Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Thursday, April 05, 2007


Tatiana Navka and Alex Zhulin: "We are happy that we have a daughter."

Translation of the interview by Kirill Levkin (KL) printed in Russian Language Internet Publication Extra-M ( Extra - dossier).

Introduction: Tatiana Navka (TN) and Roman Kostomarov are two times world champions (2004 and 2005). They are distinguished by an excellent technique and their general attractiveness, as well as by the fact that they are not related in personal life.

Their coach is Mr. Alex Zhulin (AZ), the husband of Ms. Navka, while Roman is married to a Moscow figure skater Julia Lautova, who is skating for Austria.

Tatiana and Roman had their share of skating under different flags. Initially Tatiana skated with Samvel Gezoljan for Byelorussia, and in 1995 they were fourth at the World Championship in Dortmund. Than she partnered with Nikolay Morozov, and this couple became the coaching debut of Mr. Zhulin, who at that time continued to perform at professional level with his then wife Maja Usva.

Tatiana Navka was born April 13, 1975. Alex Zhulin was born July 20, 1963. Alex was a European and World Champion (1993) and a silver medallist at the Olympics at Lillehammer (1994) with Usova. Tatiana Navka and Alex Zhulin are married for 10 years. They like to play golf together. They live in New Jersey and in Moscow. Their daughter Sasha Zhulina was born in 2000.

KL - Alex, how did you meet Tatiana?

AZ - We skated in the same class of Natalia Dubova. Tatiana was 14 when we met. My relations with Maja (Usova, than partner and wife of Alex) were already not very good. It is natural that when your marriage is in trouble you start paying attention to other women. And than I noticed of what a beautiful girl Tatiana was. Initially we just talked, but our feelings grew.

KL - At that time you were performing solo. Did you think of pairing with Tatiana?

AZ - I thought about that, but I was only 5 centimeters taller than Tatiana, while I should have been at least 15 centimeters taller, that as her partner I could lift her as a feather. As a coach I have to see that pairs match: Tatiana and Roman are an ideal match. Whatever they tried - everything came out perfectly from the very first try. In my case it took me more than a month to reach that level. Their moves coincide, they do not need to watch each other and do not need to be too careful, they skate with a wide swing and take risks.

KL - You exhibit a surprising confidence by passing your wife into the hands of another man, even for a short time.

AZ - I was the one who suggested that Tatiana and Roman skate together, even before she paired up with Morozov. But than Roman did not want to take a chance. Two years later they became a pair, but after one year they split on the advice of their coach - Natalia Linichuk. The new partner of Roman than was Anna Semenovich. Ms. Lininchuk rejected Tatiana. Tatiana was saved by her pregnancy. Those months were the best in our lives. We often traveled to New York, practiced a little and were inseparable. One day, when we had already had Sasha, Tatiana said: "If Roman would call now and apologize…" He called a day later. I can not say that I was happy - Tatiana just gave birth and was very content, I started making good money as a children's coach. But I understood that I have to give my wife a chance to realize herself in sports.

KL - Are you getting angry when Tatiana loses?

AZ - Never. After birth of Sasha I started perceiving figure skating differently. When I was competing myself and when Maja and I lost the Olympics, it felt as we have wasted our lives. I tried not to talk with my colleagues or reporters, I did not go to the parties, so ashamed I was for winning the second place. Now it all seems strange. Even the great Torvill and Dean, who won bronze at that Olympics, were not ashamed. When I became a coach, I realized that any competition, even the Olympics is just another start. Your wife, daughter even colleagues love and respect you not because you are a champion, but for what you can do.

KL - A new generation of single and pair skaters arrived from China and Japan. Who would be your competition at the Olympics?

AZ - These days our coaches are working all over the world and every year new good pairs appear. Or current competitors are pairs from Ukraine, Bulgaria and USA. Chinese and Japanese couples will probably not be our main competitors. The future is in the hands of Italians and British, but they probably are competitors to my pair from Azeibardjan.

KL - Tatiana, are you not upset that Alex is coaching other pairs - the one from Azeibardjan?

TN - Kristen Frasier and Igor Lukanin are the same "Azerbajanians" as we are. She is an American and he came to US from Sverdlovsk (a city in Russia). Neither in US, nor in Russia each of them could break through a stiff competition. At that time, the president of the Azeibardjan National Federation of Figure Skating, Mr. Gusein Aliev, wanted to attract talented figure skaters. It is unfortunate that he passed away during the Moscow Championship. In regards of other pupils of Alex, I think that the coach can not limit himself to working with just one pair.

KL - Who are the other skater friends of yours?

AZ - Our best friend is Alex Abt. He left the big sport and is coaching children at the same rink where I work. He, his wife Alena and their son Makar are almost like family to us and our children are like siblings. When we go away, we leave our daughter with Alex Abt.

TN- Alex likes to be a nanny. We are friends with Illia Kulik and Katia Gordeeva, often visit each other. During competitions we are often meeting with a Bulgarian pair of Albena Denkova and Max Stavisky relaxing in sauna and celebrating medals. We visited with them in Moscow and they visited with us in the US. Now they moved to US to work their coach Linichuk.

KL - Why do you still order costumes for your programs in St. Petersburg?

AZ - It is hard to find a high class tailor in the US. And if you find one it would cost an arm and a leg. We need a lot of costumes and they need a lot of alterations. In the west no one would be bothering with that for free. It will cost a lot - if the single skaters have to put out up to two thousand dollars in a season, the dancing pairs have to spend three to five thousand.

KL - The judging system in figure skating often changes. What do you think about these experiments?

TN - The new system is good without a doubt. Unfortunately it kills the creativity. There are seven lifts that are given the highest score. Every pair puts them in their programs. And now instead of a free program, there are two compulsory ones. Probably it would be better to have three base lifts and allow the others to fantasy of the skaters and the coaches. Look at the wonderful elements that were created by the Dushenays, by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

KL - Are you keeping a diet?

TN - I prefer fruits and dairy products and for six years I do not eat any baked products. I can not gain weight during the season - we practice or perform every day. During summer I mostly eat fruits, and thus by the beginning of the season, I do not have to shad the pounds.

AZ - A coach who is working with his pupils on ice has to be in good sport shape. Not all coaches come out on the ice. They communicate with the skaters from the side lines and their deputies are working on the ice with the skaters. I do everything myself with Tatiana and Alex and have to be in good shape.

KL - Did you name your daughter after Mr. Zhulin?

AZ - From the very beginning we wanted to call her Alexandra. But in the States that name is shortened to Alex, and that was why we selected the name Sasha - it is a nice and cuddly name.

TN - I am happy that we have a daughter. After her birth my sport philosophy changed - daughter, parents, husband are much bigger than sports.

Extra points:
Lucky purchase.

TN - Our house in Atlantic City cost us only $700 thousand, while a similar home in New Jersey would cost us $900 thousand.

AZ - I actually selected the house. Looked at about twenty houses. To sign the purchase agreement we went together. We rented in New York City. Would have to drive back for 5-6 hours, so we settled in the new house for a few days right away.

Unlucky purchase:

AZ - I bought in New York on sale white pants and received a bottle of paint to fix the pants. One day I got a stain on the pants and decided to use the paint, but it was of a beige color and I ended up having a stain of different color on my white pants.


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