Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Friday, February 10, 2006


Continuing my earlier thought...

... until one peels back the veneer, and unearths the disturbing realization that the role of the ex-Soviet Union -- that of primary sponsor for Russian figure-skaters -- has now been taken over by the oblivious American tax-payer.

The farce began in 1992, when the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center -- under sponsorship of the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and Governor George Pataki -- invited Natalia Dubova, coach of the 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalists Usova & Zhulin -- to head their new Lake Placid International Ice Dancing School.

The idea was that, by having Russian coaches training U.S. athletes, Americans would finally get a peek at the techniques that earned the Soviets 41 World medals in Ice Dancing. The idea was to make American ice-dancers better.

However, in order to attract a coach of Dubova's stature to Lake Placid, the facility had to make certain concessions. While most coaches at the center had to make due purely with whatever money they made giving individual lessons, Dubova received a fixed salary. In addition, Dubova was guaranteed that up to four of her own, foreign couples could skate at the Lake Placid Training Center free of charge, on ice that an American team would have to pay $205 dollars a week for. Housing was also part of the package for Dubova's protegees. When they first arrived in the United States, ORDA put up Kazakhstani dancers Stekolnikova & Kazarliga in the Olympic Training Center's dormitories, and offered free room and board to Dubova's top couple Usova & Zhulin. Begging the question, if the Russian skaters aren't paying for their living and skating expenses, then who is?

Through ORDA, the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center receives the bulk of its funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee, as well as from the town of North Elba, NY, which donates $60,000 annually. Those funds, in turn, come from local tax-payers, and from private citizens contributing to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Citizens who presume their money is going to help fund the training of American, rather than ex-Soviet, athletes. But with all the help Usova & Zhulin received from Lake Placid on their way to winning the 1993 World Championship, it can be said that their victory was bought and paid for by U.S. money.

Meanwhile, at the University of Delaware in Newark, Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karpanosov coach their Russian teams on free ice -- "international ice" -- forbidden to American couples. In exchange for agreeing to skate in a few shows a year to benefit the University's skating program, Russian skaters received six hours of free ice-time a day, plus free housing. Again, the insistence is that having Russian coaches on site will cultivate America's dance program. But, like Dubova in New York, Linichuk has yet to produce a single American dance team that's made a splash internationally.

American pair skaters Urbanski & Marval, the working waitress and truck-driver, complained to Blades on Ice in September of 1995 about the unfairness in Delaware, their former training-site, "You have (Russian) teams that were given free houses. Our tax dollars are paying for it."

Similar circumstances flourish at training centers across the U.S. In Marlboro, MA, Tatiana Tarasova once coached Russian, Ukrainian, and Italian dancers, and Russian and French freestyle skaters like Ilia Kulik, Surya Bonaly and Alexei Yagudin. (After relocating to New Jersey, she announced her intention to return to Russia in 2005).

Irina Rodnina coached her 1995 World Pair Champions from the Czech Republic, Kovarikova & Novotny, while at Lake Arrowhead, CA. She, too, is now back in Russia.

And, in Simsbury, CT, Galina Zmievskaya's one-time presence guaranteed free ice for her brood, including Olympic champions Viktor Petrenko and Ekaterina Gordeeva. Ice that any American Olympic hopefuls wishing to take advantage of, would have to pay for. She and son-in-law Victor currently coach in Wayne, NJ. Where, "the coaches don't get paid by the arena and set their own coaching fees, which start at around $80 an hour."

These conditions have prompted cries of unfairness from many corners of the skating world. American skaters resent their competitors being given for free what some U.S. athletes have to sell their houses for. American coaches resent foreigners coming in, taking their students, and being subsidized by other Americans to do so. While certain American professional skaters resent how the new Russian professionals have managed to finagle the best of both worlds.

When the Soviet Union was still around, the Soviet Union paid all the expenses necessary for their skaters like Klimova & Ponomarenko, Viktor Petrenko, and Oksana Baiul to get to the top. Then, as quickly as these skaters pocketed their gold medals, the rules changed and, with the Soviet Union no longer in power, the skaters were free to earn money for skating professionally. Which they promptly took advantage of by moving to the United States, and picking through the offers of Americans eager to pay them just to skate at their facility.

These skaters benefited from the existence of the Soviet Union, then they benefited from its collapse.

And the trend continues. In preparation for the 2006 Olympics, ice-dance favorites Navka and Kostamarov train in New Jersey, and Pair favorites Totmianina and Marinin in Chicago.


  • At March 09, 2006 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    FYI: Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are coached by Russians. Sasha Cohen and Johnny Weir were coached by Tarasova at some point in their careers. A lot of programs for the American skaters are choreographed by Nikolai Morozov. Do you seriously think that the US did not benefit from inviting Russian coaches and figure skaters to train on the American ice?

  • At March 10, 2006 2:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Igor Shpilband doesn't count, his situation (like Gorsha Sur's) is different. He wasn't invited to the US and given special treatment, he defected and took US citizenship.

    Both Sasha and Johnny passed through the Tarasova realm rather briefly; neither pairing seemed to have gelled particularly well and their Olympic results speak for themselves. In any case, if either Sasha or Johnny had wanted to work with Tarasova or Marozov or anyone else, they could have done so on their own, without sucking the American taxpayer into it. (Hey, maybe THAT'S what Johnny meant when he said Republican-type people don't like how he lives his life! Suddenly it's all clear. You know those fiscal conservatives!)


  • At March 21, 2006 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How is paying $80 an hour to coaches originally from Ukraine any different than paying that to American coaches? I've been able to pay just $13 to get a whole rink at the Ice Vault to myself for an hour and a half (wonderful place), so is it really that big of a difference if they get to skate on it for free, especially since they're coaches?

  • At April 01, 2007 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    WTF, Gordeeva was never even coached by Zmievskaya.

  • At August 11, 2007 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what did I like best is that a girl with Russian - origin first name writes such an article:( you should remember your roots

  • At March 02, 2008 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As an American, I really don't mind some of my money going to help skaters perfect their art - no matter what nationality they are. I do think the American skaters should be treated better if what you're saying is true. Regardless, I love and appreciate what ALL of these fine athletes have given to the world, and if I had a choice >>> my tax dollars would ALWAYS be used helping them create beautiful things rather than watching my government spend most of it on more guns, war, bombs, general destruction & divisiveness & stupid bullshit.

    Plushenko gets the gold in 2010! =)


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