Three local athletes made successful international ice skating debuts last month at the World University Winter Games in Bulgaria.
Leslie Shackelford of Arlington placed seventh and ice dancers Peter and Barbara Buch of Silver Spring were fifth at the biennial games sponsored by the International Olympic Committee.
Shackelford, 19, a freshman at George Mason, has been skating 12 years and competing for the Washington Figure Skating Club 10 years. She has skated in regional competition from Pennsylvania to Florida for eight years, and in the sectionals from Maine to Florida for two years. Her trip to Bulgaria was a first in many ways.
"This was my first international competition," she said. "I had never competed internationally or nationally before, and I was really excited about it.
"The competition was tough, but the Americans skated well. I really liked skating in another country. The kids there (Bulgaria) would come over to us and ask for autographs. It's a hobby for them."
Her performance in the figures program placed her seventh, but she moved up with a sixth place in the short program (4.9-5.4 out of 6.0). In the long program (4.8-5.3), however, she placed eighth and dropped back to seventh overall among the 20 skaters.
Said Shackelford, "I worked hard on the figures event for this competition. My figures were good, but the other skaters' were better. I did well in the long event, but everyone else did well, too.
"The U.S. skaters had more style. We skated much better to the music . . . but it's politics. You have to have a name for yourself."
In 1981, Shackelford was ranked sixth on the East Coast, but last year's performance was a disappointment to her. "1982 was a bad year, though I felt I had skated better," she said. "I had a bad back injury, but didn't want to pull out of competiton."
Shackelford's daily schedule includes five hours of skating, full-time studies in social work at George Mason and a part-time job. For three months, she has driven to Philadelphia on weekends for coaching.
"It's supposed to get easier but it isn't. I want to find a sponsor. But I've never had my goals set on the Olympics. I just want to do well on all the competitions I'm in."
Peter Buch, 21, a junior at the University of Delaware, and sister Barbara, 23, a senior, have been skating 10 years, the last six together.
"At the beginning," he said, "I was hestitant about getting near my sister, but slowly we found we were perfect partners for each other. One day we began skating around the rink together, and people were betting on how long it would take for us to start fighting."
The Buchs entered their first competition in 1976 in Columbia, Md., and won. "It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to us," said Peter. "Then we passed more tests and kept moving up a level at a time, until we reached national competition."
The Buchs have been ice dancing for the Washington Figure Skating Club for seven years and working with Ron Ludington and Sandy Hess, U.S. Olympic ice skating coaches, while they study at Delaware.
In March 1981, they earned a U.S. Figure Skating Association gold medal for ice dance, which is awarded for successfully completing 20 progressively harder dance tests. A year later, they won the Cherry Blossom Invitational figure skating competition.
They have placed fourth in U.S. national figure skating competition each of the last two years, and are first alternates on the national team. Their trip to the World University Games was their first international appearance.
"We were very popular in Bulgaria," said Peter. "We received quite an ovation on the free dance set. The crowd clapped and threw flowers."
"We were so pleased that people had appreciated us so much. We wanted to perform so well for them," said Barbara. "We were just as good as the other teams.
"After all the years' work, it just all came together for us. It was the best performance that we had ever had. Our coach (Robby Klaine) didn't even think it was us. And the more they (the spectators) clapped, the better we skated."
The Buchs, who received scores between 4.8 and 5.0 out of a possible six, will try out for the 1984 Olympic team. "The team that went to the World Games this month will probably go to Olympics," said Peter.
First, however, they will try to win their fourth consecutive Cherry Blossom title this month.