12-year-old San Francisco figure skater takes aim at nationals 

’Tis the season for many to dust off and lace up their ice skates.

For one young San Franciscan training for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, which run Sunday through Jan. 12, ice time is business as usual. Six days a week, year-round, Dinh Tran is at the indoor Yerba Buena Ice Center working with his team: a jump coach, a spin coach and a choreographer. On Sundays, he stays on dry land for some ballroom dancing, an activity that helps with his “arm work,” according to the 4-foot-6, 90-pound skater.

Tran’s long program is a dramatic 2½-minute routine performed to the music from “Peter Pan.” Sweeping through regionals in Vacaville and sectionals last month in Oakland, the 12-year-old Stuart Hall sixth-grader qualified for nationals in the short program intermediate category, skating to Ricky Martin’s “Cup of Life.”

Finishing fourth in the juvenile regular program at last year’s U.S. nationals in Omaha, Neb., Tran feels the experience on the big stage will enhance his chances this year.

“I’ll have fun, work hard and do what I do every day, just like it’s practice,” Tran said with a smile, an ever-present feature both on and off the ice.

Tran’s mom, Mimi Hoang, has been there for every step, spin, double axel and triple-toe loop in the eight years that the third of her four sons has been dazzling the folks at Yerba Buena. The departure of her eldest son, Phong, a freshman at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, has provided a bit more space in the family’s studio apartment in The City’s Tenderloin district.

Don Corbiell has been coaching Tran since the beginning and will be rink side with Mimi in Boston as Tran vies for national champion status. Tran, Hoang and Corbiell will also enjoy watching the nation’s top skaters, who will be competing for spots in the upcoming Sochi Olympics.

Tran has his eyes on making the U.S. figure skating team for the 2018 Winter Olympics, when he will be 16, but for now his focus is all about hometown pride and representing San Francisco at nationals.

“I want to bring the Skating Club of San Francisco some popularity,” Tran said before slipping away to the ice for his short-program performance at the annual Yerba Buena Ice Center Holiday Show.

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David Liepman

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