SHE GLIDES SO GENTLY that for an instant it seems the blades don't really touch the ice. Maybe it's the early childhood training in gymnastics that gives her this agility. Maybe it's the endless hours of practice that give her this grace. Most likely it's a polished combination of both, plus pure talent, that has some people saying this 12-year-old has a very good chance of skating her way to the Olympics.
A sixth-grader at St. Peter's School in Olney, Geremi Weiss recently captured the Intermediate Ladies Eastern Championship title in Boston, making her one of the three top ice skaters at the intermediate level in the country. Coincidentally, her instructor, Audrey King Weisiger, claimed the same honors 20 years ago. Both have skated under the banner of the Washington Figure Skating Club.
The Olympics are "every skater's dream," says Weisiger. "But she has the potential. That's the difference. I don't have anyone as young as she is that shows that much talent. She's not conceited and very easy to work with. She's a wonderful child."
"I hope to go to the Olympics. I think of it every night," says Geremi, who wears her hair in a Dorothy Hamill cut. "I think I'm a little better at freestyle. I'm better at doing the spins and jumps."
Geremi's father, Greg, a member of the U.S. gymnastics team in the 1964 Olympics and a Gold Medal winner in the Pan American Games, is encouraging but cautious. "I'm not going to tell you that she's going to be an Olympian," he says. "She's still a little girl and she's going to be a little girl for a very long time. She doesn't need that kind of pressure."
But while Geremi may not get any pressure to aim for a spot on the 1992 U.S. Figure Skating Olympic team, she's practicing four to five hours a day, six days a week and always preparing for the next competition.
Her days begin soon after 4 a.m. when her mother Margie, a former member of the U.S All-American Gymnastic Team who now runs MG Gymnastics from their Silver Spring home, wakes her for the 40-minute drive to the Fairfax Ice Arena. She meets Weisiger on the ice by 5:20 a.m. and begins her daily labor of love, practicing axels, making her double and triple jumps still higher and her difficult spins, faster.
Until four years ago when Geremi took up skating, she was a gymnast. Her early training on the balance beam and parallel bars has given her excellent balance and poise, which she incorporates into what has become known on the ice circuit as "the Weiss Spin," a difficult, piked-back sit.
Geremi's three-minute routine, or "program," includes 23 jumps and nine spins, all neatly choreographed by Weisiger with music from "The Electric Horseman."
Few people, child or adult, would make such a huge commitment of time and effort, but Geremi brushes off the notion that ice skating is work. "I like it 'cause it's fun!" she says as she slips on her boots and blades at the beginning of yet another training session.
Hard work isn't the only thing needed to build a champion. The Weisses estimate Geremi's skating costs $18,000 annually, and they have begun looking for corporate sponsors.
An Olympic drive of another kind has started in the Weiss home. Genna, Geremi's 13-year-old sister, is an Olympic-level diving champ who's pointing toward the '88 Games. And nine- year-old brother Michael became a diving champion at age seven. Last February he left the pool and went to the ice rink where he's making impressive strides on skates.
As for Geremi, both parents want her to keep the proper perspective.
"This has to be fun for her," says Greg Weiss. "If she wants to quit skating tomorrow and do something else, we want her to feel it's all right."
And it appears that a healthy attitude is sinking in.
"At every competition I try o do my best," says Geremi. "It doesn't matter if I don't win, or come in second or third, because I know I did my best."