RMU skating trainer remembered after crash

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Igor Novodran was a world-class figure skating coach. He trained up-and-coming competitive skaters, internationally and locally, at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.

He even worked with renowned Russian figure skating coach Alexei Mishin, who has coached several skating greats, including Evgeni Plushenko, who won a gold medal in the team event at the 2014 Winter Olympics last month.

Mr. Novodran had recently returned from a five-month trip, traveling throughout Europe coaching and conducting training camps. He briefly visited the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, right before returning to the U.S.

Mr. Novodran, 52, died in a plane crash Tuesday afternoon at the Washington County Airport. He was flying his single-engine 1998 Avid Bandit plane about 2:10 p.m., working for about half an hour on “touch and go” landings and takeoffs when he crashed, said Scott Gray, executive director of the airport.

The Allegheny Flight Standards District Office confirmed the home-built plane met all “airworthiness standards” for flight and was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane crashed under “unknown circumstances,” according to the FAA preliminary crash report. The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board, which was interviewing witnesses at the scene Wednesday, Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Novodran’s wife, Lana, said Wednesday that he received his pilot’s license about five years ago. She said he didn’t have time to fly often because of his busy coaching schedule.

“He loved to fly and he loved the planes,” she said. “He knew I worried about him, so he didn’t tell me much about flying.”

The family emigrated from Ukraine in 1995, and moved to Pittsburgh from Johnstown, Pa., in 1998. She said he was “so proud” of his daughter, Anastasia, a freshman business student at RMU who also skates at the sports center and gives lessons to young skaters.

“It’s so hard, because he was a wonderful skater and a beautiful husband and father,” she said. “I loved him so much.”

Beth Sutton, skating director at the Island Sports Center, said Mr. Novodran was one of her most advanced coaches.

“He was very competitive and tough on his skaters, but off the ice he was one of those guys who liked to enjoy life and see the lighter side, because of the dark side and difficulty of skating,” Ms. Sutton said.

Carol Waggy, 57, studied under Mr. Novodran for 15 years. Just last week they worked on her skating program for a competition in April.

She said Mr. Novodran advanced her skills beyond what she ever thought she could achieve. Despite her age and “limited athleticism,” she said, Mr. Novodran helped her to qualify for several national championships during the past few years.

“He always told me that it was my personality to let something go instead of seeing it through, accomplishing it, finishing it,” she said through tears. “That wasn’t just in skating. It was kind of how I was living my life. I just feel bad that we didn’t finish. We didn’t get to finish … but I’ll skate that program for him.”


Clarece Polke: cpolke@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1889.


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