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Kravette plans a book on politics and skating

Former ice dancer competitor is expanding his master's thesis

Ron Kravette, shown with wife Michelle and children Noah and Shelby, is combining his love of skating and history into a book.
Ron Kravette, shown with wife Michelle and children Noah and Shelby, is combining his love of skating and history into a book. (courtesy Kravette family)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(08/26/2010) - One of the great pleasures of Ron Kravette's life is that he is still friends with all his former ice dancing partners. It makes savoring the memories of a U.S. junior title and seven medals at the senior level that much sweeter.

Kravette's longevity and success as an ice dancer is somewhat remarkable given the fact that he gave up the sport entirely between the ages of 14 to 19.

He grew up first in New Jersey and then Southern California, where he followed older sisters Roberta and Aimee into skating. Roberta didn't stick with the sport, but Aimee was a serious singles competitor. She competed at the U.S. Championships at the senior level, and the entire family went to Atlanta for her final appearance in 1980. Soon after, she turned pro and joined Ice Capades for two seasons.

During Aimee's last few seasons, their father had been ill and didn't work for stretches of time, so Kravette stopped and allowed Aimee to reach her peak. Instead of being at the rink, he enjoyed tradition high school sports like cross country, track and tennis.

After his first year of college, Kravette, now 47, bought himself a pair of skates. "With the intention of going back to figure skating and getting my gold medal [test] and then teaching part-time to put myself through law school," he says. "Instead I stayed with it."

The year he earned his bachelor's degree from the University of California Irvine with a major in history, he won the U.S. junior ice dance title with Colette Huber. He was also working 20 hours a week at the time as a telemarketer.

"My second year as a senior ice dancer, I trained in Canada with Bernie Ford. Then I skated in Delaware for the next four years after that with Ron Ludington. That's when I skated with Suzy Semanick," he says. They won bronze medals at the 1989 and '90 U.S. Championships.

"I will always be appreciate toward her and Ron Ludington for giving me a chance," he adds. "She was fifth in the world....She never played the 'I'm better than you card' ever. She was always, 'We're in this together.' She was really wonderful.'"

After Semanick decided she no longer wanted to compete, Kravette teamed with Elizabeth McLean. After that he forged his longest and perhaps most memorable partnership with Amy Webster. They twice won bronze and twice pewter at the U.S. Championships, and after turning pro in 1997 enjoyed an incredible, jam-packed year touring with Champions on Ice and Elvis Stojko's Tour of Champions and competing professionally at the U.S. Open, the World Professional Championships and Challenge of Champions. He thanks their agent, Michael Rosenberg, for getting them such opportunities.

After they'd paid off all their debts and saved some money, Webster, who'd been married for a couple of years, decided to start a family. Kravette soon followed suit. He had been coaching since moving to Boston to train with Webster, and one day got a call from a former Ice Capades skater named Michelle who was interested in lessons.

"I know it's sort of a silly story, but when I heard her voice on the phone it felt like I'd known her in the past," Kravette recalls. "I called my sister Roberta, who was living and working in Moscow at the time, and said, 'I think I just met the woman I'm going to marry.'"

When they wed in 1999, Webster served as best man.

They're the parents of two non-skaters, Noah, 9, and Shelby, 8.

"We used to take them to the rink a bunch of times each year. They couldn't wait to get off. They were always more interested in the game machines," he says.

Kravette went along when Aimee and Michelle attended the recent Ice Capades reunion in Las Vegas, and served as babysitter while the two women enjoyed the festivities. Afterwards, the Kravette family went to the Grand Canyon.

Today, Kravette is a full-time skating coach, dividing his time between the Skating Club of Boston and Phillips Academy, a prestigious boarding school in Andover. He also teaches part-time at a local community college. Fueled by a lifelong love of learning and a passion for history and government, Kravette earned a master's degree in government at Harvard University in 2006. He teaches world history, Western civilization and American government and politics.

Both of Kravette's parents are deceased, but he keeps a piece of his mother with him in the exquisite costumes she designed for him throughout his skating career. A former student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Mrs. Kravette was admired for her incredible attention to detail.

When asked what his fondest memories are from his competitive career, Kravette mentions one free dance with Semanick in 1989 and one with Webster in 1995.

"What made them both so special is that going into the free dance we were kind of underdogs and we had emotional things to prove to ourselves," he says. "We had to skate as clean or as perfectly as we could. We skated last those nights. Not only did we skate well both those performances, but we had standing ovations. I had two standing ovations at nationals during my time in skating. Those were really cool, really special moments when it all came together."

Today as a coach, Kravette works with both young skaters and adults. Michelle is still among his students, as she's a member of the Esprit de Corps adult synchro team that won the U.S. title last year. He works on skating skills with freestyle skaters as well as pairs teams. He coaches a bit of ice dance as well as synchro.

"The common denominator is teaching people how to skate and with their enthusiasm and my enthusiasm we make them as good as they can be," he says.

Kravette is actually taking off the fall semester from teaching history and government so he can focus on turning his master's thesis into a book, which he hopes will be published by an academic publisher. Titled, "The Red Edge: How the Collapse of the Soviet Union Changed Figure Skating in the U.S. and the World," it encompasses history, politics and skating. The book will have three parts, from the rise of Soviet skaters in the 60s to 1991; then from 1991 to 2002; and finally 2002 to present with IJS.

"Skating is a wonderful part of my life, but not the only part," he says. "The most important things in my life are my kids. I love being a dad. While I would have liked to have gone to the Olympics, I would not change that at this moment because that might have affected the family I have today.

"I love academic teaching," he adds. "I need the goal of always looking toward the next thing. That next thing for me is to write this book."