Future engineer, competitive skater sees science behind his sport’s art

Vanderbilt engineering and physics major Kenneth Anderson with pairs partner Linde LaChance (Credit: Judah Sklan)


Watch Kenneth Anderson gliding across the ice – executing perfectly timed jumps and deftly lifting his pairs partner – and his artistry and athleticism become apparent.

But what often sneaks into Anderson’s head is science, the Vanderbilt University first-year engineering and physics major says. Centrifugal force. Center of mass. Friction. All of those principles combine to make the difference between a skating program that looks effortless and one that looks disastrous.

Anderson, 18, began skating at age 7 after watching his older brother in the sport. He and Linde LaChance, 19, a first-year music business major at Belmont University, are Franklin, Tenn., residents who have been skating together since 2006. Their coach, Laura Sanders, a veteran known for her ability to pick pairs partners, made the match before she knew how tall either would be. But they both favored their left feet for landing and, sure enough, grew to be compatible in height – now she’s 4 feet, 11 inches, and he’s 5 feet, 9 inches.

Watch a video of Anderson and LaChance on ice.

The pair ended their time in U.S. Figure Skating’s novice class ranked 10th in the nation. They recently entered the junior class, which means they potentially could be in the Olympics-eligible senior class in time for the 2018 Winter Games. But Anderson and LaChance try to see the Olympics as just one more international contest, they say, building their skills one practice at a time and one competition at a time.

Anderson says he chose to study engineering and physics because he loves math. He’s progressing through the first-year modules, trying to narrow down his field of study. He chose to stick with skating because it frees his mind.

“When I’m skating, I’m not thinking about school,” he says. “I’m not thinking about anything other than the skating I’m doing in that moment.”

Otherwise, there’s much to think about.

Anderson and LaChance in 2009. (Credit: Nashville Figure Skating Club)

Mondays through Thursdays, they skate at A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin for an hour before classes begin. Three times a week, he works out at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym. There’s more skating at the Centennial Sportsplex on breaks between afternoon classes, plus homework, plus a nutrition regimen that has each of them thinking about everything they consume.

That’s a whole lot of togetherness for two people matched by a coach, but the pair has settled into a comfortable banter about it.

“Linde can be a very moody person …” Anderson begins.

“I have my days, if we’re being honest,” LaChance interjects.

“… but I try to ignore her as much as possible, and that makes her laugh,” he finishes.

The two even considered their skating careers when choosing universities and say they feel fortunate to have found two schools that offer strong programs in their fields of study and are less than mile apart.

Anderson, the son of Willie and Christine Anderson, graduated from Father Ryan High School in Nashville.

“Vanderbilt is the best school in a really, really large radius for what I want to do,” he says. “I applied to other schools in case I didn’t get in, but Vanderbilt was my first choice.”


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering