Now in its 25th year, the ice skating program at UD has become a premier training center for figure skating and ice dancing, while offering community classes to more than 500 each year, presenting ice shows and sponsoring competitive skaters and a championship ice hockey team.
Established in 1971 to provide recreational and instructional opportunities to the University and the community, the program opened its first rink, the Gold Arena, as part of the College of Physical Education, Athletics and Recreation. A second rink, the Blue Arena, was built beside the first in 1988, after internationally known skating coach Ron Ludington moved his competitive training program to the University.
An Olympic bronze medalist himself in 1960, Ludington has coached more than 30 world
champions and several Olympic skaters and was elected to the U.S. Figure Skating Association's Hall of Fame in 1993.
Ludington was named director of this new Ice Skating Science Development Center, the first of its type to be located in a university setting. The UD training program also benefits the college's research and teaching programs in sports science and human physiology and performance. The Blue Arena houses an Olympic-size ice skating surface, seating for 2,600 spectators and other rooms for related activities, including a weight training room.
In 1994, an international dimension was added to the coaching staff when Natalia Linitchuck and her husband Gennadiy Karponosov, 1980 Olympic gold medalists from the Soviet Union, came to the University, bringing with them champion skaters from countries around the world. Among those training at the University today is Jeff Merica, 21, a national titlist who has skated in the Ice Capades for two seasons.
No less demanding than figure skating and ice dancing is the world of hockey. The UD ice hockey team, under the guidance of head coach Josh Brandwene, this year won its second Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association Championship title and placed sixth nationally. Today, the University has created its own hockey program, with three levels of instruction that provide the necessary skills to compete in the Junior Blue Hen In-House High School or travel leagues.
The University's ice skating program "has put all the pieces together-coaching, training, equipment and research," says D. Allan Waterfield, dean of the college.