ELLENTON — The stands were jam-packed inside the ice rink Wednesday afternoon. Onlookers stood on their tiptoes to see over the people in front of them and catch a glimpse at Manatee County's Olympians.
Outside of the ice rink, in the concession stand area of the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, throngs of fans — small children, senior citizens and every age in between — were perched on chairs so they could catch a view of the best pairs figure skating teams in the country — U.S. champions Caydee Denney, of Wesley Chapel, and Jeremy Barrett, of Venice, and runners-up Mark Ladwig, of Parrish, and Amanda Evora, of Bradenton — grace the ice for practice.
Ellenton Ice officials estimated the crowd at about 700 strong.
"Oh, my goodness!” Evora said. “When they said people were coming, I didn’t know they meant (this many) people were coming. That was the most packed I’ve ever seen that rink at once.”
Enthusiasm has been growing in Manatee since the pairs clinched a spot in next month’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, thanks to their 1-2 finish at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships earlier this month.
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