Article printed in Russian language Newspaper Komsomolskaja Pravda on November 24, 2004
Article by Igor Emelianov (IE) written on November 26,2004
Irina Slutskaya, (IS) who became the world's best single skater two years ago, went in March of 2004 to the World Competition in Dortmund after suffering from severe vascular disease.
Then, she said that her main goal was to get on the ice and not to die. Eight months later, at home in Moscow, the main goal for her is to get on the ice and to win.
IE - In October, you had a terrible fall at the practice. But in November you were first at the Grand Prix Competition in Peking…..
IS- Please do not write that I have damaged my knee cap, as the Chinese agency reported! I never had a problem with my knees! I have pullled some ligaments, did not skate for a couple of days - that was all.
IE - In the capital of China you encountered some problems….
IS - What problems? They have a different culture, we are not used to it. I was going on ice and some fan grabbed me by my breast and demanded an autograph. I got scared, broke off and run away, but a local policeman looked at me as a mad person. I do not know, but may be it is their tradition. I was rather shocked.
IE - It seems that their home raised psychotics did not interfere with your great victory in Peking- the first in the last few years….
IS- I did not win the Grand Prix since 2001.
IE- It looks like the Chinese are pushing hard in the figure skating?
IS- There are no bright stars among the Chinese women, so far. The leaders are Japanese, Americans, and us (Russians).
IE- Young ladies from the country of the Rising Sun are performing quadruple jumps. Can't you do them, or are you afraid?
IS- I am not trying these jumps, because I do not need them at this time. I want to develop a program that I could perform at the highest level. It is not hard to learn how to make four turns, and than what? Nothing, emptiness…. By the way, I did not see who of my competitors has new elements, because at the practice I do not look around - I have other things to do. And at home I do not have a satellite dish….
IE- Are you scared of the new judging system?
IS - At first it took me sometimes a half of the competition to "skate in" into the new system. But if I would be afraid of it I would not participate in the competitions. When I finally understood everything, I saw that there were pluses and minuses.
IE - You look like a commercial for the healthy lifestyle. Did you go back to the full load in your practice?
IS - I even increased the load from the beginning of the season.
IE- Did you have a long resting period?
IS - I went to Turkey with Sergey, my husband. But I could not stand it just to sunbathe all day long. My friend was working in the hotel staff and she arranged for "active resting". I participated in different games and received everything that is included in the notion of 'Turkey vacations".
IE - Is your friend also a figure skater?
IS- I do not have friends in my sport. All my friends are adults and they understand that I will never trade a nap for a meeting with girlfriends and I would not rush to a party at midnight. Nevertheless, I am a normal young woman and I live a normal life - go shopping and to restaurants…
IE- Did you try the local cuisine in China?
IS- We lived in a very respectable western type hotel with a European cuisine. In general I like Chinese, Japanese and Russian dishes. Since I am a good cook, we are often having situations where my husband would come home from work and would say, “I am so hungry,” and we would both go to the market, buy the groceries and cook something right away.
IE - Is it all happening in your summer-house?
IS- It would be nice to have a cottage, but I live in town (melancholic smile). I do not want to build something small like a one yard square hat, we had one like that already… But we do not have enough money to make a serious step.
IE - How does your day begin?
IS - I open my eyes, check if my hands and feet are in the right places, excellent, and run off to the practice. I finish my day with a practice as well.
IE - How many hours do you spend on the ice daily?
IS- It differs. The coach decides this.
IE- Are you dreaming of getting the world crown back?
IS- What crown? What are you talking about? This weekend, I have Cup of Russia. Then the nationals. We have only 2 spots on the National team and there are a lot of respectable ladies. It will all be very complicated. I have to make it to the Worlds Championship.
IE - Is it possible that at some moment in time that super techniques and super elements would destroy the theatrical elements of the figure skating?
IS - It is impossible. It would be like a person with one foot. One can improve endlessly, but the second mark will always be for the "artistic performance".
File of the KP
Irina Slutskaya was born on February 9th, 1979 in Moscow. Height 160 cm, weight 55 kg. Adores soft toys and her large dog Akita- Ina. Reads a lot. Studies the basics of stage speech and telejournalism at the "Ostankino" TV studios. Drives a jeep. Her coach is Jana Gromova. Irina and her husband Sergey live at the North East side of Moscow.
Five-time (1981-1985) US Champion and three-time (1983-1985) World Bronze Medallist in Ice Dance Judy Blumberg explains that “the title I consider most definitive is the one that states Michael (Seibert) and I are still considered the most innovative and exciting dance team that America has ever produced. I feel especially honored to know that our work is still revered and respected throughout the skating world.”
“Michael and I retired from eligible skating after the 1985 season,” she recalls. “We completed the ISU World Tour, then made the difficult decision to move ahead to the professional ranks. It was difficult in that it was a decision we had been pondering since the 1984 Olympics, after our bitter disappointment of missing out of a medal. I actually think that I could have stayed in until 1988, but I knew that Michael was really finished with the entire scene. He was very innovative in the work and I think that the limitations in the competitive world were rather stifling to his creativity. In the professional ranks, he would be able to fully realize his artistic potential. When I look back at the work that Michael and I produced as professionals, I sincerely appreciate the diversity, the uniqueness and the innovative themes that we chose. We were forever looking for music that set us apart from the rest, as well as making costuming choices and developing moves that were different and risky, to say the least. What I am most proud of when I look at our body of work is that we were able to adapt to different styles with fluidity and grace. We also had the opportunity to create with so many incredible collaborators from the world of skating and dance.”
Their professional career “ended prematurely because Michael was ready to move forward in his choreographic pursuits, and no longer wished to put his energy into the training that was required to continue performing. It was most definitely the right decision for Michael, but was a devastating one for me. I had never imaged that the one thing that I loved doing and was so passionate about, would end so soon. The one thing that I regret is that I never got the opportunity to celebrate and embrace my final performance as an artist, with the one person I had grown to know, to love, and to share 14 of the most profound years of my career. It would have been the best way to have thanked him for joining me on the journey. It was far from boring!”
Following the end of her partnership with Michael, Judy paired up with Jim Yorke, and then with Douglas Webster. Currently, she is the ensemble director for The Ice Theatre of New York.
“I seem to be an experienced transition-maker,” Judy laughs. “I am still involved in the skating world as a coach, a technical specialist for dance in the new scoring system, and in my work with the USFSA, in their seminars, etc. More recently, I have enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in NYC, where I plan to pursue a certificate as a Holistic Nutrition Counselor. I plan to utilize this information for myself, my family and friends, and for my students. I still skate and feel that the quality of my movement is an especially valuable tool as far as my teaching is concerned. My skating background has been such an invaluable asset in regard to all of my life decisions. It has helped me to understand and work through the many problems that arise in life, weigh the pros and cons of a potential situation, and organize my work, play, etc. All of us are so lucky for having had such great learning experiences through skating. I am still learning, living, yes, still skating...... and loving it!”
Thirty-five year old Richard Swenning contends that, in spite of having been a cast member in Torvill and Dean’s touring show, as well as a soloist with Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice, he has no “real titles” in skating.
“This year, I won the Major League Figure Skating Team competition (as part of) Team Fusion,” he offers. “It’s great to skate at a high level at this age, and be a part of these skating events. I think you always have to work hard to achieve your goals and get respect from other skaters and producers. If you can do that on a regular basis you are successful.”
Swenning retired from competitive skating in 1987. “I was competing with Boitano, Scott Williams, Chris Bowman, Mark Cockrell,” he recalls. “All greats, all from California, so I threw in the towel and it led me the right way. I see competition so differently now. Only a few make it, but skating is so much more than competing. Competing is really hard. You have to be a killer. My professional career has been great. I started doing a lot of chorus work with Ice Capades, and eventually got it together to become a soloist. I had to work for that very hard, but I was really improving with each show I did. I ended up skating all over the world and traveling. The hard part is trying to wind down and start a family and get grounded after all those skating highs. Now, I’m married and just had a baby girl. It’s great. Though I still will skate. Retirement is not in my vocabulary. You’re only as good as your last skate. I just saw Brain Orser at 40- something and he was great, he really inspired me. But there are bittersweet times, when you may not get a contract you want because it is competitive, and let’s face it, the younger kids are coming up. They may be better or cheaper (than you). It can be a dirty business, but if you are good at what you do, you don’t have to beg for jobs or be a kiss-ass.”
“I am producing my own instructional series on specialty skating and I will produce my own shows,” Swenning predicts. “You can’t rely on others in this business to offer you work, so at this point on the ladder, that’s where I am. My family is the best gift now, and we will be in Switzerland working with skaters there and hopefully getting some of our own projects going.”
Patrick Brault insists that he cannot choose the one skating title that defines him, because, “I consider them all like my children. They all meant something different to me at different times in my life. I had the distinction of competing (for two countries) because of my dual citizenship of Canada and the United States. In 1992, I was 4th in the Canadian Championships, which made me alternate for the Worlds and Olympics. When I competed in the United States, I was the National Junior Men’s Silver Medalist in 1987 and Novice National Champion in 1984. But, I feel like my best title is Loving Husband to skating choreographer Nancy Pluta.”
After coming so close to making the World and Olympic Teams in 1992, a year later, Patrick fell five times at the Canadian Championship. And decided it was time to retire.
“My journey in my professional career,” Patrick remembers, “Had highs and lows. But friends that I met along the way will be my friends for life.”
He worked with Dorothy Hamill in Ice Capades and at the Kennedy Center as a part of The Next Ice Age theater company. He also appeared with Grease On Ice, Charles Shultz's Christmas Show, and on several cruise ships.
Now, Patrick explains, “I recently moved to Phoenix, AZ., where I am coaching in a progressive training facility, the All Tel Ice Den in Scottsdale. Skating has given me structure in my life and I would like to pass along my expertise to the young minds of the future. But to answer the question "Where are they now"…I never knew I was lost!”
1987 US Junior Champion Jeri Campbell doesn’t think that any one skating title can define “what skating meant to me as an amateur or a professional. I would say it was more about the learning experience of setting goals, working for those goals, and sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. The experience for me was everything. I have never been about the medals or the glory, it was always the journey.”
Eager to continue the journey without worrying about medals, Jeri decided to turn pro at the age of 20. “I was ready to explore life outside the box, or I guess you could say, outside the confines of the amateur skating world. I had no idea what to expect from the professional skating world when I decided to do my first show, but I fell in love with it instantly. My first tour was with Dorothy Hamill’s “Cinderella Frozen in Time” tour, and I had the time of my life. I felt free to become whatever kind of entertainer I wanted to be, and Dorothy was a great example of how to be a true pro. She worked hard, she was kind to everyone, and she made us feel at home. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to begin my career with that show. I will always remember that show as a new beginning for me. I will say the professional world opens many doors for skaters to explore the world, and I took full advantage of the opportunity. I traveled all over the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, and parts of Asia. I met all kinds of people from all over the globe, absorbed the different cultures from the cities we toured, and literally soaked it all in. It was a truly enriching life experience. I never had any expectations for my professional career, but what I walked away with was far more interesting than what I could have painted on canvas.”
“I have been off of the road for a few years now,” Jeri continues, “But I am still involved with skating on a teacher/choreography level. I have a ton of activities I like to do outside of skating that keep my brain and my body active not to mention my sanity. I am sure I will always have some tie with skating throughout my life, but I have a feeling it will continue to morph and change as my life does. If anyone remembers me still, I would just like to let them know that I am doing well and enjoying my life. It’s funny, my amateur skating days feel like someone else’s life: I have really moved on, and I am very happy to be where I am today.”
Coming Tuesday, November 9: US AND Canadian Competitor Patrick Brault!