Catching Up with Peter Crameri
November 2009

Peter is a former Victorian and Australian Novice Men's Singles Champion.

He is also a State Senior Men's Champion, and as a professional, toured with Walt Disney's World on Ice, playing such roles as Gaston in Beauty and The Beast and Woody The Cowboy in Toy Story.


Peter performs a spread eagle in the spotlight

What are your first memories of the sport?
I vaguely remember something about mum and my sister going to see an ice show (perhaps Holiday On Ice) at the old Olympic Pool in Melbourne (yet to become the Sports and Entertainment Centre, where I would later perform with Torvill And Dean and Disney On Ice). I remember being a bit miffed I wasn't taken along as well!

What factors influenced you to get involved?
My mum had been a recreational skater as a teenager, and I remember she used to lend her skates to her cousin. I can remember seeing them one day and thinking I'd like to try it. Some lifelong family friends of ours had begun to skate, and one of their coaches turned out to have skated with my mum some thirty or so years earlier.

She wanted to see if it was the same guy, and as it was school holidays, we decided to go to the rink in Ringwood, where our friends skated. That was a Tuesday. I loved it and went back on the Saturday, and began taking lessons from the guy mum knew in her teens the following week. I stayed learning from him for seven years.

How old were you when you began taking lessons? 
I was 9 when I began taking lessons, (that was) in 1979. My first lesson was the third time I went skating.

Spinning in the spotlight

Where did you train?
I began skating at Iceland Ringwood, in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Iceland Footscray, in the West was run by the same people, so I also skated there as it was much closer to my home than Ringwood was. Also, my coach taught there as well. Once Ringwood closed in 1981, most of the people from there went across to Footscray.

Who were your coaches and choreographers?

My first coach was Barry Lewis. He taught me from the start until 1986 for seven years. After we parted ways, I went to Aileen Nash at Dandenong. She was a wonderful coach, with a myriad of champion skaters to her name. She refined my style and gave me a new enthusiasm for the sport.

Soon after joining Aileen, Dandenong closed its doors. So, most people from there went to the smaller and now extremely busy Olympic Ice Skating Centre in Oakleigh. Unfortunately, she decided to finish up coaching due to other commitments, after I had been with her for only a year. I was pretty disappointed. I really enjoyed my time with her. She was fun and made me enjoy skating again.

By this stage (1989), I was now working full time and beginning to wonder where I was heading with my skating. I decided to see how I went and stuck it out for a bit longer. I started lessons from another very highly qualified coach, a lovely lady who also taught at Olympic, Magda Mayer. I spent around two years with Magda before she relocated to the ACT to work for the Australian Institute of Sport. So, once again, I was without a coach!

As I had been competing at the Senior level and now working full time, it was beginning to prove difficult to devote the necessary time required to skate well at this standard. Also, as Oakleigh was pretty much the only rink in Melbourne, it was VERY busy, having to cater to all areas of skating (with Figure, dance, hockey, speed, curling and public skating). There just wasn't enough ice time to train as much as required, not to mention enough hours in the day, once work was finished! As far as choreography went, I pretty much did my own, with some input and tidying up from my coaches!

What styles of music did you like skating to most?
How would you go about choosing music? I skated to all sorts of music. My first ever program was to "Fiddler on The Roof". I didn't always change my music every year because once I found a piece I liked, I would enjoy skating to it and found that would often make me skate better. I skated to "Cats" for my short program for many years. I loved that music! I also had pieces from other Broadway shows as well as various movie sountracks. My final year short program was a top 40 dance tune played at some of the clubs I used to go out to!!! So pretty much a big mixture of styles. In looking for music to skate to, I would just notice something on TV or in a movie or sometimes used pieces some of my favourite skaters of the time skated to. The only music I didn't choose was my 1st program. My coach picked that one out. After then, I always chose my own.

As Gaston in Beauty And The Beast

Did you have any idols growing up? If so, who were they and why?
Most of my idols were female skaters. Not sure why. They were all pretty much the really athletic, brilliant jumpers. People like Elaine Zayak, Midori Ito, Debi Thomas. All fantastic jumpers, brilliant athletes and I just loved the way they skated. (I must say I am lucky to have met all three!)

Other skaters I admired were Gordeeva And Grinkov, they were just pure magic, no words can describe. Torvill and Dean, Brian Boitano (another brilliant jumper) In more recent years, Michelle Kwan is just the perfect combination of class, elegance and athleticism. I think I just find the women much more exciting than the men.

Did you take on a particular character when skating?
Not that I can recall. I do know that when things were going well out there, you just felt like you were in a totally different world. One of your own!

How many hours a week did you train preparing for competition?
When skating in Victoria was in its prime, there were 6 rinks operating. I would train about 20 hours a week at 2 different rinks. I loved it.

Did you do any off - ice training?
I didn't do that much off ice training, Gymnastics for a few years but there just wasn't the time. A bit of bike riding too , I found that strengthened my legs and made me jump higher.

What sort of mental preparation did you do before each competition?
I used to watch videos of my favourite skaters to get inspiration and also try to block out everything around me. I would be under the stands with a walkman on listening to my program going through it in my mind, visualising and trying to feel all the jumps. I didn't like to hear what was going on up above.

With elite skaters either leaving the sport or commuting to Bendigo to train, how hard was it to find ice time in the late 1980s when two of the major rinks closed? It was difficult but I was scaling back the hours I was skating because I was working full time as well as training and also competing alot less. Some of the elite skaters moved interstate as a result. Was not a good time for the sport in Victoria and it has suffered ever since. Hopefully when the new complex at Docklands opens, things will improve. During my competitive years, State Championships were held over a week. Now I think it's done in a night or two!

As Woody The Cowboy in Disney's Toy Story

What are your favourite competitive moments and achievements as an eligible / professional?
Probably my favourite competitive moments would have been most of 1983, a very good year for me, winning the Victorian and National titles, and I think most competitions I skated in that year. Another milestone was when I landed my first double axel in competition. I still remember that like it was yesterday. (It was at the) Autunm Trophy in Canberra, (where I was awarded) one of my favourite trophies too!

As a professional, probably skating the lead role of Gaston in Beauty and The Beast and four years later, Woody in Toy Story, in front of my family, friends and hometown crowds in Melbourne.

That was awesome.

What was life on the road like as a touring professional?
Life on the road was probably the best time of my life. I mean, I was being paid to do what I love, it was such fun and we were seeing all sorts of fantastic places all over the world! I met some of the most wonderful people ever, they will be lifelong friends. They were like family. Well, they were family. We lived, worked and travelled together. Some fantastic memories.

For our readers out there planning to audition for professional tours such as Disney on Ice, what advice do you have to help them prepare?
Anyone who wants to move in that direction, I would say GO FOR IT! If that's what you want to do, then do in while you are young and before you have responsibilities. Most people want to travel so why not do it this way? Doing something you enjoy, getting paid for it and seeing the world at the same time!

In the auditions, you need to have solid basic skills in both directions, forwards and backwards and on both feet. Work on all your stops, and if you have a program to display then do so. Also, anyone with video footage of you in action, maybe in a competition or something, then send it or take it along. Also, don't be nervous. Easy to say I know but they (those auditioning you) know what it's like. They were once there too. Good luck!

What are your thoughts on the current International Judging System over the 6.0 format?
I must say I don't know much about it. As most of you reading know (I think) TV coverage of skating in Australia is tragic if there is any at all. So I haven't really heard much about the new system. I don't have much to do with skating these days because of the rink situation in Melbourne and where I live.
I am (located) in country Victoria, two hours from the city.

I still skate as often as I can and hope that when the new Docklands rinks open, I will be able to go weekly at least. Who knows, if they have competitions for professionals in Australia, maybe you could see me out there again one day!


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