Ashley Foy and Benjamin Blum

By Helga Dobor
Photos © Ashka, Bernard Schwall

Ashley Foy and Benjamin Blum are young and talented ice dancers, who skate for Germany. This pair is very unique. They both have relations to the USA. Benjamin was born in the USA but he is German, while Ashley was born and lives in the USA but now she skates for Germany. Ashley is very lucky in skating, she has performed with the best skaters already at age five and has grown up beside, and been coached by other great skaters, since she lives in Simsbury.

Could her life have lead to another sport other than figure skating? Ashka and Benji started to skate together this season and they are a very promising and whole-hearted team. They found time to tell about their goals and about their quite out of the ordinary lives.

When did you start skating?

Ashley: I started skating when I was five years old. I wanted to skate as long as I can remember, but my mom wouldn't let me until I was 5. My older sister Tara was an ice dancer, and another older sister (Kelly) is a professional pair skater in shows.

Benji: I started skating in 1998 one day before my birthday.

How do you remember the first time on ice?

Ashley: My first memories of skating that come to mind, are performing in the "Hot & Gold" Olympic ice show in Simsbury, Connecticut when the rink was first built in 1995. I was 5 years old and the youngest soloist in the show. I skated to The Sugar Plum Fairy (Nutcracker- Tchaikovsky –ed), and I skated right before Oksana Baiul and she carried me around in the finale!

Benji: The first time on ice for me was very funny because all my friends started skating too then, but they all retired later. I was behaving very badly because I was not disciplined. I had a lot of trouble with my coaches.

Did you start with ice dance right away or did you skate singles at first?

Ashley: I was a singles skater from age's five to twelve and a pair skater ages eleven to thirteen. I only switched to ice dance at twelve years old because I couldn't find a good pair partner. My first dance partner Dean asked me to skate with him, and I said yes because we were good friends and I thought it would be fun. Now I love ice dancing. It is my passion.

Benji: Yes I started right with dancing because there were more girls!

Ashley, you skated for the USA before. Why and when did you switch nationalites?

Ashley: I was training in my hometown Simsbury, CT, and I was looking for a partner. At that time there were no dance boys that were suitable for me in the USA. My coach Evgeny Platov was in contact with Benji's coach in the spring of 2005. After we tried out, the German federation decided that I should move to Germany to train with Benji, and we would represent Germany.

Ashley, what was your first impression of Benjamin when you met first time?

Ashley: I thought he had a wonderful ice dancer's build. He was very friendly and funny.

And what was your impression like of Ashley, Benji?

Ashley was such a nice person and I liked her from the first moment I saw her.

What was the skating like in the USA and what it is like in Germany?

Ashley: Both the US and Germany are great places to train. The only difference is I miss my family while I am in Germany.

Which country has better circumstances in skating?

I have not noticed any major differences.

What do you like about the skating in the USA and the skating in Germany?

Ashley: There are more ice rinks and places to choose to skate in the USA. Although, Germany's skating federation is more involved because it is a smaller country. We are also a close-knit group and very supportive of each other.

Benjamin, you were born also in the USA. When did your family move to Germany? How do you feel, is Germany or the USA your home country?

We moved to Germany one year after my birth. As I grew up in Germany and my parents are German my home country is Germany as well but I really love America.

What is your connection like with the German skaters and are you still in connection with the American skaters?

Ashley: I love all the German skaters. The first German skater I met was Annette Dytrt when she came to train with Tatiana Tarasova in Simsbury. She is wonderful person and skater, just like the rest of the German skaters! I still keep in contact with all my American skating friends, and see them when I go home to visit. We keep in touch through text messaging (sms), email, and many, many calling cards! –smiles. I have trained in many different states in the USA and have met so many great people in the skating world.

Benji: I have very good connections to the German skaters because we meet a lot.

Ashley, you came from Simsbury. And Simsbury in figure skating is a very good starting point. Who were your coaches there?

Ashley: My first coach was Nina Petrenko, Viktor Petrenko's wife. She gave me an amazing base for my skating. She is an exceptional choreographer! Nina had me learn Viktor's same footwork and practice it for hours every day in the morning before kindergarten. I began skating in Simsbury right after the 1994 Olympics when Galina Zmievskaya brought many of her students to ISCC (International Skating Center of Connecticut – ed.), one of them being Oksana Baiul, who I aspired to be like. Oksana was like a big sister to me. I worked with Galina's whole group including Elena Petrenko, Vladimir Petrenko and Nikolai Morosov while he was training with Tatianna Navka. There were constant Olympic ice shows and constant news media at the rink every day. It was an exciting place to be.

What do you miss most from your home?

Ashley: My parents, five siblings, my new baby neice Emma, and our three cats. Especially my cat, Hunter! He is the best pet in the world, I miss him every day!

What is the best thing in Germany?

Ashley: I like being immersed in a new culture and language.

What are your best results?

Ashley: I competed twice in the final round at the Junior National Championships (dance and pairs), won two North Atlantic Regional titles (dance and pairs) and was an alternate for US Nationals in the 2004/2005 season in dance.

Where did you skate internationally before?

Benji: I skated in a lot of small competitions in the Czech Republic and in Vienna, Austria when I was novice. As junior I skated in two Junior Grand Prix events with my former partner.

Benjamin, how did you like the Junior Grand Prix in Budapest in 2004, where you skated with Michelle, who is Hungarian originally. And how did you like the city of Budapest?

Budapest is a very nice city and Michelle showed me a lot. One time I spent two weeks in Budapest and I stayed at Michelle's house. And the GrandPrix was very nice, I met a lot of nice people there.

Who were your former partners and why did you stop working with them?

Ashley: My first dance partner was Dean Copely from Delaware. We broke up after only one year together because I had grown taller than him. And also then my sister, mother and I moved to Texas for my sister to pursue pair skating with a partner there. Nathan Jarmuth from Maryland was my partner in the 2004/2005 season. We broke up because I did not feel he was the right partner for me.

Benji: I skated with Julia Novikov and Michelle Chrudinak. I think we just couldn't worktogether anymore because our interests were not the same.

What is the connection like with them now and what are they doing now?

Ashley: My first dance partner Dean Copely has gone back to doing dance now after skating pairs and singles for a while. He is still one of my best friends; we talk to each other very often. I have lost touch with Nathan Jarmuth. My Ex pairs partner, Craig Ratterree, is doing very well competing in Junior Grand Prix's for the USA in singles.

Benji: I'm very good friends with Julia, and we meet a lot. Unfortunately Michelle and I do not keep in touch.


With Luke, boyfriend of Ashka's sister, Kelly

Who is your coach and what is your connection with him/her?

Benji: Vitali Schulz. We are like friends, having a lot of fun together and there is a relaxed atmosphere during trainings although the level of our training is high.

Ashley: Vitali is always a lot of fun to train with, though he works us really very hard.

Where do you live, train now?

Benji: In my hometown Dortmund

Ashley: Yes, in Dortmund, Germany. I live with Benji, his mom and his two dogs.

How important is the support of the audience for you?

Ashley: To me it is very important. If I see the audience liked our performance, then I know that we did our job well! It is the greatest feeling to finish a clean and well expressed program, and have appreciation coming from the crowd after!

Benji: I'm doing my job and I hope the audience likes it but I don't pretend to be somebody else just to be liked.

What do you expect from this season?

Ashley: To make a great debut at our Junior Grand Prix assignments in order to pave the way for our future.

Benji: I also want to qualify for JGP-s and get on the national team.

What was the most important competition for you and why?

Benji: Every competition is important because you have to give your best everywhere.

Ashley: Our first German Nationals. It was my first Junior competition, and my first time competiting with Benji. I wanted to skate the best I could since my parents had to leave Germany before the competition was over. They left early because my 25 year old brother Brendan, was being hospitalized back home in America with heart failure. Even though I was depressed about the condition of my brother, my parents leaving early, struggling with injuries in both feet and wearing new skates that I had been in only a few days before the competition began, I felt we skated very well. I was very happy to be on the podium at the end of it all!

When can you first skate internationally?

Ashley: We will be eligible this year! I am so excited.

Do you have any idol in skating? If yes, have you ever met them?

Ashley: My only idol in life is Jesus, but I highly admire Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov. They are just amazing skaters, people and coaches. I have worked with them in Connecticut, and I hope to work again with them in the future. My good friends Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky from Israel are also a huge inspiration to my skating.

Benji: Not an idol but I really like Isabel Delobel and Oliver Schoenfelder. I met them twice in a training camp. And I want to be an idol for other skaters in the future – smiles.

Why is it easy to work with Benjamin? Why is it hard?

Ashley: It is easy since we are best friends and we have the same goals. We enjoy doing things together. My German isn't very good though yet, so sometimes I have trouble explaining things to him.

Why is it easy to work with Ashley? Why is it hard?

Benji: Ashley tries to work very hard and that makes it easier but we really have troubles to understand each other because of the language.

Ashley, how would you describe Benjamin as a skater?

He is very talented and the hardest worker I know.

And as a person?

He is my best friend. We spend a lot of time together.

Benjamin, how would you describe Ashley as a skater?

Ashley has very good expression that makes it easy for me to express the music better too. She is very nice.

And as a person?

We are close friends off the ice since she lives with me and my mom. She is like a sister tor me.

What are your hobbies?

Ashley: I love to write, read, go on the internet (myspace.com too), and study the Christian faith.

Benji: Snowboarding and windsurfing. When I have free time I do that.

What do you think of football as it is the "National sport" of Germany?

Ashley: Well, I don't call it soccer anymore! I have learned a lot more about it, being in Germany, and I am much more interested in it now, since the world cup will be held in the stadium here in Dortmund next year. It is directly across the street from the rink, and on the weekend when there are games you can hear the crowd cheer when there are goals, and it's really exciting! I can't wait to see a game!

Benji: Of course I'm a big fan of German football, and I think the English football sucks! -smiles

Do you use computers/internet?

Ashley: Yes, I use the internet to communicate with family and friends, and for my home schooling program.

Benji: I use my notebook for nearly everything but the internet. I only use the internet to stay in contact with all my friends because I don't have much time for them next to training.

What is the language you use in the every day communication?

Ashley: English and broken German!

Benji: English but Ashley tries to learn German so that we can speak German in the future.

Is it hard to study German, Ashley?

YES!

What are your biggest treasures in your lives?

Ashley: My health, my family's health and my cat Hunter's health!

Benji: My two little dogs Chiqita and Jack! They are so cute I love them really very much; they are part of my family.

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