Behind the scene of the Russian Show - "Stars on Ice"
Translation of an interview by a correspondent of Russian Language publication "Sovsport" Andrey Vandenko (AV) with the star of the show Alex Zhulin (AZ).
Every Saturday, Channel 1 of Russian TV presents the show - "Stars on Ice" which is a professional competition where Alex Zhulin and his partner Ingeborg Dankuaite are established favorites. Mr. Zhulin, currently the coach of Olympic champions Navka and Kostomarov, decided to revive his own sports past and is seriously competing in the show. Here is his story about the show from the inside.
AV - One of the competitors - Marat Basharov -- christened your show - "Hell on Ice." How do you feel in hell?
AZ - I am not such a big sinner as to get directly to hell. I am not in a hurry to get there and do not advise others to go there. I would not say that there is hell on our show. Marat is an artist, a creative person and he exaggerates a little, or was just joking. Of course the pressure on the participants is serious. We have to practice every night for 3 or 4 hours and we are constantly developing new programs. And besides the show each of us has their jobs. But on the other hand, no one forced us to do it. We signed our contracts and knew what we were getting into. To be honest, my wish now is just to get some sleep. By personality I am an owl - I like to sleep late and to get up when it is still dark outside. To get to the rink by 8 am is a torture for me. I am coaching several pairs, that is terrible - this is real hell. I am looking forward to the completion.
AV - Completion of what - the show or coaching?
AZ - Everything. I would like to do nothing and to have a lot of money.
AV - So far it did not happen?
AZ - Apparently not.
AV - A lot of work and not enough money?
AZ - Actually I have enough of both, but would like to have less of the former and more of the latter.
AV - How did you end up with the show?
AZ - Initially they invited Tanja (his wife Tatiana Navka) . We lived in the US and I was appalled that she would have to go to Russia for 4 months and I would stay behind. I did not like that arrangement and we started thinking of other options. The producers decided to get me involved in the project. They called me and asked me to join the show. I asked them in what capacity? They sad - "As a participant." I replied that I did not skate for 10 years. "So what" - I was told, "Some of the participants never skated before." Then I asked who would be my partner and was told that it would be Ingeborgy Dankunaite. I always liked her as an actress. I considered everything and agreed. As a result of this, Tanja and I decided to move back to Russia for a year or two and to see how things would go there.
AV - So it looks like the show provoked your return to Russia?
AZ - The gold medal in Turin was actually a stimuli for our return. Today we are needed in Russia and everyone treats us really well. It is stupid to sit in the USA where only a few people know about our Olympic victory. Americans love their own idols and they do not care about the foreigners.
AV - Where do you live in the States?
AZ - In New Jersey, not far from NYC. We just bought a house, moved in, and now this.
AV - Did you rent out your place?
AZ - Yes, but on not very favorite conditions. It is hard to find a tenant for a big house who would pay high rent. But we did not have a choice. I had to be in Moscow in August and the show started in September of 2006.
AV - The program is aired on Saturdays. When do you tape it?
AZ - A few days before - usually on Thursday. The process is stretched for about 5 hours with practices, dress rehearsals etc.
AV - Do you feel sports ardor again?
AZ - I was a little nervous at the first show. I did not skate for a long time and was skating with a new partner, but gradually everything settled, I got adjusted and everyone initially adjusted really well and had fun. But from the fifth or sixth show onward the situation began to change. All of us were World or Olympic Champions and we were not used to give in and to lose. On the surface, no one is serious about the show, but I can see deeper. Each one of us is vain and egotistical, and we all dream about first place. No matter where a real sportsperson is competing, he will give his all to the end. Even when I play table tennis with Arthur Dmitriev, I am getting upset if I am losing. Same thing with the show. Now I feel that the tiredness is adding up and we all would like to have a break and would be thankful to the producers.
AV - All but the spectators?
AZ - No one really needs that pressure.
AV- Does Ilja Averbuch develop all of the dances?
AZ - As a professional coach I help him sometimes. It is hard for him, especially when initially he had to work with 13 pairs.
AV - Do you help your wife who is dancing with Marat Basharov?
AZ - If she asks me.
AV - What about the competitiveness?
AZ - With her, why would I be concerned with it? She is my wife, and I would be happy if she wins.
AV - What about the prize money?
AZ - I am not sure how it works, but I know that the longer I stay in the competition, the bigger is the bonus, the more we will get in our family budget. In my case, my honorarium grows with each show. Tanja's pay would be the same, regardless when she leaves the show. In principle, she may leave the show today and the pay would stay the same. But she would not quit, she will fight.
AV - Who is your daughter rooting for?
AZ - She is torn apart between us two.
AV - Sport is inconceivable without intrigues behind the scenes, and television show must be the same?
AZ - Sometimes I think that this program was specially developed to break up families.
AV - How so?
AZ - You are always left alone with other people, your wife dances with another man, the practices are late at night, and so on, and so on.
AV - Well, Alex go on.
AZ - Of course if one is strong and confident, there is no reason to worry.
AV - Do you worry?
AZ - My romance with my wife is going for 13 years. Why should I worry?
AV - The number 13 is an unlucky number.
AZ - Well, Tanja was born on April the 13th. In casino I sometimes put my money on number 13 and often win.
AV - Do you go often to casinos?
AZ - I am just fooling around in casinos a couple of times a year.
AV - But by nature are you easily carried away?
AZ - When I was younger that was the case. But now I am older and the age makes a person more sober.
AV - How fast did you establish good relationship with Dankunaite?
AZ - Immediately. A good relation with a partner is important for success. Without that one can not make a single step. Ingeborga is a bright individual, very smart woman and behaves correspondingly. She does not have a cheap sense of honor and she is not a snob. She is always concerned if I had my dinner, or if I would like coffee. She has a strong character. It is rare that one meets such a professional partner and a friend. I am happy with my partner and I learn a lot form her.
AV - Could you make her a champion?
AZ - By her character and intelligence she could very well be a sportsperson. She was born to be a winner. Inner strength is very important in sports, and the rest could be learned.
AV - Who else at the show could have been good in sports career?
AZ - It is hard to say. The show is not a serious sport, but I like Marat Basharov and Katja Guseva.
AV - Many spectators of the "Stars on Ice" thought that Tatiana Tarasova was helping Alexey Yagudin to stay longer in the show.
AZ - It is easy to understand since he was her beloved pupil.
AV - And what about you?
AZ - I am not, since I never practiced with her. She is a great coach. Let's not discuss her. I know that I need to work hard to get high marks from the judges.
AV - Did you become more popular while participating in the show?
AZ - Television is a great thing. Now I fully realized it. I am being recognized on the streets. The attention is nice, but I am over 40 and do not react too well to the expressions of love. I have a strong head.
AV - Have you seen a similar show on "Russia" channel?
AZ - Yes , twice.
AV - And what do you think?
AZ - I like it. I love everybody.
AV - And what do you really think without PC?
AZ - I can not be objective. I think that our show is better. But let spectators decide. Both programs are developing. We are planning to develop new dances based on classical music with new costumes. I think that it will be great.
AV - Speaking of costumes. Do you rent them?
AZ - No, for each show we have new costumes made by special people.
AV - What do you do with the old ones?
AZ - We could buy them if we want.
AV - Do you want it?
AZ - Not really. I have enough costumes.
AV - Do you make good money?
AZ - I can not tell you the exact sum, but considering that Moscow is the most expensive city in the world, they could pay us more. But if I agreed to the contract, I have to live with what I have.
AV - But still you have to work and lose sleep.
AZ - There is never too much money. And also I am a coach, not a showman. When I was leaving the States I had a few potentials and now I have four pairs and a few singles that are looking for partners, that I coach here.
AV - Do you have good prospective skaters?
AZ - Of course I have a few nice juniors.
AV - No one knows how long it will take them to mature, but meanwhile Russia is missing in competitions and in the Grand Prix, and the stars are playing in the shows.
AZ - Those stars worked hard and paid their dues. Now let others sweat it out for the honor of their country. We have to grow new champions. It is not an easy task. The medals do not just fall in our laps from the sky.
AV - How long do you think it will take Russia to return to the leading positions on ice?
AZ - Even the people that we have now could really fight for high positions. It seems that every one is pushing the Russians around, everybody is sick and tired of Russians, but in a few years everything will be back to normal. We have great coaches and talented skaters. Maybe not at the next Olympics in Vancouver, but at the following games we will definitely get the medals. But I really doubt that we would be able to repeat the record of Turin. Such a harvest of medals is very rare.
AV - Do you think that Slutskaya and Pluschenco could come back?
AZ - It is possible but it is hard to believe. There should be a serious motive for this move. It is not just a philosophical but rather a psychological move. It is hard to force yourself to work very hard again. As for me, I would not let my wife to go back again. It is enough to have 4 Olympics behind. Especially considering how difficult it was for her in the last few years when a lot of people were trying to upstage her. Dancing is a very corrupt sport.
AV - This is a serious charge.
AZ - I call it as I see it. I will not name names, but believe me that there is a new generation of coaches that turned everything upside down, just to get to their goals. These people decided that all means are good to reach their goals, intrigues, bribes, connections with the people in high places. The most important skills are not being a good coach or a choreographer, but to be able to weave intrigues. I am an old hand in figure skating, but I do not remember it ever to be like that. This young generation will not be great. Honestly, I am sick and tired of that. I remember that at the European Championship after the compulsory program Roman and Tanja were placed in third place, they were practically pushed back. It was a very difficult period. We considered to leave the sport and not to go to the Olympics. I do not even know how were we able to withstand the pressure at that time. There is God after all. And than in Turin the compulsory program was won by an Italian couple. I would say that they were good skaters, but as a coach I could see that they were brought back from mothballs and were forced to compete as to bring Italy the gold medals. Who knows what would have happened if the Italians would not fall down in the original dance. Navka and Kostomarow won, but by a high price to their nervous systems.
AV - Did the sport become more dirty?
AZ - I would not like to make a summary judgment. I can talk only about ice dancing. All of the new rules that were designed to make the judging more objective have failed so far. It became worse. Before I could look in the eye of the arbiter and ask directly why the marks were so low? The judge could have answered if he wanted to. But now, it is all faceless. One could take money from a competitor and cut the marks of a dancer and no one would know who was doing it. We could not even complain on subjectivity because we are explained that computer selects judges. Also, the results of these competitions are very predictable, almost as if there were programmed in the computer. The situation is really bad in figure skating. Track and field sport is a different story. Everyone could see everything and there all results are measured - you ran the distance and the time is recorded regardless of who you are. Ice dances are subject to special interests and prejudges. I hope that my daughter will be a tennis player rather than a figure skater. Of course it will be her choice, I will not pressure her, but I would not want her to go through what her mother went through. I have to stick with it, I have no other profession, but my daughter may find her own way. Ice dances are beautiful, but it is a pity that some people are dirtying the beauty of the sport.
AV - That must be the reason that you are working in the show, rather than imitate the sport straggle.
AZ - One needs a psychological break, a change of scenery. We had enough.
AV - How long did you live in the States?
AZ - Long. 13 years.
AV - Is it hard to adapt back to Russia?
AZ - Our countries are very much similar. Especially in what is related to the business and work. In everyday life there are some advantages in Russia. I did not like the food in the States. I ate there only salads and fish and still was gaining weight. After I came here I was eating everything and lost 10 pounds. It was also difficult to get used to traffic jams and to the traffic police in Moscow and the climate is tiresome here. Everything else is fine. I remember and understand a lot.
It seems to me that Russia substantially moved toward the civilized world. Before the people there were very angry, and now they seem to be mellower. Although in the States they can smile to your face and put a knife in your back. The same principles that work everywhere in the world are working in Russia these days - if you want to achieve success, you have to work hard. In the Sates I made good money and had to work 10 hours a day. Here it is the same picture. It is the way it should be.
AV - If they would invite you to work in a new show a year from now, would you go?
AZ- I would review everything very carefully. I am not getting younger and have to consider my strengths. And the old traumas are bothering me sometimes. Let's not try to predict future. Let me finish this season. Show must go on every Saturday.
Tatiana Navka: "The main thing in my life is patience"
Translation of an interview by a correspondent of a Russian Language newspaper Rossijskaja Gazeta, Vladimir Petrov (VP) printed on May 3, 2007.
Introduction: The road to the top by this famous figure skater was long and difficult. She danced on ice at the Olympics of 94 at Lillehammer and at Nagano in 98 with different partners under the flag of Belarus. After many years, at the 2006 Olympics, Tatiana Navka (TN) and Roman Kostomarov became Olympic Champions under the Russian flag.
VP- Tatiana, it seems that after Nagano the Byelorussians are rooting for you with a special vigor.
TN - Certainly. I remember that time when I skated for Belarus with great pleasure. Those were the happiest years of my life. I love this country and I love Minsk (capital of Belarus), which is one of the best cities in the world.
VP - Your biography is a nice illustration of the spiritual unity of the three Slavic nations. You were born and started skating in Dneproperovsk (Ukraine), you debuted at the Olympics for Belarus and you became three times World Champion and won Olympic gold under the Russian flag. But what nationality do you feel yourself most?
TN- I feel myself a person of the world. But seriously I do not divide these countries. I was born in the USSR and let's leave it at that.
VP - It looks like you, a famous sportsperson, became known by millions of TV viewers after your victory at the ice show "Stars on Ice." Is it true?
TN - Oh, no, I think it is opposite. Everyone knows who won the gold at the Turino Olympics in ice dancing. I can not say that my popularity increased due to "Stars on Ice."
VP - Then what was of interest to you in that project? Was it the financial part of it, or to try yourself in a new role?
TN - Certainly, it was something new and very interesting for me - very different from what I was doing all my life. It was not even sport - it was more like show business. It came out really well. I do not feel sorry for anything.
VP - The ice show of Tom Collins with the participation of the world's stars of figure skating is very popular in the USA. Could the show of Ilja Averbuch and Irina Lobacheva, that was playing in Minsk not long ago, be compared with it?
TN - We are improving the quality of our show every year. The only thing that tires me is constant travel, our roads and hotels. But otherwise the quality of the show itself will make happy even the most demanding viewers. I do not think that any other show has as many champions as we have.
VP - Are you always lucky and successful?
TN - No, not always. The most important thing in my life is patience. I worked very long and hard and that is why I feel that I deserve my rewards. It is nice to be lucky, but being a couch potato would not win you anything.
VP - It was known in the past that even the best athletes had to wait in line for their turn to get to the top. Is it the same now?
TN - To a degree, yes. It is impossible to become an Olympic champion in one year. It is hard work. Year after year one should prove that he/she is the best. Even in single skating if you flawlessly execute all jumps, you would not be placed at the top right away. You need to work hard for several, and sometimes for many seasons.
VP - Who has contributed to your success most - your husband and coach Alex Zhulin, your first coach Natalia Dubova or the famous Elena Tchaikovskaja?
TN - I respect Ms. Tchaikopvskaja very much, she is a great woman, a great human being. But we did not have many contacts. I can not say that she had a substantial effect on my career and achievements. Dubova gave me a lot of knowledge of life and of sport. I invited her to visit me for the celebration of my Olympic gold in America. Zhulin stimulated my love for figure skating and helped me to understand it in a different way.
VP - You were dancing with Samvel Gezaljan and Nikolay Morozov, but the real success came with Roman Kostomarov. Is Roman an ideal partner?
TN - There are not many irreproachable people. Like all people, I have my deficiencies and he has them as well. Ideal could not be a person, but a robot that you can create to your specifications. Of course we have our rough patches, but in general, I think that we were made for each other, I mean on the ice.
VP - How do you get along with Basharov with whom you are skating now at the "Stars on Ice?"
TN - Great. He is a wonderful person and a partner, and I am very happy that I dance with him. Marat is a very hard-working and sensitive person.
VP - There were several attempts to improve Belarus figure skating with the help of strong foreign skaters - like you, Julia Soldatova, Sergey Davidov? What do you think is missing as to have this sport to develop more dynamically in Belarus?
TN - I think that it depends a lot on the person in charge of the Belarus Figure Skating Federation, who would be able to get it to the top, like it is done in Russia. No matter what, that person would play a major role in the successes of Belarus figure skaters.
Interview with Alexey Mishin by Oxana Tonkacheeva (OT)
Printed in the Russian Language newspaper Novie Izvestia on April 25, 2007 TRANSLATION
Introduction: On Thursday, April 26 in the Army Theater there will be an official ceremony of awarding the annual sports premium - "Glory." One of the contenders for the title of "Coach of the Year" is famous coach Alexey Mishin (AM) who is well known in figure skating circles as a "professor". Incidentally, Alexey does have a Doctorate Degree and without exaggeration knows everything that there is to know about his beloved sport of figure skating.
OT - Alexey Nikolaevich, are you bored on ice without your champions - Urmanov, Pluschenko?
AM - I hope that the pause will be a short one and within the next four years I will present to the world a new bright figure skater.
OT - Even great sportspeople feel bad without a good coach. How does the coach feel without a great student?
AM - One Oriental philosopher said: If you want to climb the next mountain, you should first get down from the previous one." I came back from the previous mountain, but I did not feel that I got stuck in the swamp.
OT - Is there a new Pluschenko growing up?
AM - It would be my mistake to make a premature announcement. I never do that. My wife and I work with some kids who could bring a surprise. Why don’t I want to point out any one in particular? I never start with an individual sports person, but rather I start with a group. This is my methodology. When kids begin from ground zero, they need a collective. Some time ago I had a group which included Urmanov, Yagudin, Novoseltcev, Tataurov, Shashkin, and then Pluschenko alone. Everyone was bullying him but he struggled, pulled himself up and pushed through. Same is now. My students are quite young and it is hard to say what will come out of them. Each one of them has a bright side. One has great steps, the other makes good turns, the third one is emotional, the fourth one is strong, the fifth one is more psychologically stable. Some of the people in the group accumulate in themselves all of these qualities. And then that one comes to the top by himself. If on the other hand, I would push the athlete up, would attach the sails and would blow into them, it would be my big mistake.
OT - Is Evgeny coming back?
AM - He wants to return very much and if he finds financial support, he will start serious training in July, when all skaters begin their training.
OT - In other words, he needs a sponsor?
AM - One of our Olympic Champions said that to take that route for a second time is an exploit. And true exploits should be correspondingly supported. The president of the Russian Figure Skating Federation mentioned that the members of the National Team were making three to five thousand of rubles (120-200 dollars). It is not a stimuli. Evgeny wants to come back, so help him to continue his career. He will not be able to physically participate in the shows and to run a business any more.
OT - Do you think that it is right that the champions are coming back?
AM - Champions are like crystals. They are examples. They are role models. I think that champions that left the sport, but who still can skate, should come back. Their presence will be good for figure skating. I do believe in our bright future. One has to be up to the task and then we would compete as equals with the current leaders.
OT - Would they allow that? One of them, who went high this season - Brian Joubert said that he did not care if Pluschenko would come back or not.
AM - Joubert has some strong points - the quad jumps, but in everything else he can be beaten. He does not have any interesting routines or poses.
OT - Considering the situation in Russian figure skating in general, Valentin Piseev, the President of the Federation, feels that the problem is that Russia does not have good coaches. Now we are harvesting the results of the mass exodus of our professional coaches out of the country in the previous years. For example, at the last World Championship, out of 24 best dancing pairs, 17 were trained by our coaches.
AM - Yes, our coaches left, but what were they to do? When the whole country went down, figure skating became very expensive. To survive, our coaches had to leave and to use their knowledge, obtained here, to reach a good financial and organizational level. That is why now all of our possibilities could turn into reality if there will be established a good federal program that will support figure skating.
OT - In summary, a good sponsor is needed not only for Pluschenko?
AM - To develop a freestyle program today would cost ten thousand dollars. If you do not have that kind of money, you can develop a program even for three thousand rubles. Take a tutor from a regular school. But then your program would be worth three thousand rubles. My former student, Alexey Urmanov, is a father of three. To support his family and to train his own students, he has to dance in a variety of shows. He has to make money by training kids. He and others have to "sell" their names to the ice shows as to be able to work with their students. Not long ago, I had to call a plumber and he told me that he was making 15 thousand rubles a month (about 600 dollars). I, a decorated coach, make only 14,100 rubles a month. You can make your own conclusions.
Translation of an article by Svetlana Orlova printed in Russian Language Internet publication "Express Gazeta" on May 11, 2007
After braking up with Masha Anikanova, Ilja Kulik got together with "the difficult child" before hooking up with Ekaterina Gordeeva. It was 1998. After becoming a hero of the Nagano Olympics, 19 year old Ilja Kulik could not imagine that he would leave Tatiana Tarasova, the coach that he adored. He also did not imagine that soon he will be getting support from a most scandalous figure skater. After coming out of a three years binge of drinking, Oxana Bajul met a brief love and then had to pass it on to her close friend Ekaterina Gordeeva.
Young Ilja Kulik was an idol for many girls. As soon as he would come out on the ice, there was an echo from the stands: "He looks exactly like Leonardo DiCaprio." But Ilja was not lucky in love. Preparing for the Olympics, he was infatuated with a French skater. But his coach, learning of this, put a stop to the courting. A year later, Ilja told Tarasova that he was tired of her running his life and he left her. He himself explained that he did not want to prepare two programs a year and to go to practice twice a day. But it was not just the work that was hard on him. His coach actually ran his personal life. As soon as she broke up his advances to the French figure skater, Ilja fell in love with Masha Anikanova. Tarasova thought he should not waste time on hanky-panky. But apparently Masha was serious about her relations with Ilja and was ready to leave the theater. She also was talking about having a child with Ilja.
Those events did not meet the plans that Tarasova had for Ilja. But she could not interfere directly, as she had done with the French skater because in the past, when Masha was practicing on ice as a novice figure skater, Tarasova was her coach and she was friends with Masha's mother.
Meanwhile, Tarasova witnessed a romance and break-up of the unhappy marriage of Anikanova with another skater, Evgeny Platov. Tarasova, with the help of Ilja's mother, tried to interfere in his relationship with Masha, who was 4 years older than Ilja. Kulik tried to ignore the gossips, but he was not very wise and he lost his love.
When he was 20, Ilja decided that he would turn professional and he signed up with the show of Tom Collins. Oxana Bajul who was also 20 at time, worked at the show as well.
When Oxana was 16, she won the Olympics at Lillehammer and her coaches brought her to America. Pretty soon the press christened her "the difficult child" for her behavior. When Ilja met Oxana, she had just checked out of a clinic for treatment of alcoholism and she was very lonely. After learning of who he was seeing, Ilja's mother thought that she should not have interfered in his relationship with Anikanova. But Ilja was not serious about his relationship with Oxana. He knew her past when she was walking around in her underwear at the hotel Ritz, or when being drunk she crashed her Mercedes and almost killed her passenger - Mr. Ararat Zakarian, who is now an agent of Evgeny Pluschenko and Irina Slutskaja and a producer of "Pluschenko show".
Also, Ilja could see that Oxana was not good with the money. Since she made 6 Million dollars in promotions for cosmetics and chocolate, she would not wear things that would cost less than $1000 each. He did not make such money and after spending one summer at the Collins show, he left for "Stars on Ice." He was looking for support at that time and he received it from Ekaterina Goredeeva, who also worked with "Stars on Ice." At that time she was also grieving for a loss. But not for the loss of her husband who died in 1995 of a heart attack, but for the loss of her then-boyfriend, a soloist with the New York ballet, Igor Zelensky. The "grieving widow" image was created by the promoters of her book "My Sergey." People knew the couple of wonderful figure skaters, multiple World and Olympic champions. The book about their beautiful life was selling very well. The first book was followed by a second - "A Letter for Daria" which was followed by a movie. Eventually news about her relations with Zelinsky became known and there was even talk about marriage. At that time Zelinsky was offered a position at "La Scala" and he could not turn it down.
Gordeeva lived near Oxana Bajul. Oxana liked Ekaterina and her husband and continued to be friends with Ekaterina after Sergey's death. Through Oxana, Ilja met Ekaterina and fell in love with her. Soon he moved in with Ekaterina, she got pregnant and they got married. Now they have 2 daughters - 14 years old Dasha and 6 years old Leeza.
Meanwhile at the World Championship of 99, Oxana Bajul was seen everywhere with a dark skinned man named Johnny, a stylist and make up artist. Oxana was saying that she had complete psychological compatibility with him, that he was her family, despite his being gay.
It was not clear how long she was satisfied with a relationship with a man with an alternative sexual orientation, but it is known that in 2001 she met a young businessman and a recent immigrant Zhenja Sunik. He is the one that I was looking for, said Oxana. Finally there is a real man beside me. Zenja's parents were running a clothing shop and they opened a special line of costumes for the figure skaters. The young people were planning to get married and to have a child. But according to Oxana, the parents of Zhenja did not approve of her returning to the show "Stars on Ice" and after 5 years of living together they broke up.
Two month after the break up, Oxana found another candidate for a husband. Again initially everything was ideal. The 40 years old businessman, Jim Brennon, was building roads and did not mind Oxana's participation in the show. But recently she broke up with him too, saying that she would not have anything to do with Americans any more.
Who she lives now with, she does not tell. It is possible that the faithful Johnny is comforting her again.
Translation of an article by Sergey Dadigin published in Russian Language Internet publication Express Gazeta on My 4, 2007
There is only one figure skater who twice became Olympic champion with two different partners. In 1992, at the Albertville Games, Arthur Dmitriev won together with Natalia Mishkutenok, and 6 years later in Nagano he won the Olympics in pair with Oxana Kazakova.
Everyone seems to know about the achievements of Irina Rodnina, three times Olympic gold winner. Arthur Dmitriev was not really that far behind - he had 2 gold and one silver Olympic medals. Arthur is a very modest person and never talked much about his achievements and thus was not as famous as Rodnina.
I remember how at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games, I took my fist interview with Arthur. We met at the entrance to the Olympic village, where correspondents were not allowed and had to get a special permit. Arthur decided to help me. He took the badge off one of the foreign sportspeople and gave it to me to put on. I protested that there was a different picture and the guards would figure it out and would not let me in. Arthur said not to worry - they really do not look at the picture, but rather scan the badge and if it had the right chip and would make the right beep, everything would be fine. And he was right, I was able to get into the village without problems. I liked his resourcefulness, but I was more surprised by his sense of humor.
Arthur Dmitriev and Natalia Mishkutenok performed the free program flawlessly, it was their best skating of the season. But the judges gave the first place to another Russian pair - Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov. According to many experts, Arthur and Natalia had a valid claim that the judges deliberately lowered their points, but Arthur was calm and did not express any pity. Later one of the female judges approached him and said that she was initially sure that Gordeeva and Grinkov would take the gold and voted for them, but she thought that Arthur and Natalia honestly were skating better.
In a similar situation at the 2002 Olympics, Canadian pair Sale - Pelletier protested the decision of the judges and were awarded an unprecedented second set of gold medals. Natalia and Arthur did not even think of that. In their pair, Arthur was always a leader - a strong, confident and dependable man. Natalia said once that he did not have any shortcomings. She always looked at him with loving eyes, but Arthur was looking for love outside the rink. He felt that it would be too much to be near the same woman at work and at home. Also, Natalia looked attractive, but had a problem with an extra weight. When their coach Tamara Moskvina suggested to develop a program to the music of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Arthur ironically commented that Natalia was not a swan and Moskvina agreed.
After Lillehammer, Natalia Mishkutenok told Arthur that she was tired and was quitting figure skating. But the unrestrained soul of Dmitriev would not rest until he won the Olympics in 1998 when for the third time he stepped on the podium, and this time up to the top. Oxana Kazakova, his then partner, confessed that she was lucky skating with Arthur as if she won the lottery. Initially no one thought that Arthur and Oxana would be a good pair. She was always behind him in her achievements. But the genius coach Tamara Moskvina had proven that they could work together. And she was right. And Cinderella became a princess.
I do not know what feelings had Natalia Mishkutenok when she heard that Arthur and Oxana won the Nagano Olympics. Natalia was in the US at that time, where she went with the hope to arrange her personal life. She lived there for nine years with an American hockey player, Craig Shepard. He adored her, but they broke up because she wanted a child and he did not. She took the break-up hard and decided to change the environment. This way she met her second husband, Alan Heinline - a realtor, who liked children. Last December, Natalia came to St. Petersburg to visit her mother with her new daughter - Natalia Jr. And judging by her happiness, the former Olympic champion will not stop at one child.
Arhtur Dmitriev met his wife, gracious Tatiana Druchinina, at the city of Novogorsk, where the National Gymnastics team was practicing near the skaters. She could definitely be a wonderful swan - great figure, long neck, proud posture. It was unfortunate but her sports career was cut short by an auto accident. Arthur and Tatiana got married and they have a son - Arthur Jr. Their son followed his father's footsteps - he is also a skater, but skating singles. The family of the two time Olympic champion lives in the US, but now they are considering going back to St. Petersburg.
Arthur is now working as a coach in the group of Tamara Moskvina. His wife works as a choreographer. She was the one who developed the choreography for Olympic Dance Champions of 2006 - Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov.
Elena Bereznaja and Anton Sikhuralidze: "Our feelings are larger than love"
Translation of the article by Sergey Dadigin published in Russian Language Internet Publication "Express Gazeta" on April 26, 2007.
The pair of Bereznaja - Sikhuralidze is probably one of the most beautiful pairs in the world of figure skating. Just a few years ago many people thought that it was just a matter of time before Anton would marry Elena. But it did not happen, and now Elena has another fiancée.
The situation is a peculiar one, since the other man - British skater Steven Cousins, did not propose yet. But she has decided it all for herself. Elena met Steven with her mother and they liked each other. It was just a minor thing that he did not speak Russian. (Comment by the interpreter - in relations with a mother-in-law it may be a blessing).
Meanwhile, the lovers communicate mostly in English. In the middle of summer, Steven is planning to come to Elena in St. Petersburg and possibly at that time they would announce about the upcoming marriage.
At the same time they are planning to announce about the completion of their sport careers. They discussed two possibilities - to stop skating altogether and to get married in the fall, or to continue to skate for another season in different ice shows, to earn some money and then to get married. Incidentally, Elena already has an invitation from Averbuch to participate in his show, "Stars on Ice-2." If she accepts it, the wedding will be postponed. But it would be interesting to talk about this issue with Mr. Cousins himself. It seems a little strange that the woman is talking about marriage, while the man keeps his mouth shut. Steven doesn't comment in the press at all on his relationship with the Olympic Champion.
On the other hand, Anton Sikharulidze feels that his pair with Elena will fall apart at any time. It was not by chance that he became a politician, joined the United Russia Party and became a member of the City Council of St. Petersburg. Anton is claiming that he is serious in fulfilling his political activities as a deputy. Elena also tried to play politics, but did not get enough votes to join the Council. It is interesting to note that during the process she had to declare her income and she showed a very small income of 180.000 rubles (about $7,200.00) for a whole year. It is hard to believe that a skater of her level who participated in commercial shows, made that kind of money. Speaking of income - Sikharulidze, in a similar declaration, showed that he made 10 times more. But it was not all from skating. He is a businessman as well. He owns a restaurant, "Sphinx" in St. Petersburg and a high fashion watch distributership in Moscow. (Incidentally, Elena owns a café, "Todes," in the city of Nevinnomisk, but formally it is owned by her parents).
Anton was always more practical than Elena. He has been a leader in their pair. The pair came about also because of Anton. Previously, Anton skated with Masha Petrova, and they became Junior World Champions. Their future was bright and clear. Elena, who came from the small city of Nevinnomisk was skating with Oleg Shlakhov in a parallel group of Tamara Moskvina. Anton could see that Oleg treated Elena badly and even sometimes in a rage was hitting her on the ice. Furthermore, when the young pair started participating in international competitions and started making some money, Oleg was taking away from Elena's her share. In 1996 in Riga they had an accident where during a rotation Oleg came too close to Elena and he hit Elena with his skate in the temple. She ended up in a hospital with damage to the brain.
The first visitor in her hospital room was not her partner, but Anton, who flew in from Petersburg when he heard about the accident. She was happy to see him but could not talk due to the brain damage. Her vision was also affected by the trauma.
When she was checked out of the hospital, Anton took her to his parents in Petersburg. He asked his parents if she could stay with them for a while. Anton was 19, Elena was 18, just the time for love. The parents considered the request and found a Solomon's solution - Anton's sister will stay in the same room where Anton and Elena would stay. Actually, it was the only possible solution since they had only a 2 room apartment. This way, the future Olympic Champions lived under one roof for about 8 months.
Such touching care of another skater's partner could be only explained by young love. Anton forgot about Masha Petrova, about figure skating and was ready to drop the sport, since the doctors were not sure if Elena would be able to skate at all. But she overcame her fears and went back on ice and Anton suggested that they would skate together. She agreed and later she was saying that they became very close. It was as if she fond a relative, who treated her well. He was the complete opposite from her previous partner. She was happily looking forward to training with him every day, since they had established very warm, friendly relations. It was a union that withstood a lot of tests.
Tamara Moskvina warned Anton: "You have to treat this girl with great care, like a crystal vase". And Anton always behaved like a gentlemen - he was always concerned that he could drop her from a lift, while she was not afraid at all. Exactly a year after the accident in Riga, they went to the European Championship and came back with bronze medals. Then they won the silver at Nagano, at the European and World Championships and finally Olympic gold in Salt Lake City. If anyone cold have predicted that in the Riga hospital, that person would be considered crazy.
As one remembers, there was a scandal at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Five judges of nine gave the first place to Elena and Anton and four arbiters gave the first place to the Canadian pair of Jameie Sale and David Pelletier.
The Canadians, with the help of the American Press, developed a campaign of hysteria in the press and TV. At the end, Sale and Pelletier were given a second set of gold medals. When Elena and Anton, after extended consultations with the coaches and the management of the Federation of Figure Skating, went back on the podium for the second awarding of the medals, many thought that they should not have done it. They pointed to the Chinese pair, who refused to come out for the second ceremony. But not many people know that by submitting to the second ceremony Elena and Anton won in the long run. There at Salt Lake City they signed a very profitable contract for participation in "Stars on Ice." The culmination of that show was a unique number where both competing pairs acted together. If Elena and Anton would not agree to the second ceremony, most probably they would not have gotten the contract and the Canadian pair would have it alone.
Coming back to the subject of a relationship between Elena and Anton, we asked why Anton, who so lovingly treated Elena, had never proposed to her? What interfered?
The skater did not give a direct answer. He said: "The main thing that we have between us is mutual understanding. Innuendos, gossips and double talk are not for us. Now we are like a brother and sister. I think that it is larger than love."
Interview with Irina Lobacheva (IL) by a correspondent of the Russian Language Internet publication "Sem40.ru" O. Shablinskaya (OS) of April 24, 2007
Introduction: Irina Lobacheva and Ilja Averbuch are the World and European Champions and Olympic silver medallists in ice dancing. The life of this most beautiful couple of ice dancers has changed recently. Each of them has their own career now. Also, recently they stopped moving from one rental place to another - they now have their own home.
OS - Irina, it seems that Ilja's TV project "Stars on Ice" was a smashing success. Were you proud for your husband?
IL - Actually I was mad at him for producing 160 dances for the show, while when we were competing, we did not have a decent dance for our exhibition performances.
OS - It seems that Ilja's career is going well now, why do you have to work so hard from dawn to dusk as a coach?
IL - Ilja actually said to me: "Stay home with the child. What do you need to work for? Standing off ice at the Championships you could not help your skaters anyway. What ever will be, will be. It is just hard on your nervous system." But by living for the last 20 years out of a suitcase and being constantly in motion, it is very difficult to stop myself. I tried for some time to stay home. I almost drove myself up the wall - did not have any outlet for my energy. As soon as my baby turned two months and I recovered from the childbirth, I went back to work. Ilja and I are very mobile, dynamic people. That was why we came back from the USA. The arrangement there was driving all the time. Absolutely actionless life. And another thing, since we were not able to become Olympic Champions, we decided to make our pupils become ones.
OS - Your family is so picture perfect. Do you want another child?
IL - If we could do it over the phone, we would definitely have a second child. And long ago. But we see each other so rarely. Ilja is busy with his projects and I am always away with my students at the competitions. We see each other just for a few minutes. It came to the point that my husband came for a date with me to another city. Not long ago Ilja flew more than 20 hours as to see me for 2 hours. Hope that in June we will have vacations and will spend time together. Of course we are planning for a second child, but at this time we have to complete a move which I am terrified about. We have to move a lot of stuff which is spread around in storage and 3 houses. When we came back from the USA we rented places in different cities and each place I was cleaning till it was shining.
OS - But now at last you are closing this rental chapter.
IL - Yes, it is true. We bought an apartment and are finishing remodeling it. How hard it was for us, only we know. After the Olympic Games the mayor of Moscow, Mr. Luzhkov, helped us to buy a place for 30% of it's value. Even for that amount we had to work hard on the tours. If not for that giant discount, we would not have a place of our own and would continue to rent. It is not all that rosy in the life of sportspeople as it is written. The papers publish our gross income, but no one mentions the taxes that we pay in the countries where we work. In Russia it is only 13% - one can live with that. But the Russian tours are rare, most of the high paying tours are in Germany or US, where taxes are 30%. The rest is divided into 3 parts - 2 for the skaters and one for the coach. And at that time what is left for the sportsperson is just peanuts. So, we had sometimes real financial troubles, to the point that Ilja had to drive a taxi to make the ends meet.
OS - As a working mother myself, I understand how worried you are that you do not give enough attention to your child.
IL - Our position with Ilja is such that when our son Martin will grow up, he will be glad to know that we preserved our personalities when we left the sport. We take our son to different events where he is having a good time with us. If he would lack some attention, he would not be as he is now - very mobile, friendly and active. He adapts very well to different situations.
OS - By looking at you and Ilja it is hard to believe that you may quarrel.
IL - Oh, come on, we are regular people! There were several situations where we came close to divorce. To avoid that, people should see each other less. But it is possible to argue even on the phone. I think that each couple has ups and downs in their relationship. The crisis needs to be waited out. One should always use the head and not to abruptly break relations and not to say : "It is the end, good bye!" When we argued and quarreled I sometimes was telling Ilja: "Go ahead, find yourself another woman and start a new family, maybe you will be better off." To which he always told me that without me he could not be better, but would be only worse off.
SHE'S NOT A FAMOUS SKATER AND SHE DOESN'T PLAY ONE ON TV. SHE JUST SLEEPS WITH THEM.
MARIA ANIKANOVA : PLATOV WAS MY FIRST MAN
The actress is not angry either with her first husband, nor with the lover who dumped her.
Interview by Inessa Lunsky (IL) printed on March 2, 2007 in the Russian language publication Express Gazeta.
Introduction: "Former figure skater and now a famous actress Maria Anikanova (MA) is currently working in THE theater. She performed in many movies and in popular TV serials - " Two destines-2"; "Hunt for a genius"; "Everything was mixed up at home." One of her last parts was role of Kitty in "Anna Karenina."
IL - Maria, don’t you really want to be a star on ice? Did they invite you to participate in the "Dance with the Stars" show?
MA - They considered me, but I did not fit in any of the show categories. Once Natalia Bestemjanova asked me if I envied her. I honestly replied that I did not, and even if they would offer me a role at the show, I would refuse it. Nevertheless I was often at TV Channel Russia where the show was running and I saw all of my friends there. Oxana Grischuk was skating with Peter Krasilov, there were Masha Butirskaja and my former husband Evgeny Platov.
IL - Who were you rooting for, or did you know a priory that Grischuk and Krasilov would win?
MA - Nothing was clear at the beginning. Peter was skating about 15 years ago. And I was worried for Evgeny the same way as when he was winning the Olympics.
IL - Why did you leave figure skating?
MA - I did not pick the sport for myself. My mother was a figure skater and she signed me up. My dad was a sports doctor, my grandma and grandpa from my dad's side were famous speed skaters - Anikanovs, and my mother's father was a wrestler. I was not good at the jumps, so I could not skate solo, and they put me to ice dancing when I was 9 years old. I studied in the groups of famous coaches - Dubova and Tarasova. My partners were not well known, except for Samvel Gazarian, who also danced with Tatiana Navka. Later Tatiana skated with Evgeny Platov, my former husband. During my years as a skater, I did not see anything outside the rink. I wanted to expand my view. Also, I realized that I did not have a great future as a figure skater and decided to become an actress. I joined Schukin's Theater School on the first attempt. And then, in 1991, I played a role in my first movie- "A house under starry skies". After I graduated, I was invited to join the "Sovremennik" Theater. So, my career took off, but it happened that my husband got a job in America and I had to choose between him and my work. And of course I selected my family.
IL - How did you meet your first husband, the famous figure skater Evgeny Platov?
MA - He became my first love and my first man. I was in love with him since I was 14, but a serious romance between us started when I was 19. He called me from the States and proposed. We had a very nice wedding - I was in white. I have beautiful memories.
IL - Why didn't you try to skate with your husband?
MA - Because good pairs happen when the partners have equal talents, but my level of skating was much lower than that of Oxana Grischuk, then my husband's partner.
IL - Oxana Grishuk was telling everyone that Evgeny loved her very much.
MA - I doubt it very much. Oxana was exaggerating, she just wanted to think that way.
IL - I heard that Oxana had a very difficult character, but if it was not for her there would be no Grischuk - Platov pair.
MA - Oxana is extremely talented and all talented people have difficult characters. But she had a great charisma and her own understanding of the music. She was born to become a figure skater. Yes, if there was no Oxana Grischuk, there would be no Evgeny Platov. But also, if there was no Evgeny Platov, there would be no Oxana Grischuk.
IL - In an interview Oxana was telling that Tarasova had stolen from her.
MA - I do not think that she meant "stolen." When a person puts a maximum of her talent and efforts to make you a champion, it is my belief that you have to pay that person. You should be happy that such a person is coaching you and you should be happy and there should be no quarrels.
IL - Do you see Platov these days?
MA - Yes, of course. After the show "Dances on Ice" we went to a restaurant, honestly talked and remembered the past. We remain friends and we do not have grievances against each other.
IL - Many people envied your romance with another famous figure skater - Ilja Kulik.
MA - We met at the jubilee of Tarasova's husband. Ilja conquered me at once. He was so smart and talented that I could not help it but to fall in love with him.
IL- Do you still have a friendly relation?
MA - No, we do not communicate. When we were together, Ilja won Olympics and he was on the top of his fame. I was very happy with him.
IL - Now he is married to the legendary Ekaterina Gordeeva. Did he leave you because of her?
MA - I approve of his choice and his decision to marry Ekaterina. Our marriage would not work. To be with him I would have to drop everything and leave Russia, but at that time I could not live without my acting profession. I have to confess that at some point in my life I was considering to change my life and to have a baby. But it happened that our relations exhausted themselves, he was infatuated by Ekaterina and our love story ended.
IL - What was the most romantic gift that you received from a man?
MA - It was funny but it was related to Ilja. We had recently met, had a few dates and then I have not heard from him for a month. And then all of a sudden he calls and asks me to go with him to Hawaii. It was very hard, but I will never forget that trip.
IL - Are you married?
MA - Yes, I am. My husband is also an actor, we both work in the theater for youth. He is extremely kind and he loves me very much.
IL - How did you meet your husband?
MA - I went to a performance at Maly Theater and after the show a young man approached me and said that he would like to get acquainted with me. Our conversation initially did not take off, but he was persistent and I agreed to a date with him. A few days later he proposed to me, I sent him to talk to my father who liked him and blessed our marriage.
IL - Do you plan to become a mother?
MA - I would like to have a baby very much, but so far it did not happen. I am a workaholic, and my job is very important to me. Of course if I would have a baby I would stop for a while, but not for good. I tried to be just a wife on several occasions, but this fate is not for me.