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Spring 2004
Photo by Ed Malitsky
Balancing Act
Senior David Mitchell takes home
a bronze in ice dancing

David Mitchell, A04, arrives at the Boston Skating Club six days a week at 5:30 am. For the next four hours, he’ll practice with partner Loren Galler-Rabinowitz to music as varied as the blues and what he calls “abstract tango.” As the pair work through their demanding steps, lifts, and spins, an implicit trust flows through their moves; over six years together, they’ve never once had a spill. “The longer you work at it, the easier it is to know where the other person is going to be, almost before they’re there,” says Mitchell.

That combination of perseverance and talent paid off in January when Mitchell and Galler-Rabinowitz won the bronze medal in ice dancing at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Atlanta. Their performance now ranks them as
first alternates for the upcoming World Championships in Germany, and offers them perhaps even a shot at the Olympics in 2006.

The bronze brings wider acclaim to a couple with an already stellar career. Mitchell and Galler-Rabinowitz won both the novice and junior gold in 2000 and 2002. Last year, they debuted at the senior level with a fourth-place pewter medal. That makes them one of only two teams in history to win three national medals at three different levels over four consecutive U.S. Championships. And their accomplishments are even more remarkable given that they are the only couple in the country to have maintained full-time academic studies while competing at the highest level of the sport.

“It’s unusual to come up this fast in this category,” says Mitchell, back at Tufts after competing in Ontario as part of the Senior Grand Prix international circuit. “But we had high expectations. When I first started skating seriously, I wanted a medal at the senior nationals. It’s actually amazing to accomplish a goal like that.” Now, he says with a broad smile, “it’s the stereotypical goal: I’d like to go to the Olympics.”

Mitchell’s competitive spirit goes back to his first foray into skating. Born and raised in Cortland, New York, where his father is an ophthalmologist and his mother runs the practice, Mitchell got his start at age eight when he tagged along with his older sister to the local rink. He began ice dancing at age ten. Soon his parents were making the five-hour drive to the Boston Skating Club twice a month for professional ice-dance coaching. His drive to excel he attributes to his parents’ quiet but clear work ethic. “They just taught us that if you’re going to do something, then do it well.”

His partnership with Galler-Rabinowitz began in 1998, when he moved to Boston to attend the Belmont Hill School. Galler-Rabinowitz, who had been skating since age two, is an honors student at Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge.
In a category where skaters are judged on their expression of music as well as execution, Mitchell and Loren Galler-Rabinowitz have been widely praised for athletic and elegant performances. “I think we’re known for the elaborate styles of steps that we’ve developed, and that we tend to go for more ornate lifts and spins,” says Mitchell. “We do stuff nobody else does.” Musical talent helps as well: Galler-Rabinowiz is a concert pianist, and Mitchell studied piano for 12 years.

Mitchell admits it was a big decision to try to combine skating with college, but Tufts has been a good place for what might otherwise seem a daunting balancing act. He rises early six days a week to fit in four hours of practice before classes and homework. “It’s been a challenge when I’ve had to travel to competitions, but my teachers have been very supportive,” he says. “And I prefer to have more things that I need to do than the other way around.”

Mitchell also has enjoyed his affiliation with his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. “With the time that I miss, it’s always great to come back to the fraternity. It’s kind of a home away from home.”

As for life after Tufts, Mitchell, a political science major, is considering a job in corporate sales and eventually business school. And of course he keeps his sights set on 2006 and qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team. He and Galler-Rabinowitz may already have an edge: they are the only duo currently ranked in the top five who are U.S. citizens.
Mitchell is his own toughest critic; he’s not entirely happy with the bronze medal. (“It wasn’t our day.”) But he expects that the couple will continue to achieve higher marks. “Being a skater and a student has been tremendously rewarding for the past four years,” he says, “but I am looking forward to seeing how far our talent and drive can take us when we fully dedicate ourselves to skating.”