By Sherry DiBari

David Race’s biggest challenge is a triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

Race, a first-year mechanical engineering major and competitive figure skater, says of the move, “Individual jumps are difficult enough on their own, but doing combinations (completing jumps directly from the landing of another) take more precision.”

Race's entry into figure skating was prompted by his grandmother in Japan, who was inspired by the accomplishments of two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

When he was ten, Race’s mother – with the help of a Groupon – signed him up for group figure skating lessons. Progressing to private lessons, he began competing shortly after.

Reflecting on the figure skating community, Race notes the social class dynamics, “Most people don’t know how separated it can make you feel in terms of social class. There are a lot more middle- and lower-class skaters in the community than most people would expect, but being around the wealthier kids who have more access to a variety of training opportunities can definitely make you feel lesser.”

Now 18, Race competes nationally, representing the Tidewater Figure Skating Club. In early November, he participated in the 2024 US Figure Skating Eastern Sectional Singles Final in Coral Springs, Florida.

In addition to engineering classes, Race dedicates an extra 18-19 hours per week to training, dividing his time between on-ice sessions and off-ice workouts.

He approaches the tight schedule like an engineer: planning classes for optimal times and finding the most efficient routes between his house, campus, and different skating rinks. “I also make sure that I can find something to complete for any of my classes whenever I have spare time,” he said.

Despite the demands, skating is not a distraction for Race. “In a way, I like to think of skating as a break from everything else in my life – it helps me forget about everything else outside of the rink and helps me focus on my own routine and competition,” he said.

Race had close ties to Old Dominion University even before becoming a student.

His parents met as students here, and his father earned an engineering degree from the Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

In high school, Race reached out to a NASA materials research engineer and received permission to work on an on-site experiment, where he developed a passion for research and development of metal alloys and materials used in the aerospace industry. Looking ahead, he aspires to work as a materials engineer/scientist, preferably in the aerospace sector.

As for his future in figure skating, “My ultimate goal would be ending my career feeling like I’ve spent all these years on the ice because I’ve enjoyed it and believed I could push myself as hard as I could,” he said.