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Roller figure skater wins a world medal

The weekend warriors got their due on the world stage.

Maurice Cooper III and his partner, Maya Goody, won a bronze medal earlier this month at the World Roller Figure Skating Championships.

Cooper, an 18-year-old from Niagara Falls who is freshman at Canisius College, and Goody, a 16-year-old from San Jose, Calif., earned the medal in the junior world-class team dance division at the recent meet in Gold Coast, Australia.

Earning the medal was a culmination of lots of hard work and travel over the years for Cooper.

And it made him and his family wonder what might have been possible had partners who live on opposite coasts been able to practice more regularly.

"I was pretty happy getting third," Cooper said last week. "Most [other competitors], they live real close together and they train every day. . . . If we trained together every day, I'm sure we could have accomplished more, but with what [time] we had we did an amazing job."

Cooper helped his family achieve a dream it has chased since opening Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda in 1949.

He is the first Rainbow Rink skater to participate in the World Championships.

"We've got a lot of national medals [at Rainbow Rink], but a world medal, it's like a whole other level," Cooper said. "It's a goal I've had my entire life. It's exciting to finally have it."

His father and coach, Maurice Jr., is owner of Rainbow Rink.

"We've been striving to do this for 50 years," he said. "There have been a lot of people who came before him who tried to do this. This is very gratifying. The whole family is proud of him. This has been really cool."

Cooper Jr. learned how to skate from his grandfather, Herbert Bale.

Cooper III and Goody could only practice together on weekends. Cooper typically made the trek to California on Fridays and returned home late Sunday or early Monday.

"That's what made it so hard [for them to place]," Cooper Jr. said of the odds stacked against his son and Goody. "I think that was the difference between us getting first or second. We just didn't have enough time together. The two teams that won skated every day. We beat a very good Italian team, a team from North France. They did a nice job. I was real proud of them, no mistakes. They skated pretty much flawlessly."

Cooper III said he met his skating goals.

"I've been skating for pretty much my entire life, and this has always been my goal, to make it to Worlds," Cooper said. "It was great to not only be there but also place. It was probably the most exciting thing of my career."

It's more than likely the pair won't make the jump to senior world-class next year and compete for another medal, because of their current situation.

Traveling weekends from one coast to another and back is quite taxing. Cooper also is a full-time college student who is in Army training as part of accepting an ROTC scholarship.

That's like holding down a full-time job and a part-time job at the same time.

Goody still has junior world-class eligibility, while Cooper officially aged out of the junior division when he turned 18 on Sept. 30.

Goody does have the option of moving into the senior class, if she chooses. But in order to seriously compete for a medal at the senior level, the two would need to practice together on a daily basis.

Cooper likely will focus on singles competition instead of retiring.

"I'm not sure if I'll be competing as much, but I'm definitely not stopping," he said.

Cooper does have singles (also called circles) skating experience. He placed third at Nationals last summer. Only gold and silver medallists advance to world competition.

He will also help his father coach his younger brother, Michael, and Michael's partner, Danielle Johnson of North Tonawanda, as they prepare to make the jump into the junior world-class division as 12-year-olds, bypassing the freshman division.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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