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88-year-old still coaching roller skating champions in Cordova

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CORDOVA, Tenn. — Six days a week, you can see and hear roller skaters taking classes with a Hall of Famer.

The coach's name is Caroline Mirelli.

She's 88 years old.

"I like to see them come in that can`t stand up. Before they leave, they're standing up and going around on their own. I like that part a lot," said Mirelli.

Mirelli's skated since she was a child. She's been both a figure skating champion and toured the world a roller skater.

"It just gets in your blood and your life and that`s it, it`s the thing to do," she said.

The sport led her to her husband and has always been how she's made a living.

"It was a skating show or working in a rink or teaching at a skating rink or running a skating rink. We had a skating rink for 20 years."

She took some time off to be a mom, but when her husband passed in the 90s she turned back to coaching.

"It`s been good. Skating's been good to me."

She teaches all ages, helping those who want to learn for fun and those who want to compete.

"She helped me become a national champion," said competitive roller skater D.J. Whealon.

Mirelli hasn't put on a pair of skates since she broke her pelvis two years ago.

"These little kids come running in front of you and jumping around you and I just can`t take a chance because I've got to take care of myself to keep going," said Mirelli.

Teaching on foot has yet to slow her down.

On the day we met her on the rink, she had two other special teachers by her side: Her daughter and one of her former students.

"She was fire. You did not talk when she was talking and she just practiced, everybody practiced so hard and so dedicated," said former student Leanne Wilson.

Wilson says Mirelli coached her in the '60s.

Then 40 years later, she found out she was still teaching.

So Wilson got right back into it, even starting a skate club within Arlington Community Schools.

"I was so excited because probably my teaching skills, a lot of them come from her because she keeps picking on you, picking on you and picking on you until you get right," said Wilson.

That technique hasn't changed.

"I had one lady at church that said, 'Well you don`t know her. That's coach. You don`t know her when she`s at the skating rink. She`s not the same way she is at church," said Mirelli. "And I said, 'What?' Because I holler but they're used to it.'

Not only used to it, but everyone adores her for it.

"Miss Caroline`s a great teacher," said student William Parks.

They praise her for the nonstop support and dedication.

"For all us old people, she`s our mom and we love her," said Wilson.

Mirelli coaches at the Cordova Skating Center and the East End Skating Center if you're interested in taking a class.

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