Got Olympic fever?
Well, the women who skate with two-time Olympic figure skater JoJo Starbuck at Codey Arena in West Orange on Monday mornings sure seem to. They participate in "JoJo's Cool Workout," a weekly skating class sponsored by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.
"I love teaching these women," said Starbuck, who is as gracious off the ice as she is on it. "For adults, it's slower to achieve things, but when they do a turn correctly they are so happy."
In 1968, Starbuck made skating history when she and her skating partner, Ken Shelley, competed as the youngest pairs team the United States had ever sent to the Olympic Games. Starbuck and Shelley were crowned the 1970, 1971 and 1972 U.S. National Pairs Champions and were the first Americans to break Soviet domination in pairs skating by winning the bronze medal at the World Championships in 1971 and 1972. From 1975 until 1983, she was married to NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since retiring from competitive skating, Starbuck has toured with "Ice Capades" and for the past 20 years has been the "Head Pro" and spokesperson for The Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York, where she gives individual and group lessons and coordinates special events like corporate parties. She lives in Madison with her husband and twin 14-year-old boys.
In November, she started giving her weekly "JoJo's Cool Workout" lessons at Codey Arena. The classes were initially intended as a fall activity, but they proved so popular that they've been extended until June, making the women in her class very happy.
"It's great to skate with JoJo," said Sherry Barron-Seabrook, a child psychiatrist whose practice is located in Livingston. For Dr. Barron-Seabrook—and the handful of other women who were at the rink from neighboring towns and even from as far away as Wayne—the chance to learn how to glide beautifully on the ice from a real Olympian is rare.
That's why Essex County offers the classes, explained County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who stopped by the class on Monday and even laced up his own skates to get some pointers.
"This is a unique opportunity for the public to hone their skating skills, get in shape and learn from a former Olympic skater," said DiVincenzo, who joked that the last time he skated was years ago in Newark's Branch Brook Park. He was wobbly, but Starbuck helped him get a firm footing.
The class works at various levels with the focus on mastering edges, turns, stroking and learning combinations, basic spins and jumps. There's also attention on posture, grace and style, Starbuck said.
During the class, which meets for an hour from 11 a.m. to noon, Starbuck makes the rounds to give everybody individual attention.
"She's just wonderful," said Debbie Gentile, who drives from Lincoln Park to drop into the class any chance she gets. She was working on turns while some other women attempted spins and jumps.
Starbuck encouraged them, applauding them when they did something well. But she also cautioned them.
"Watch that Olympic action and get inspired," she told the class at the end of their session. "But don't try any of it!"
The ladies laughed. They'll be back next week, they said, encouraged by what they see on the ice in Vancouver.
For more information on how to register for the class, call 973-731-3828 or click here. Registration is $240 for eight weeks or $35 for one class.