recreational ice skating

Two-time Olympian and World silver medalist David Santee spends so much of his time coaching skaters that he has little time to reflect on the path that brought him Olympic fame and a 30-plus year career in a sport that he has loved since age five.  These days, however, he’s been waxing nostalgic

From Skating ISI to Hall of Famer

David Santee 1996 copyTwo-time Olympian and World silver medalist David Santee spends so much of his time coaching skaters that he has little time to reflect on the path that brought him Olympic fame and a 30-plus year career in a sport that he has loved since age five.  These days, however, he’s been waxing nostalgic …

At our annual Ice Arena Conference & Trade Show in May, ISI inducted Santee into the ISI Ice Skating Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The ISI Hall of Fame Award honors someone who has made unmistakable and lasting contributions to ice skating and/or the ice arena industry. Santee has been a lifelong participant, competitor and coach in the ISI program, and today, continues to contribute as a staunch supporter of the ISI and its programs.

A humble man, Santee wasn’t expecting either award. “It’s been an interesting exercise to look back and go over the years and appreciate what I accomplished,” he says. “I don’t do a lot of that. I use a lot of stories about my experiences when I’m coaching, but not about what I accomplished. I know in my heart what I’ve accomplished.”

When Santee found out at that he was being inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, he was in Missouri visiting his younger son Michael, a second lieutenant in the Army. (His older son Chris works as a scientist for a pharmaceutical company.)

“I got a call at 7 a.m. and I didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the number,” he says. “Later, my phone rang again and I answered it out of reflex and it was Larry Mondschein, chairman of the Hall of Fame nominating committee.  I wasn’t shocked because it didn’t really hit me what was happening until two-thirds of the way through the conversation.”

“This is the gift that keep on giving,” he states. “I wasn’t prepared for it, but it feels good to be recognized for a lifetime of striving.”



The Journey

When Santee began skating as a young boy, he never dreamed how far the sport would take him. “Being a typical boy,” I never looked ahead,” he says. “I was going along for the ride.”

Santee was just five years old when he started skating under the direction of ISI  founder Michael Kirby at the Michael Kirby Skating School in Park Ridge, Ill. He immediately fell in love with the sport. At age nine, he began to think about competing, and as he grew older he became more focused and determined.

“I didn’t have as much natural ability as my younger brother, but I had the drive,” he says.

Santee’s younger brother Jimmie is president of the Professional Skaters Association (PSA). Five years younger than David, he also skated professionally, touring with Disney on Ice. David has always admired him because he knows it must have been hard for Jimmie to be in his shadow at times.

“He supported me and he never held it against me,” he says.

Santee credits coaches Evy and Mary Scotvold, who also coached former Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan, for guiding him through most of World Championships and his second Olympics, adding that he learned a lot from them both on and off the ice.

At age 13, Santee became the youngest Junior National Champion. When he retired from skating at age 23, he had been to two Olympics — 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria, where he finished 6th and 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he placed 4th.  He also finished second in the 1981 World Championships. His decision to retire from competitive skating wasn’t difficult he says. “I was second in the world to Scott Hamilton… There were fewer options to make money back then… I was ready to retire earlier, but stayed one more year and I ended up taking eighth place at the World Championship in 1982.”

Santee feels lucky to have competed in the Olympic games in Lake Placid, New York, where he got to see the remarkable Miracle on Ice. “I had amazing experiences. I saw Eric Heiden, who won every gold medal in speed skating, and Michael Eruzione — two of the greatest athletes.”

“The benefit of being a two-time Olympian is that the first time was a blur,” he explains. “Four years later I was 22. I knew what to expect as I had been through the ups and downs so I was able to appreciate the experience. I learned not to worry about the number, but to be the best you.”

Santee next turned to professional skating and toured with The John Curry Skating Company before working as a figure skating commentator for ABC Sports.



His journey brought him full circle when, at the age of 27, he returned to his beloved hometown of Park Ridge in 1984 to become a coach and skating director of the Park Ridge Park District’s Oakton Ice Arena. He’s been there ever since — 31 years— except for a seven-year period when he worked at a rink in neighboring Niles.  Over the years, he has quietly built a solid skating school, where American figure skater Agnes Zawadzki received training early on under the guidance of Santee.

“I always wanted to come back to Park Ridge,” says Santee, also an ISU certified technical specialist. “Oakton Ice Arena had always been supportive of me to that point that the personnel came to watch me in the Olympics.

“I’m proud of the program we’ve developed and the quality of skaters we’ve had through the years.”

A longtime supporter of ISI, Santee believes in the ISI program and serves as the Instructor Representative on the ISI Board of Directors.

“ISI has been around a long time and they do what they do well, “ he says. “ISI has a solid program of developing skills at the lower level. Why change something that isn’t broke? Most of the skating community knows my thoughts on this.

“ISI has been great for me. So many great skaters — Ashley Wagner and Jason Brown to name a few — have come up through the ISI program and that says a lot about their role of developing skaters … Look at the results!”

Santee’s Faves

Music: Fleetwood Mac

Pal: His golden retriever Tazer

Place: United Center –(home of the Chicago Blackhawks)

Restaurant: Lou Malnati’s

Skating rink: The former Broadmoor World Arena, Colorado Springs, Co.

Vacation: Disney World

Career Highlights
  • ISI Hall of Famer
  • U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Famer
  • 1981 World silver medalist
  • Seven-time U.S. World team member
  • Two-time Olympian (4th place in men’s singles in 1980)
  • Youngest male to win U.S. Junior Championship
  • 13-time U.S. medalist, ranking 3rd all time
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