Tee Time: Olympian April Sargent Silverstein Enjoys Retirement

After retiring from skating and her career as a surgical technician, 1992 Olympic ice dance April Sargent Silverstein is relishing a more leisurely pace. 

Above: April Sargent and Russ Witherby compete at the 1992 U.S. Championships in Orlando, Florida, where they claimed the gold medal and an Olympic berth. (Photo credit: Paul Harvath) 

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By Lois Elfman

As winter ravaged much of the Northeast, 1992 U.S. ice dance champion April Sargent Silverstein was happily residing in Florida, enjoying the company of her husband of 19 years, Larry Silverstein, and eagerly anticipating her next time on the golf course.

April Sargent Silverstein poses with her husband Larry while skiing. April is wearing a white ski jacket and has on a white helmet with goggles on the front. She holds two ski poles. Larry stands behind her wearing a blue ski jacket with a red jacket underneath. He wears a white helmet with goggles and holds ski poles.
Enjoying the outdoors is a favorite pastime of Sargent Silverstein and her husband, Larry.

“We spend our winters in Florida, and I live in Philadelphia the rest of the year,” she said. “My job was holding us back from traveling and doing all sorts of fun things. I was a little reluctant to retire, but after a year of being retired, I love it.”

Her three sons, Skyler, 24, Devon, 27, and Rhye, 29, are grown and pursuing their careers. Her husband, who is in the apparel business, can work remotely, so why battle the snow? She retired from her career as a surgical technologist.

About a decade ago, Silverstein decided she wanted a change in her life. She had been coaching skating for 22 years, ever since ending her competitive days with partner Russ Witherby after the 1992 Olympic Winter Games and World Figure Skating Championships.

“I felt really stale in skating, and I went back to school,” she said. “My goal was to work in the operating room. I became a surgical technologist. Then I worked in the operating room for eight years. You’re assisting the surgeon, handing instruments and keeping a sterile field.”

A surgical technologist is a member of the surgical team that assists surgeons, nurses and other members of the team during surgery. Silverstein spent a year taking the required courses and started her first OR job in 2015.

She acknowledges that it was scary to be in the operating room at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, because everything was uncertain.

“We just kept working, because people needed help,” she recalled. “After a few months, it became pretty normal. I really loved being a scrub. It made you feel like you were giving back. You were taking care of people, and that felt good. … I drew on my competitive days; you had to perform every day. It just seemed natural.”

She met her husband Larry on a blind date and they were married within a year. Her sons from a previous marriage were 5, 9 and 10; at the time, adding in his teenage son and daughter made for a busy household.

“We have this big, big family that neither of us ever planned, but it’s pretty amazing,” Silverstein said. “Four of the kids live in Philadelphia, and my stepdaughter lives in Austin, Texas.”

None of Silverstein’s sons took up figure skating, except for the basic skills classes she insisted they take before she allowed them to play hockey. Basic skills learned, all three played hockey through high school. Today, Rhye works in sales, Devon is a chef and Skyler is a videographer. For family gatherings, she and Devon collaborate, because she loves to cook.

“We have an amazing fun time in the kitchen together,” Silverstein said.

While skating is no longer part of her daily life, she has some fantastic memories. Also, every bit of the work ethic, discipline, focus and resilience of skating stays with her, as do the voices of her coaches.

“Resilience, oh my goodness,” she said. “I left a field that I was an expert in and I went to a field that I knew nothing about and I was the bottom of the pack. It was interesting, humbling and pretty cool. I loved the process of starting over. I’m proud of myself for doing it.”

April poses with her three sons. They all have their arms around each other. April is wearing a Rolling Stones tshirt. One son is wearing a blue puffy winter coat, one is wearing a blue hoodie and the other is wearing a pink tshirt.
Sargent Silverstein values family time with her three sons.

Growing up in upstate New York where winters can be bone-chilling, Silverstein, the youngest of three children, began skating on her backyard rink made by her father when she was around 6. Her mother signed her and her siblings up for skating lessons, and she and her brother, who played hockey, fell in love with the ice.

When she was around 12, her coach directed her toward ice dance and laid out what the path should be. She went to Delaware — then a vibrant hub of pairs and ice dance — and Ron Ludington took her on as a student. He partnered her with John D’Amelio, and in 1984 they won the silver medal in junior dance at the U.S. Championships. High school education was done by correspondence courses with her New York school. One time, she was tutored in math by a local community college professor, Dr. Jill Biden, now first lady of the United States.

“I loved everything about ice dancing,” Silverstein said. “I loved having a partner and not going out there by yourself. I loved the music, the costumes, the choreography. I’m so lucky my parents allowed me to do it. It was not easy for them. … It was such a great time in my life and something to look back at and be happy about.”

She and D’Amelio skated two years in seniors and then ended the partnership. The following season she debuted with Witherby. They competed at five World Championships (withdrawing in 1989 due to injury), finishing in the top 10 three times.

“I lucked out with two great guys,” she said. “I credit (coach) Robbie Kaine for managing us well.”

She admires the current ice dancers and has enjoyed watching the international success over the past two decades.

“They’re so talented; I look at them in awe,” Silverstein said.

These days, she watches major skating events and clips online, but Silverstein is blissfully in her bubble with her family. Her stepchildren have brought grandchildren into the mix, so she gets to be “an early grandmother.” Although they try to get everyone together, she and her husband also take time to make sure they see everybody individually.

“I’m loving that,” she said.

She bought the two granddaughters dolls that have skates, and should a request arise, she is willing to take them skating.

She joked that even though she doesn’t necessarily tell people that she was a skater, she seems to be known as “April the skater.” There are certainly videos on YouTube. Also, she remembers a moment at the 1992 U.S. Championships after she and Witherby skated their Tango Romantica compulsory dance. Silverstein had had surgery for a burst ovarian cyst not long before and was still recovering but wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.

“We got a standing ovation; I’ll never forget that,” she said. “I remember seeing the faces of all my friends as they were cheering.”

Being an Olympian means the world to her.

“I’m tough, I can manage a lot of things and it’s something I always can be proud of,” she said.

But her favorite memory of her competitive days isn’t a competition or a program. It’s something that reflects the process: “The moment before your name is called at a larger competition, like nationals or Worlds, and you’re waiting,” Silverstein said. “Somehow Robbie would have the perfect thing to say before you went out there and you just exhaled and said, ‘I have it. I can do this.’”