Dix Hills resident Hope Silverman loved ice skating as a child, gave up the sport at a teen and returned to the ice in 2017. In February, she spoke about skating competitively and training for the 2022 Eastern Adult Sectional Figure Skating Championships, a precursor to the national competition. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas; Johnny Milano/John Paraskevas; Johnny Milano

After putting on ice for nearly four decades the sport she adored in her youth, Hope Silverman took up ice skating again four years ago.

"Skating is the thing that’s just for me," said Silverman, 56, of Dix Hills, a retired speech pathologist.

As an outlet for self-expression, Silverman said, skating "lets me be both athletic and graceful. I even can say I feel powerful and alive."

Just back from the Eastern Adult Sectional Figure Skating Championships in Havertown, Pennsylvania, Silverman placed fourth in Adult Silver Ladies IV (56 to 65 years old) and 11th in Championship Adult Silver (over 21).

Skating to "The Wind Beneath My Wings," Silverman performed a 2-minute, 20-second program that included upright and sitting spins and five jumps, including a flip, lutz (considered the second-most difficult jump after the axel) and a combination of three jumps in a row. The program also included a choreographed sequence of steps, turns, arabesques and twizzles (one-foot multirotational turns down toward the ice).

Disappointed that she fell on a jump in the first event, Silverman said, "I am upset, but I’m going to go to nationals in April and work to redeem myself."

Hope Silverman shares a moment with Mila Molino, 6, during the...

Hope Silverman shares a moment with Mila Molino, 6, during the "Learn to Skate" program, which is for children age 3 and up. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

An early enthusiast

Though she gave up skating for years, Silverman’s world revolved around the sport for much of her youth. At the age of 3, she began lessons at Kelton’s Ice Skating Rink in Riverdale, near her home in the Bronx. Before long, she was competing each year in upstate Lake Placid along with fellow members of the Riverdale Skating Club and spending summers at ice-skating sleepaway camp.

Private lessons, Silverman said, were very expensive, so she was limited to one 15-minute lesson a week, unlike her friends’ half-hour lessons

"My parents didn’t have as much money as other kids that were doing it," she said.

Through the years, Silverman advanced in the sport, mastering axels, double jumps and flying camel spins, and passing the U.S. Figure Skating Association’s progressive tests.

Then, when she was 14, Silverman gave it up.

"When I was heading into high school, I just quit cold turkey. I just wanted to do other things," she recalled.

Fourteen, Silverman explained, is a pivotal age for a skater: you either go on to the national or Olympic level.

"There was no way I was going to be able to do that," she said. "I wasn’t at that high level or had the means to do that even."

Once she gave up skating, Silverman barely laced up a pair of skates for years, going out just a few times with her kids.

"I always said to myself, the whole time, ‘I’m going to go back to skating,’ but I was so busy," Silverman said of being a working mom with sons, Ben, now 28, and Jacob, 25, and a daughter, Julia, 21. She kept fit with long-distance running and competing in 10k races, half-marathons, even a full marathon.

Hope Silverman, who placed in two categories at an Eastern...

Hope Silverman, who placed in two categories at an Eastern figure-skating championship this month, practices at Dix Hills Skating Rink.  n Video: newsday.com/Act2 Credit: Johnny Milano

Back on the ice

With more time on her hands once her kids were grown, Silverman bought herself a new pair of skates in August 2017 and was once again gliding along the ice, this time at Dix Hills Skating Rink.

"I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ it was coming back to me, and it just felt so good, skating around the rink."

Soon, Silverman decided to start taking the USFSA tests and entering competitions. "It got me so excited, and I started to make goals for myself," she said.

In January 2018, Silverman went to adult skating camp in Colorado, where she took a class with Jason Brown, a national and international skating champion who competed in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"I said to myself, ‘I’m going to compete. I’m going to pick out a song that I like, wear a beautiful costume, and I’m going to compete at my level and see what I can do,’ " Silverman said.

Along the way, she's had setbacks: in January 2018 she fell doing a spiral and broke her shoulder, an injury that kept her from competing in that year’s national championships. In June 2021, she broke her ankle when it rolled and turned the wrong way, meaning she would again miss the nationals.

Some acquaintances told her the injuries signaled that she shouldn’t be involved in a dangerous sport, but Silverman was back on the ice as soon as she healed. To help prevent injuries, her gym routine includes strengthening exercises and weight training.

Silverman’s dedication has drawn admiration from her husband, David Silverman, who recently completed a cross-country bike ride.

"It’s amazing how hard she works at it," said David, 57, an interim chief financial officer for a tech startup.

And he doesn’t think potential injuries should stop her. "I wouldn’t want her to not pursue what she likes doing because she’s afraid she could get injured," he said. "You can get injured doing lots of different things."

Hope Silverman, left, has a chat with her coach Charlotte...

Hope Silverman, left, has a chat with her coach Charlotte Caruso, with whom she takes weekly lessons. Credit: Johnny Milano

Competing again

After rigorous training, Silverman competed in her first adult sectionals in Pennsylvania in March 2019, earning a pewter medal for fourth out of seven. At the nationals in Utah the next month, she placed fifth out of 13.

Each time she competes, Silverman says, she’s nervous, "but once the music starts coming on, I just feel so alive. It makes me feel good, just the movement of the skating and trying to do my best."

In 2020, she earned a bronze medal for her age level (46 to 55) at sectionals in March, but nationals were canceled in April because of the pandemic. The next year, sectionals were canceled, and Silverman missed nationals because of her broken ankle.

In January 2021, Silverman performed in the "Rock on Rock" ice skating show at Rockefeller Center, where she met Kiira Korpi, a three-time European silver and bronze medalist from Finland. She has since trained with Korpi, who helped Silverman develop her current competition program.

"That really was unbelievable to me," Silverman recalled of performing at Rockefeller Center.

Describing herself as a somewhat reserved person, Silverman says competing has helped build her confidence.

"It has pushed me past the comfort zone and almost, like ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this. Like, how am I doing this?’ " Silverman said. "But each time, when it’s over, I feel stronger and more confident inside that I was able to overcome my fears."

From November to April, Silverman trains four days a week and takes weekly lessons with skating coach Charlotte Caruso.

"She is the most determined person that I know, very inspirational to all the other adults at the ice rink," said Caruso, 55, of Dix Hills. "Hope gives everyone hope."

Silverman’s training includes ice dancing — for enjoyment and to improve her speed, flow and advanced turns — with her partner/coach Rob Knopf at The Rinx in Hauppauge and Bethpage.

Silverman says her appreciation for dance goes back to her days doing ballet as a child. "It feels so good to do a waltz. And now I’m learning the tango with him," she said. "He’s such a great coach, a great skater. I’m learning so much. It’s just something to look forward to in life."

Hope Silverman, seen here with Madison Ruckman, 7, at Dix...

Hope Silverman, seen here with Madison Ruckman, 7, at Dix Hills Skating Rink, hopes to instill resilience and determination in her students. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Motivating others

Last February, Silverman started teaching at Dix Hills Skating Rink’s "Learn to Skate," a beginner’s program for kids 3 and up.

"I love working with children because that’s what I did with the speech pathology, working with 3- to 5-year-olds," said Silverman, who retired in June 2020. "And getting them to love the joy of gliding on the ice, I just love doing that and seeing them smile."

Natural talent, athleticism and grace are all important ingredients in a good skater, says Silverman, but so are courage and commitment.

"If you love it and you’re not fearful in the beginning, that’s going to help you to want to keep going," she said.

When her students fall, Silverman encourages them to try again. "The sport teaches you determination and resilience and to keep going. And I would like to instill that in children," she said.

It's the kind of determination that keeps her going. Unfazed by the hours of training required for a program that runs just over two minutes, Silverman said, "It’s worth it because I like the glory of it, and I would just love to win a gold medal. I like the training. It gives me a goal, because I feel if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t skate as much or [I’d] be easily distracted."

At the 2022 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in April in Newark, Delaware, where several Long Island women in their 50s and 60s will be competing, Silverman hopes to place into the second round.

After that, her goal is to land an axel — one-and-a-half revolutions in the air — a jump she hasn’t accomplished since her teen years.

Recently, Silverman encouraged her friend and Bronx skating buddy Michelle Meyer Tuchinsky to take up the sport again and introduced her to her ice dancing coach.

An adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College, Meyer Tuchinsky, who skated competitively until college and later recreationally, said Silverman kept encouraging her to take lessons again.

"It’s been amazing," said Meyer Tuchinsky, 57, of Melville. "And Hope has been a huge part of this, because skating on my own and taking lessons and having goals to achieve now is very different."

The two frequently skate together at ice dancing lessons and at public sessions.

For her part, Silverman regrets having taken so much time off. "It would have been easier, and I would have had more enjoyment," she said. "I would have had more joy. It was too long."

Silverman intends to skate for the rest of her life. " I just want to get better at it, she said, "even at this age."

She adds that she’s found good role models among the older people, including an 81-year-old man, she observes skating at the Dix Hills rink. "There’s something about skating: It’s just movement and good exercise and keeps you fit and mentally good," she said. "Even the ice dancing is good for learning the steps. It’s good for your mind."

And rediscovering a childhood joy has brought its own rewards, she says.

"I think finding what you did as a child that made you happy and then doing that as an adult, is a wonderful thing for your soul," she said.

A guide to gliding

Here are some of Silverman’s tips on how to prepare to skate – as an adult:

  • Wear padded shorts under long pants for extra cushioning
  • If you’re very fearful, wear a helmet
  • Dress warmly and wear gloves
  • For skates that fit correctly, get fitted at a local pro shop at the rink
  • Join a learn to skate adult group or to take private lessons
  • Skate at public sessions during the week, which are less crowded and attract more adult skaters
  • Walking, jogging, cycling, and yoga will help you stay fit and carry over to the ice
  • Follow “Adults Skate Too” Facebook and Instagram accounts for a supportive skating community
  • Come with an optimistic attitude – it’s never too late to skate!
- Arlene Gross
Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months