- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Meryl Davis and Charlie White might be America’s first Olympic gold medalists in ice dancing. But Indianapolis native Judy Sladky is mighty proud of her first: she was the first ice dancer on Olympic ice.

“I know I am,” Sladky asserted Tuesday. “I fought my way right to the front.”

Sladky, 63, was speaking about the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France, where ice dancing was a demonstration sport. Not until 1976 was ice dancing formally included as a medal event.

Indianapolis’ skating community was influential in paving the way for ice dancing’s entry into the Olympics, and at the end of that road Monday was gold in Sochi.

The former Judy Schwomeyer and partner Jim Sladky were five-time national champions. Ice dancing was in figure skating’s World Championships before it was in the Olympics, and the pair won one world silver medal (1970) and three bronzes (1969, ‘71, ‘72), The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1kX2OKn ).

Judy Sladky’s sister, Sandy Lamb, coached a dance team, Judi Genovesi and Kent Weigle, that competed when the sport made its medal debut at Innsbruck, Austria.

“They were not in the top at all,” Lamb said. “But, by golly, we were there in Innsbruck.”

What was then the Fairgrounds Coliseum was a major skating center and drew coach Danny Ryan to the Winter Club of Indianapolis. Ryan was among those killed when a flight carrying the entire U.S. figure skating team crashed in a field in Brussels, Belgium, in 1961.

Ron Ludington replaced Ryan as coach, and Judy and Sandy were among his protégés. They are Shortridge High School graduates and daughters of the late Herb Schwomeyer, a former Butler University athlete, coach and administrator and historian of Indiana high school basketball.

In 1968, Judy and Jim Sladky laced up their skates early so they could be the first dancers to practice on Olympic ice.

“We thought that was pretty cool,” she said.

She said an ice dancing representative sat next to International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage, then 80, during the exhibition “making sure he was paying attention.”

In that era, she recalled, most ice dancers were much older than singles skaters. She was competing on the national level by age 16 … and wearing lots of makeup.

“It was ridiculous what they did to try to make me look older,” she said.

Ice dancing has evolved from what she called “plain skating” into more emphasis on ballroom and folk dancing. Also, there are now more technical elements to execute.

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