very inspired by all of the skaters there.”

For this year, the cost of the tuition, individual lessons, travel, and lodging adds up to $7,500.

While Debbie is uncertain if the goal will be fully attained by the online deadline of June 1, she hopes the amount, combined with private contributions, will be enough to help send her daughter to Italy.

“I do not know if we will get there online, but we have had a lot of people — who do not necessarily want to contribute online — send us checks,” Debbie said. “We certainly do need to make a big push in the next week to make that happen.”

As of late Friday, 18 people had donated online to raise $1,285 — just 18 percent of the $7,500.

“We are very aware of the fact that those who achieve extraordinary things do not do it alone,” Debbie continued. “Everyone who has supported Wren in the past or who will in the future is a part of her journey.”

“I am so thankful for all of the people who have supported me,” Wren added. “It is an amazing feeling.”

Unlike other crowdfunding sites, RocketHub will allow the family to keep the contributions and put it toward Wren’s trip, even if the goal is not met.

Donations can be made by going on the RocketHub website and searching “Wren.”

In addition to the RocketHub site, the family said everyone is welcome to attend the Community Skate and Fundraiser on Saturday, May 31 at Neilson Reise from 7 to 9 p.m. Andrew, Wren’s father, and his band — Pelican Railroad — will perform live and there will be food and a silent auction. Cost is a freewill donation, of any amount, from those who attend.

“Even if you do not know Wren, it is going to be a fun night of skating,” Debbie said. “Everyone is welcome.”