Heroes Real And Fictional Inspire Wolf Creek Skater

The Wolf Creek Ledger

Win, lose or draw, figure skater Jamie Bowen can be sure of at least one audience member every time he steps onto the ice: his Spider-Man action figure.

"It's kind of a good-luck charm," Bowen laughs, reverently setting the figure on the boards at the edge of the Minnesota rink where he trains. "I don't really know how it got started, but this is my 'thing' now. Everybody knows not to mess with Spidey when I'm skating."

Heroes--super-powered or otherwise--loom large in the life of this sixteen-year-old Wolf Creek native. And as the second cousin of 2002 Olympic figure skating champion Eric Lansing, he's got a lot to look up to right in his own family.

"Eric is why I'm skating now," Bowen readily asserts. "Almost from the time I could walk, he was always taking me to the rink, teaching me and encouraging me. Watching him win the Olympics was such a rush... [and] I just thought, 'Hey, you know, I want to do that too'."

"I think he's definitely got some hero worship for Eric," confides Jamie's mother Dale Bowen, who--just to clear up the relationships--is Lansing's oldest cousin. "When he was little, it wasn't the presents that got him excited about Christmas. It was Eric coming home to skate with him. So we all knew pretty early on, we were going to have another skater in the family."

A skater with promise, at that. After winning the bronze medal at the U.S. Junior Championships in 2002, Bowen began his transition to the senior level, and this past January earned fourth place at the senior U.S. Nationals. Next month he will make his international debut at Skate America and Skate Canada, and may even have a chance to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.

His progress as a skater has led to many changes in his life--starting by a move away from Wolf Creek in 2002. He now lives in Ambrose, Minnesota, where his storied relative has trained since childhood. Even his coach, Alexander Chevalier, once competed against Lansing's own mentor, British figure skating legend Malcolm Redgrave.

"It's funny with the coaches, how it worked out," Bowen muses. "I think it's a good thing. If maybe there's a little bit of competition there, that might help Alex keep me from looking too much like Eric."

Bowen may joke about it, but he shares a definite family resemblance with Lansing, which may have added to critics' claims that he's only an imitator of his cousin. However, Bowen's coach, Alexander Chevalier, is quick to put down this idea.

"Jamie is really a fine skater on his own merits," Chevalier says. "But he's also very aware of how easily he could remind people of Eric Lansing, and he's making a genuine effort to avoid that. We've been working very hard over the summer to explore his own unique style."

And all of that is just what Bowen has to worry about when he's on the ice.

Off the ice, he's a typical teenager. Currently he lives in an apartment with his mother, who is temporarily staying in Minnesota to care for her youngest son, while her husband and four other children remain in Wolf Creek. She even gives Jamie home-schooling. ("It's okay, I guess," Bowen says of his academics, with a teenager's natural disdain for studying.)

When he's not hitting the textbooks, he can often be found much more eagerly perusing comic books, as well as movies and video games. Bowen admits he's even found a way to merge his love for skating and superheroes.

"This season, I'm skating to the X-Men movie soundtracks," he announces, with a fiendish gleam in his eye. "Over the summer I went and saw X2 about ten times, and I always stayed through the credits just to hear this huge, incredible music. I thought, 'This'd be great to do on the ice'. So now I've got programs to music from both movies, and for my free skate I've got just the coolest costume I've ever gotten to wear, that looks just like the movie ones." Poutingly he adds, "I wanted a set of those awesome Wolverine claws too, but my mom said two blades is enough!"

So is this what Coach Chevalier meant by Bowen's "own unique style"?

For a sixteen-year-old with a love of larger-than-life heroes, apparently so--at least for the time being.

"So many of these young skaters are so serious," says Dale Bowen. "I'm glad Jamie is comfortable with the fact he can still just be a kid, and enjoy what he's doing on the ice."

{Photos: 2003 U.S. Nationals podium; Jamie horsing around with Eric Lansing during practice; Jamie posing with his Spider-Man action figure.}