Ice Network

Handra, Sinek reveling in being first-time parents

Ice dancers remain closely tied to sport through coaching, businesses
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As the owners of successful skating businesses and with the addition of a baby boy to their household, Beata Handra and Charles Sinek are living the good life. -courtesy of Beata Handra

Beata Handra and Charles Sinek, who represented the United States in ice dance at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, will celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks while basking in the joy, challenges and exhaustion of being new parents.

With their businesses Sk8tape and Rockerz Skate Guards established and Sinek's work with Avanta Skating Boots going well, the couple decided it was finally time to start a family. Since welcoming Kai Bela Sinek (whose name reflects Handra's Japanese-Hungarian background) into the world on May 11, Handra, 40, and Sinek, 48, said that their stress level has been raised slightly but that they are madly in love with their new son.

"Parenthood is a trip," Handra said. "We keep saying, 'Oh my gosh, we have a baby.' We love it. Kai is so adorable."

Handra skated and coached right up until her son's birth, performing in last year's Ice Dance International (IDI) production of Shall We Dance on Ice while several months pregnant. (She referred to the show as the "maternity ward" because castmate Kim Navarro was also pregnant and another performer in the show, Naomi Lang, had just had a baby: "The costume fitting brought up anxieties for all of us," Handra said.)

She'd had an ultrasound May 9, and on the day Kai was born, she was on a test session in the morning.

"I'm putting kids on the ice, and I can hear my phone vibrating in my purse on the bench behind me," she recalled. "I got all the results back from my kids, I talked to the parents and discussed their tests, and then I called the number that had called me. It was the doctor, who read the ultrasound report. He said, 'Come straight to the hospital.'"

After having Kai, Handra took a relatively brief maternity leave and is now easing back into coaching at Oakland Ice Center. She hopes to return to performing with IDI in the near future.

With the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, approaching, Handra finds her mind wandering back to the time she competed on the world's grandest sports stage. For years after the Salt Lake City Games, Handra wore her Olympic ring; now, though, the piece is worn down. Still, it serves as a reminder of a brilliant conclusion to her and Sinek's competitive career.

Heading into the 2002 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, Sinek was dealing with an injury. Despite their limited preparation time, the team pulled out two good performances. They knew the silver and bronze medal-winning teams were not Olympic eligible, so when they saw they'd finished fourth, they were overcome with emotion.

"It was the greatest surge of happiness and ecstasy," Handra said. "That was a highlight. I always get goose bumps talking about it. It was gratitude and excitement, not just for us but also for our coaches and our families."

At the opening ceremony in Salt Lake City, they got to meet President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, who enthusiastically greeted the U.S. team.

"Everything was so grand," Handra said. "When you're walking in and looking up at the stands and all the shimmering lights, you know you're part of the biggest spectacle on Earth."