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Indiana company customizes skates for Team USA

Several of the athletes in the women's figure skating competition wear ice skates customized by a company in Richmond, Indiana.
Credit: WTHR
The skates for some of Team USA's top skaters come from Skates US in Richmond, Ind.

RICHMOND, Ind. — Tuesday is a big night in Beijing for Olympic figure skating.

When you tune in for the women's short program in primetime, there's a local connection to watch for during the competition.

Several of the athletes wear ice skates customized by a company here in Indiana.

Inside a Richmond farmhouse, Hoosiers are helping the world's best figure skaters achieve their Olympic dreams.

Skates U.S. is a family-owned shop where most of the work is done in a single-car garage. The company has been giving elite figure skaters an edge over the competition since 2004.

In fact, the skates Mariah Bell and Alysa Liu wear in Beijing came from Skates U.S. The business is the source of ice skates for 10 of the 16 members of Team USA.

"I get the opportunity to know that what we're doing is really counting and helping them and helping them to skate better," said owner David Ripp.

Ripp was a competitive ice skater and roller skater himself years ago.

This company, he said, grew out of his grandfather's skate business, Snyder Skates.

Credit: WTHR
Skates US President David Ripp used to be a competitive skater himself.

Now, Ripp sells high-performance ice skates and roller skates through Skates U.S., which is the exclusive U.S. distributor of boots from Italian manufacturer Edea.

The boots get customized in the Richmond shop, after foot tracings and photos are sent in from the skaters.

"The structure of the boot is a carbon fiber type of material that we can heat and bend and form and shape, so it can be custom shaped to the foot," Ripp explained. "We heat them up with special hair dryers. They go to about 170 degrees and we heat them up, bend them, form them and as they cool, they harden into that new shape."

RELATED: Beijing Preview, Feb. 15: Women's figure skating begins after off-ice drama

Josh Schuyler is the lead technician at Skates U.S. He said it takes several hours to create a custom fit, from start to finish.

A salon-style hairdryer is one of his most important tools.

"I heat up the boot, then I hook it to a boot punch. I'm punching out for an ankle bone," he showed 13News. "This gives them more comfort in the boot that way their ankle bone doesn't bother them when they're skating."

From customizing boots to sharpening blades, he's quite literally shaping the success for Team USA.

"It takes a lot of pride, for sure," Schuyler said.

Credit: WTHR
Josh Schuyler customizes an ice skate at Skates US in Richmond.

So when you watch those elite athletes, pay attention to their feet. Their road to Olympic ice ran through Richmond.

"Usually the boots, that's the first thing I look at when I watch skating," Schuyler said. "Then I watch the performance."

"I hope they skate clean and do the best they can," Ripp added. "It's very fulfilling!"

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