There are times, Frederic Buch will tell you, when he wonders what WOULD HAVE HAPPENED AND HE INTRODUCED HIS CHILDREN barbara and Peter, to soccer or basketball instead of taking them ice skating 10 years ago.
Barbara, 21, and Peter Buch, 19, now are among the nation's top junior division ice dancing skaters, having recently won the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) gold medal for ice dance.
But skating also has involved personal sacrifice and financial burdens for the Silver Spring family. What began as an afternoon diversion has become a $15,000-a-year endeavor involving five coaches at $25 an hour, ice time at $90 an hour for private sessions, plane fare for distant competitions and three pairs of $450 skates each year for each skater.
"It is very difficult and can only be done if the family works together," said their mother Ilse. "Financially, it is beyond belief."
"Every year we ask if we can afford it, but then we relize it doesn't matter," said Barbara Buch. "There are things more valuable than money. Skating has brought our family very close together."
Meeting the bills is a joint venture that requires the parents, who came to the United States from Germany before World War II, to work overtime. Frederick Buch is a broadcaster for the Voice of America and operates and audio-visual language service. Ilse Vuch is a camp supervisor who recently left the Voice of America, where she was a producer, to become her children's full-time manager. Barbara Buch is a beauty consultant and her brother runs a recording service that provides music for other skaters. Both attend college.
The Buchs, who went to Springbrook High School, are looking for a financial sponsor. Because there is no intercollegiate competition in ice dancing, they are not eligible for athletic scholarships at the University of Michigan, where both are pre-med students from July to January. They also train there with Sandy Hess, a U.S. Olympic coach from Ann Arbor.
"Michigan told us, 'If you only played hockey then we could pay you,' but figure skating is just as much a sport," Ilse Buch said.
From January to July the younger Buchs are in Silver Spring, but make a 200-mile round trip to Wilmington, Del., twice a week to work with another Olympic coach, Ron Luddington. "It's tough to commute," said Ilse Buch, "but the ice in D.C. is not geared for competitors."
The Buchs attend the University of Maryland part time while in Silver Spring. When they are not skating, they take ballroom dance and ballet lessons. They spend two to three hours on the ice in the offseason, then in July increase their training to four to six hours a day.
"We spend two to three hours perfecting something. We must go through the whole routine because it must be perfect when we go out in public," Barbara Buch said. A typical day begins at 1 p.m. with ballet class in Bethesda. Then comes a 3:15 practice in Baltimore, a 5:30 practice at the Mount Vernon ice rink and a 10:30 practice in Gaithersburg.
Barbara and Peter Buch began skating as a team five years ago. When their parents first suggested it, Peter's reaction was, "I wouldn't be caught dead on the ice with my sister." But he agreed to participate in one competition, just to humor his parents.
They won and "it was the best feeling, the turning point, our first success," he said.
"It finally dawned on us that in order to get ahead we had to work together," said his sister. "Now we are best friends. We have to be; we spend 24 hours a day together."
"At first there was a lot of brother-sister rivalry and a great lack of knowledge of what exactly should be happening on the ice," said Nancy Lucci, who helps coach the Buchs in Washington. "But now that's gone."
In March, the Buchs won the USFSA medal, awarded for successfully completing 20 progressively harder dance test. They now are eligible to qualify for international and Olympic competition. "It's the elite of the competitive field," Barbara Buch said.
This year the Buchs were designated alternates to the national competition in junior dance. To get to the national competition, a skater must place among the top three in regional and sectional competitions. Next year they hope to go to nationals in the senior category. And in 1984, they hope to go to the Olympics.
"People are starting to recognize us and that's a great feeling," Peter Buch said.
"People have asked for our autographs and total strangers are saying hello," added his sister. "It's a great feeling to have people applauding."