Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Monday, December 06, 2004

IRINA RODNINA - 9/13/2004

Irina Rodnina: Would You Call it a Jubilee?
(Once Stung by the Sport, Stays Stung)

Intreview By Irina Stepantseva (IS) of the Russian Language newspaper "Moskovsky Komsomolets"
September 13.2004

Introduction: It is a strange situation…With every passing year, with every Olympic Games, we get more and more champions. We love someone, we applaud someone, but we sort of stay withdrawn. But there are also some like Rodnina. Our love for her is endless.

Irina Rodnina, (IR) three times Olympic champion, famous figure skater, is a small woman in a big sport. Take one letter out of her name and it becomes the name of the motherland (Rodina), a very symbolic name for this neglected sport’s case. Today is Irina's (she does not like to be called by her full name and patronymic - Irina Konstantinovna) jubilee. Although she is denying it.

IR - I do not consider it a jubilee.

IS- No? Wait a minute, aren't you going to celebrate anything?

IR- My birthday is only once a year, why would I miss it. But I do not consider it a jubilee…

IS- Than what is it? Maybe you do not like any important days in your life? Do you not consider that any big days should be celebrated?

IR - I like the round anniversaries to celebrate, the ones that have the numbers with zeroes. The one today is a semi-anniversary. Five years ago, we had a big celebration. Although it was a surprise for me. To tell you the truth, it was Oksana (Pushkina) who arranged that surprise for me. Of course there were my friends and relatives. But also there were a lot of people whom I was very glad to see, but probably I would not have ever invited myself.

IS - Do you have a lot of friends?

IR - No, just a few. There are people with whom I have good relations, but I am not too close to them. It is probably the way it should be. Everyone can not be as close as a brother, everyone could not do the same thing.

Calling herself, “stung by the sport,” Rodnina today continues to be a sport’s professional. Sport and children are the main topics she is involved with, as a member of the President's Council. She thinks that "The main problem is that physical education is not the main topic of activities for the people in our country, but rather a hobby". In her case, this hobby is her life. And it is not just because she has a successful career behind her, or because she is so great. She understands that nothing is forever, that everything passes. That is why it is not worth it to think that any person will be remembered for the ages. Of course there will be history books… Otherwise we are all here temporarily. That is why Irina knows that respect for a person should be shown everywhere - even at the physical education classes, which should not be just a part of the school program, but a lesson in our attention to our children and their health as a whole region of human activities. Unfortunately we do not have any working law in this area. All other areas have got established laws, but not the sport…

IS- What is the most important thing that you would like to get out of your life today?

IR- First of all, I would like that all children would be okay. And then, that they would start finally building me a center. That a positive decision would be taken.

IS - We both smiled when you said this: me - because I am hearing it in the emptiest time, you - probably because you are saying it in the emptiest time. Do you still really believe in it?

IR - Hope dies last, and I hope to live long. But of course I wish it would happen sooner.

IS- Do you observe any official movements?

IR- Practically nothing. So far, bureaucracy wins.

IS - And you passively wait?

IR - No, actively. Just wrote a letter to the President. Waiting for a reply.

IS- But you have a possibility to talk to the President: "Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am trying to build in Moscow a House of Ice, and everyone knows about it…"

IR- These issues should be resolves in an official way. Of course I understand that many people are using the situation when they are near the President at some moment. I consider it unethical.

IS- Could I ask you an unethical question? Your tears on the victory podium had become a symbol of patriotism. Did it hurt you afterwards? When people are showing so much of their emotions it gets boring. It may also tighten your hands by implying that you can not handle something.

IR- I can only be proud (of my emotions). And I can praise myself - it just happened that I am being treated very well by many. One can not miss that feeling. And, after all, my tears were correctly understood. Honestly, I saw myself crying about half a year later. Although many people told me that there were such tapes. And regarding the subject that it may become boring, it was sincere, not acting on purpose. That was my life. It did not hurt me later, but rather some things were more complicated for me, than for my colleagues.

Nine years ago Irina Rodnina, while working in US, made an almost impossible thing happen: her Czech pair won the Wold Championship. Rodnina was not the only Russian coach working with foreigners. But when her pair won, she started hearing hissing behind her back. And most people accused her. May be it was because in their mind people related a lot of patriotic symbols with her - such as the Soviet flag, Mother Russia, tears on the pedestal… "It is probably correct that I did not have the moral right to work for a foreign country. Although when one wants to eat, it is no more an issue of morality."

IS - Were you upset?

IR- In general, yes. But I knew where it originated, I knew that it was, for the most part, settling personal scores. Later, I understood that I did not have to defend myself. I had not stolen anything and I did not owe anyone. It was the other way around, they owed me a lot. And the gossips…I was used to them.

In her life, in addition to the brightest victories, there was always something that bothered the society. Her first partner Alexey Ulanov, left their pair and started skating with his wife. Irina appeared on the ice with an unknown, Alexander Zaitsev. They kept winning and winning and later got married, had a son, Sasha, and kept winning. They left the sport together, but lived separately. Then a new marriage, the birth of a daughter, Alenka, and a move to the US. New divorce. "I can not qualify my marriages as failures - I have wonderful kids. And it is never worth it to torture each other. In the US, I ended up without any money, without a husband and without a language. We moved there without the goal to stay permanently. It is important because it is considered a "motivation for an act,” without which it is impossible to live, as the sport taught me. But, under the circumstances, one begins to learn very quickly!” Rodnina learned herself, and than helped Alexander Zaitsev as much as she could. "I was told a lot of unkind things about him. He could not find himself for a long time. He developed alcohol related problems. I knew for sure that it was not a disease, that Shura just needed help. It happened that I had to go back to Russia and at that time everyone started to pull my students to different groups. I felt really sorry for them and I convinced the management that they need Zaitsev at the rink very much.”

IS - Sometime ago I visited Stanioslav Zuk, your coach, and he told me that he sent to you in US an icon. Did you get it?

IR- Yes.

IS- Is it still with you?

IR - Of course.

IS - How did the toy relate to this present?

IR - It was very strange. I knew Mr. Zuk as a completely different person. I was told that he turned to God later. On the other hand it was probably very timely.

IS- Do you have faith?

IR - Let me explain why I was slow with my answer. I am not a well-educated person in this area. In our time, we have not received from our parents, our society, or our school this kind of education, and I did not want just to run to the church because it was now fashionable. It looks that in my mind I am not ready to accept faith. Maybe because I have too many questions which are left unanswered at this time.

IS- Are you still as busy with your work now as ever? - is the cell phone always ringing, is your car always on the move?

IR- Thank God it is so, and I like it.

IS- Your son just got married. Are you considering that you may have to stay home, for example with you grandchild? Could you imagine it for a second?

IR- I think that even if the grandchildren will come, it should not anchor us to our home. Naturally we need to help each other, but one has to live. I do not like to be settled in one place. And honestly I would wish everyone to be as busy as I am.

IS- And we wish you to be healthy, beautiful and to continue to have the same level of wild energy. And one more thing - that your daughter would finally come to Moscow.

IR- You guessed my wish, but you are late. Alenka arrived 2 weeks ago to Moscow . She came for Sasha's wedding and will be with me at my birthday, it is the first time in many months that we will all be together. It is a pity that she has to leave, but her studies at the University of California begin soon. I have received the most precious and beautiful present.

Translation by Genrikh Sivorinovsky


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