Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Monday, January 02, 2006


Russia's reigning World Champion and 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist Irina Slutskaya incurred a bit of criticism in skating circles recently when, following her second place finish to Japan's Mao Asada at the Grand Prix final, Irina told the LA Times (asks for registration), "(Mao) is jumping, just a junior skater. You can be a good jumper, but you must be a woman, too. She really is not."

She also answered a television reporter, (I'm paraphrasing) "Mao is still a child. I would like to see her try to skate as a woman."

Almost a decade ago, in December of 1996, I went to Russia on behalf of ABC Sports, to help produce broadcast features on Eltsova and Bushkov, Ilia Kulik, Bereznaia and Sikharulidze, Irina, and her main Russian rival, Maria Butyrskaya.

In December of 1996, Irina (born February 9, 1979) was 16 years old and the European Ladies' Champion. In personality, she was, to all intents and purposes, a child. When we took her and a friend for a photo shoot in front of the Kremlin, they devolved into a giggling snowball fight. When we took her to film b-roll at a local mall and told her to pick out a gift, Irina chose an oversized teddy bear to join the stuffed menagerie already living on her bed. She was rosy-cheeked, bubbly and utterly delightful. (For those keeping video archives, check out Irina's 1997 European's interview where Dick Button asks to pinch her cheeks, and she lets him. I am the third person on camera, providing the Russian to English translation.)

On the other hand, in December of 1996, Maria Butyrskaya (born June 29, 1972), was 24 years old, a 4-time Russian National Champion, and rather bitter about the hot, new, young skating star in her midst (at the 1996 World Championship, Irina finished 3rd. Maria finished 4th, and off the podium).

Whereas Irina was interviewed at home, stuffed animals in the background, Maria asked for her interview to be conducted at a dance club (during the day, when they were setting up; nothing like trying to conduct an interview with clanging plates in the background). While Irina played snowballs with a gal pal, Maria strolled the streets arm-in-arm with her boyfriend.

When asked, on-camera, about Irina Slutskaya, Maria waved a hand, dismissive, and said, "Of course, jumps are easy for her. Everything is easy when you're 16. Just wait for her to grow up and try to do the same tricks with a woman's body..."

And, as the marvelous Linda Ellerbee would say, so it goes....


  • At January 09, 2006 2:41 PM, Anonymous said…

    Hmm, very interesting tidbit.

    Irina must be born in 1979, not 1969 though, or else she would be shattering all kinds of world records and being touted as "grandma on ice"! :)

  • At January 25, 2006 11:21 AM, Anonymous said…

    Oops... you're right. *I* was born in 1969, and must have it on the brain. OF COURSE it was 1979. Thank you so much for pointing it out.


  • At May 13, 2007 7:49 PM, Edelweiss said…

    LOL, isn't it ironic, that Slutskaya, who was known for ages for being a "jumping bean" and not for her artistry or maturity, is now trying to use the same arguments to mitigate her lower placement against a younger competitor.


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