Suncoast skaters headed for Olympics from an unlikely location

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Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 5:29 pm | Updated: 4:57 pm, Fri Feb 21, 2014.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Sochi Winter Olympic Games are just a few weeks away, and two Suncoast athletes will be among those representing the United States.

The ice skating pair Felicia Zhang and her partner Nathan Bartholomay train at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in Manatee. The duo have been training right there in hopes of someday making it to the Olympics, and this weekend may have changed their lives forever.

Zhang and Bartholomay won a silver medal Saturday skating at the U.S. National Championships in Boston. And on Sunday afternoon, the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team chose the pair to represent the United States in Sochi, Russia

"At the National Championship you either got to do it or you don't. And they are such strong kids and such strong skaters -- they did it," says Lyndon Johnston, skating director at the ice complex and one of the team’s coaches.

The pair is still in Boston for meetings related to the upcoming Olympics, but Johnston tells ABC 7 he was overtaken with emotion when he found out the news. "It is an uncontrollable anxiety. Almost like you're going to be sick, but because you're so excited for them."

Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex is known for training up some of the best skaters in the world. Back in 2010 they sent two pairs of skaters to compete in the doubles competition at the Vancouver Olympics.

"To have what happened in 2010 and to have lightning strike twice, is just amazing."

The complex says all credit is due to the amazing team of coaches on staff and the talented skaters who sacrifice -- even holidays with family -- to train. "The family that they have is within this rink, and that tells us that they're dedicated and that this is really what they want to do."

The Ellenton family of skaters is not just sending Felicia and Nathan to the Olympics this year. There are two other teams representing the U.K. and Canada who also train in Ellenton.

"Must be the water that they are using here in Ellenton. We're just very fortunate. I'm honored and humbled that we've had such great success."

The pair will train on and off the ice in Ellenton at least 5 days a week and 7 hours a day for the next two and a half weeks in preparation for the Olympics.

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