Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Saturday, January 22, 2005


Interview with Albena Denkova (A) and Maxim Stavisky (M) by a correspondent of the Russian Language Newspaper "NewNews" Marina Semenova (MS) printed on January 21, 2005.

Officially the figure skaters Albena Denkova and Maxim Stavisky should be introduced as follows: at the start on January 24 of the championship of Europe in Turin, they would be the main competitors for a victory in ice dancing. But if we are to speak informally, they will hardly be allowed to rise above the second place. In dances much, if not everything, is decided outside the ice arena. If the Bulgarian-Russian duet of Albena and Maxim would have represented not Bulgaria, but Russia, the chance of to adding to their collection of awards a "golden" award would be much higher. Shortly before their departure for Italy the correspondent of the "New News” met with DENKOVA and STAVISKY.

MS - Maxim, you and Albena -are two of the best figure skaters in the world, but in our country very little is known about you. For example, not everyone knows that you are not Bulgarian, but a Russian, and most of the time you practice with Albena in Russia - in Odintsovo. (A region near Moscow -GS). I would suggest to fill these blanks. First, how did you get into figure skating and, second, how did you meet each other?

M - I followed in the footsteps of many Soviet children. I was assigned to figure skating first, because of its wide popularity, and second to strengthen my health. In short, not of my own will. My career began at 4 years of age, when I ran up, slipped, fell and hit hard my forehead at a side of the rink. It was then found out that I actually was very capable. Initially I was engaged in single skating, but then I broke a leg and was out of skating for a long time. When I returned I could see that everyone already executed triple jumps, and I was stuck on the doubles. I decided to go to theatre on ice. But due to one coach - Mr. Andrey Filippov - I had taken a great interest in dance. And this way I returned to ice in a new role.

A - At the beginning, I was engaged in rhythmic gymnastics which was popular in Bulgaria. And when I was 8 or 9 years old, a figure skating coach visited us at the gym practice hall and suggested all interested to join his group. In our country this kind of sport is not widely known, but it is frequently showed on TV, and my parents wanted that I became a figure skater. We met with Maxim as follows. Eight and a half years ago, my Bulgarian partner decided to leave the big sports. And I was left without a partner. Maxim at that time was skating for Russia as a junior with Anastasia Belova. But he overgrew this age category, while his partner had not. The coach of the national team, Ms. Elena Chajkovskaya, talked to our international arbitrator, Ms. Evgenia Karnolsky, and they decided that we could try to pair with each other. We had a try-out. It seemed like we fit each other and we decided to skate together.

MS - And what was the first impression of each other?

M - I remember that she looked rather scared.

A - My first impression - it appeared that he did not look similar to that harmonious, high and slender figure skater whom I saw on a videocassette.

MS- But seriously?

M - From the way Albena began practicing with me, I understood at once that she was adjusted resolutely. To be fair, I perceived the trip to Bulgaria as an opportunity to straighten my form. Actually, so to speak, I did not know if there was any figure skating there! But very soon I had to change the attitude to our practices.

A- I had to catch up with Maxim. You know what it means - Russian school. What were the Russian figure slating techniques and what were, or what actually were not Bulgarian… I had to work three times harder than he to catch up.

MS - Do you remember your first competition?

A - We remember very well and we will never forget (smiling). It was the championship of Europe in Paris in 1997. I skated with a fever of 39.8 C, and Maxim - with 38.9 C. (About 104 degrees by Fahrenheit -GS). I remember, I told him that he was an egoist, the ugly creature and the fool because he wanted to pull me out on ice with a temperature close to forty degrees Celsius, when I could not stand on my legs and could not understand what was going on. Moreover, the compulsory dance was “The Golden Waltz " which is difficult to perform even by a well prepared pair. And we were skating together for a very short time. In short, when we arrived five minutes prior to going on ice, I had no time either to make up my hair, nor my face. What a horror that was!

MS- But at the world's championship the same year was it any easier?

M - Of course. Albena's fever was only 38 degrees C. In general, in the first years of our performances she, for some reason, very frequently went on ice being ill. It was almost an omen- if Albena was not ill, it meant that something would be wrong. I am just kidding.

MS- It is funny how you exchange courtesies. Probably you frequently quarrel?

M - No way! What do we have to quarrel about? In the real life we, certainly, are very different. She is serious, and I am a lay-about. She is a pessimist, and I am an optimist. She is more cautious, and I am more a risk-taker.

A - Maxim jokes a lot. At a rate of one thousand jokes a minute. And still he frequently happens to be quick-tempered, basically because he wants everything to happen fast. But his main positive quality - he is always self-assured. Even when he knows that something is impossible, he will necessarily try it, being afraid of nothing. And I am not so sure of myself.

MS - Albena, I heard that you were a very creative person. You design your own costume, hairstyles?

A - About costumes it’s true, but not absolutely. Not by drawing sketches or sewing, there is no time. We usually give the designers an idea. Because our programs are original, the style of our costumes should match the style of the program. And yes, I set my hair myself. Probably, it turns out not always successfully, but I think recently we’ve changed for the better.

M - Well, my hair style has remained the same. After each of my visits to the hairdresser, Albena looks at me and says - who has spoiled you so badly this time? And then she gets used to it and recognizes that it was not so bad.

MS- Now your coach is Alexey Gorshkov, but you began, I so understand, not with him?

M - Yes. At the beginning we skated with Oleg Epstein's group. And Gorshkov was a student of Epstein’s. When Gorshkov came to a summer camp in Sofia, he stayed at his teacher's place. Epstein told him - take a look at these guys. He is still looking.

MS- You live in Russia, practice here, and still officially you represent Bulgaria. Have you decided, to paraphrase a saying, that it is better to be the first pair in a village, than the last one in a city?

M - Yes, due to the actions of the Russian Federation of figure skating. For me, the main thing is that the first pair was ahead of everybody, and nobody would think about the rest. Therefore, certainly, it is better to be the first in Bulgaria, than the second in Russia. For example, Roman Kostomarov who as you know, with Tatyana Navka up till last year always lost to us, considers that it happened because of their then ranking status of "number two.” As soon as Irina Lobachyova and Ilya Averbuh left the sport and Roma and Tanja became the "number one", they started to win against us. However, I do not want to speak any more about the politics. I was perfectly accepted in Bulgaria, everything has been provided to me, they have created conditions for trainings and the attitude toward me is very good. I am recognized in the streets, invited on TV. Here, in Russia it has never happened.

A - And even if you would win five Olympics, it won’t happen. But to skate here is pleasant for us. Several times we participated in shows which Averbuh organized, including in December at their farewell gala performance. It was very pleasant to appear in such a company of stars - Bereznaja and Siharulidze, Slutskaja, Plushchenko…

MS- But with your main competitors - Navka and Kostomarov - the relations I guess are not that smooth?

M - You guessed wrong. If Roman and Tanja even with unclean skating receive madly high points while we are bypassed, and even if we think that our programs are better than their’s, we never say anything bad about them. I consider Navka and Kostomarov to be very good sportsmen.

MS- By the way, for some reason at the important competitions they always perform after you. Could it be that blind lot is so constant?

A - Maxim for some reason always pulls the first number. Perhaps he fixes it up with Roman (smiling)?

M - Generally it is a good starting number. It is better to skate right after the warm-up, than to painfully wait behind the curtains for your entrance. Especially now, when in general there is no difference who follows whom. All is known even before we start, all is decided beforehand, the judges have already made up reports on their desk, and we go on the ice only for the spectators and for TV. But once again, I want to repeat that we do not have problems with anybody - even with the Israelis, Galit Khait and Sergey Sakhanovsky. Though in the world championship of 2002 we arranged for a petition with the request to take away their bronze medals and to give them to the Lithuanians (to Margarita Drobjazko and Povilas Vanagas). That action was not against the figure skaters, but against the unfair refereeing.

A: - For me the most important thing is not the opinion of several judges, but the reception of our skating by the public. Last year in the world championship, after the free dance, we had a standing ovation but our competitors who won first place, did not get one. It was a true national recognition.

MS- Was it the most joyful moment of your career?

A - So far, yes. But in general, I hope that this moment is still ahead.

For a chance to win free copies of "Murder on Ice" and "On Thin Ice," please visit

Translation by G. Sivorinovsky
Web Translations in Real Time


  • At February 19, 2006 3:37 PM, Bill said…

    Trying to contact Maxim is like trying to find buried treasure. Nothing works. Does he have an e-mail address? I got one letter from him in which he said that it takes months for his mail to reach him through the Bulgarian Federation, and I still don't know whether he ever got mail directed to the Russian Federation.

    I've tried everything I know to support him, but it just hasn't worked.

  • At March 27, 2006 5:50 PM, Anonymous said…

    Try this:


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