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Judy Blumberg Was Face of American Ice Dancing
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Friday, December 1, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Judy Blumberg doesn’t care much for cereal.

But when she and her ice dancing partner appeared on the cover of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, her father bought out all the boxes at the local neighborhood store in Tarzana, Calif., where she grew up.

“And when another store didn’t have any, he told the store manager he would never shop there again, and that he would advise his friends to boycott it, as well,” Blumberg recounted.

Blumberg is a five-time National Dance Ice Skating Champion, a two-time Olympic ice dancer and a U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Famer. And she’s coached many of the figure skaters who have trained at the Sun Valley Ice Rink.

As a result, she is one of five Sun Valley athletes who will be inducted into the Sun Valley Winter Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023. The ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at the library with a reception following. There is a waiting list for the event, but it will be livestreamed and recorded to watch later at https://vimeo.com/event/3883879.

Blumberg, the daughter of a clothing manufacturer, said she first became enamored with ice skating because of her neighbor’s cute figure skating costume. A passion for skating soon followed, and the rink quickly became the only place she wanted to be as she practiced three hours a day before school and a few hours afterwards.

When she was 19, she switched from singles to ice dancing, becoming a five-time U.S. national champion from 1981-85.

She also was a world bronze medalist in 1983-85 at Helsinki, Ottawa and Tokyo, the 1980 Ice Canada International champion and 1981 Skate America champion.

She met her primary skating partner Michael Seibert at the 1977 U.S. Championships in Hartford, Conn.

“Our knees worked together,” she recalled.

The two won the bronze medal at the first U.S. Championships in 1979. They won the silver medal at the 1980 U.S. Championships. And they took seventh at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., before taking sixth at the 1980 World Championships in West Germany. The Lake Placid Olympics was only the second Olympics in which ice dancing was a medal sport.

They then went on a tear, winning gold at the 1981 Skate America and 1982 U.S. Championships. They finished fourth at the 1982 World Championships and they won three consecutive World bronze medals beginning with the 1983 World Championships.

They finished fourth at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, losing out to the Soviet Union pair following a controversial low score by an Italian judge.

They had ranked third in the compulsory and original dances before the judge gave them a lower score in free dance than the other judges. The Rimsky-Korsakov “Scheherazade’ they skated to was not fit for ice dancing, she said.

The two competed one more season, winning their fifth national title and bronze at the 1985 World Championships. And they won the 1988 World Professional title before parting ways.

“I wanted to continue,” said Blumberg, who danced to such songs as “Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” and “Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malaguena” during her career. “But Michael was tired of the politics.”

Since, Blumberg has served as a commentator for CBS Sports. She also underwent rigorous training, watching days of videotape and testing, to become an international technical judge and a national technical judge.

As such, she found herself determining whether skaters over rotated or under rotated—all dictated by single-spaced criteria in the two-inch thick notebooks she reviewed enroute to competitions.

“We concentrate on their feet, not whether they’re flailing their arms overhead,” said Blumberg.

She also served as ensemble director for the Ice Theatre of New York, which practiced at Sun Valley Resort for a handful of years before the pandemic. She was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1996.

If she has one piece of advice to offer aspiring skaters, it would be a quote from Carlos Fassi, who coached Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill.

“The definition of a champion? On your worst day you have to be so much better than anyone else.”

THE CLASS OF 2023

Judy Blumberg will be inducted into the Sun Valley Winter Sports Hall of Fame, along with Sun Valley Suns hockey coach John “Cub” Burke; alpine skier Heather Flood-Daves, adaptive alpine and Nordic ski coach Marc Mast, and alpine skier Jonna Mendes.


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