A fairy tale of Ilja Kulik and Ekaterina Gordeeva.
Translation of an interview by the correspondent of Russian Language publication Sport Express, Elena Vajcekhovskaya (EV) printed on December 28, 2007
It was snowing at the Red Square in Moscow, while Ilja Kulik(IK) and Ekaterina (Katya) Gordeeva (EG) skated there. They came to Moscow together for the first time as the participants in the exhibition show. Katya came to Moscow in the past to work at other shows, but Ilja lived all of his professional life, about ten years, abroad since he left the big sport in 1998.
They went to practice on ice directly from the airport – wanted to check it out right away. They looked tired which was not surprising since they just came from a long flight and endured Moscow’s traffic jams. But even that would not interfere with an unusual aura and a feeling of mutual warmth, love and care for each other which could be seen in every move and every sight of Ilja and Katya when they looked at each other. Absolute happiness probably looks that way.
Year 1997 – San Jose
Two years after the death of her partner and husband Sergey Grinkov, we met in the States where Katya performed as a single skater in professional competitions, which were organized by two time Olympic Champion Dick Button. At that time, she was raising her daughter, Dasha, wrote a book “My Sergey,” and was the darling of the US. Practically everyone in the States knew her and was sincerely sorry for her. But she seemed to continue having her personal problems.
Figure skating became for her not just a hobby, but a means to survival, she did not have any other skills that would provide her with an income. Actually she never had any other life, but the one in figure skating: performances, interviews, travels, again performances, and more interviews where correspondents were opening old wounds.
Then, coming back to Moscow from San Jose, I wrote an article where I said: “Americans love beautiful fairy tales which they dream up themselves. According to the rules of this genre, in the near future a fair prince would appear, would take her by the hand and would lead her to a happy future. Unfortunately there are much fewer princes than single figure skaters. ”
A fair prince by the name of Ilja Kulik was practicing at that time in the small town of Malboro, coached by Tatiana Tarasova. He was getting ready for his first Olympic Games. The preceding season was one of the most unsuccessful seasons for the skater. In 1995, he became the European Champion. A year later he won silver at the World Championship in Edmonton. In 1997 he lost at every major competition. Then he got a severe trauma when he punctured his boot with a skate at the practice. Sometimes later he received a trauma to his back. For several months before the Olympics, he was practicing with the single goal of winning the Olympics in Nagano.
After winning, he abruptly severed all of his ties with the sport, left Tarasova and dropped out of the World Championship. After taking off, at 20 his amateur career was irrevocably over. These unexplained moves draw quite an unattractive picture of this young man. He was rude, egotistical, narcissistic, uncompromising with the people around him. It was hard to communicate with him. At the same time, the fans in Russia got another idol of amateur figure skating - Alexey Yagudin. The news about professional skating abroad did not travel well to Russia. But at exactly that time, Ilja met Katya at the show "Stars on Ice." In this absolutely unfamiliar and difficult to understand world of professional figure skating, Katya became the friend that Ilja needed most of all.
Matured, but still as quick in his moves as he was the year he won the Olympics, Ilja Kulik was sitting in a cozy bar near Red Square with Katya and reminiscing.
He said: “I never had a feeling that I rushed my decision to leave amateur sports. I probably could have continued skating; after all I was only 20. My age was not an issues, it was my motivation. Physically I feel myself fine even now. At that time I asked myself a question - what was the reason for me to continue to do what I did not enjoyed doing anymore? There were many other factors added in 1998. I was exhausted morally – to win the Olympics I worked too hard and for too long. Also, I was traumatized. I loved to skate and I always loved to perform, but at that time I was just burned out. And I assumed at that time that professional figure skating was a world in which I could continue to grow.
EV – I remember how hard you worked in preparation for the Olympics. Was it worth it?
IK – Of course it was worth it. It is a life test for any sportsperson. It is an opportunity that one can have once in a lifetime, and which could not be exchanged for anything. I am very happy that I passed that test. Deep in my soul I am very proud of myself. The games at Nagano became for me more of a test of my life durability, rather than a sports event.
EV – What happened after that?
IK - I had a very tough year. I performed in 75 shows of "Champions on Ice by Tom Collins." The tour was stretching into fall and in the winter I started performing in "Stars on Ice" and performed in another 65 shows. It was a pressure cooker, especially for me, not familiar with the specifics of professional sport. I used my techniques that I accumulated throughout my amateur career.
EV – What were those specifics?
IK – One has to perform every day. In different cities and on different ice. Constant travel. The tiredness, inability to recuperate, sleep deprivation and not enough time for practice accumulate and after a while life gets really difficult. The tour is usually going on without any practice – there is no place or no time for practice. That is the specifics – to perform not when you are ready, but when you must. It is hard to live in this regiment.
EV – You participated in three World competitions of professional skaters. Was it just a job not different from the ice shows, or was there a sport’s challenge?
IK – I did not quite understand it from the beginning. I skated against Kurt Browning and Brian Boitano who had in their programs just a couple of simple jumps, while I was performing complex technical jumps like triple axels and many other triple jumps and I was losing to them. I was shocked, but then I realized that it was not the technical stuff but rather the style, music and costumes that I needed to find for me. It was hard to get used to it, but it was interesting.
The specifics of "Stars on Ice" were strange and difficult to comprehend for Gordeeva as well. Similar to Kulik, she remembers a constant state of shock because after years in the amateur sports it was difficult to understand what was expected of her.
Just jumping and turning was not enough. One may have to get on ice up to six times in one show. One can not get ill while performing in the show. Even if one is ill he/she has to come out on the ice. One can only miss a solo number. Not to show up for a group number meant to let down the whole group. Of course anyone may get ill. During a 3-4 moth tour everyone gets 1 or 2 serious illnesses like high fever, sore throat, bronchitis and so on, while they usually continue to perform with the help of antibiotics. Usually when one person gets ill in a few days the whole cast is coughing and sneezing.
In "Stars on Ice," Ilja and Katya were performing a special pair number choreographed for them by Sandra Bezic. In time, their sympathy grew into a more deep feeling. Among the figure skaters there were rumors that the love of Katya complicated Ilja’s life among the skaters very much. It was told that the co-producer of the show, Olympic Champion Scott Hamilton, was openly fond of Gordeeva, even when she was skating with Grinkov and the feelings of Kulik to her he considered as a personal assault. Probably it was not that at all. The attitude toward Gordeeva after the death of Grinkov in America became very possessive. As soon as a man appeared next to her, the jealousy came out.
It was hard to talk to Kulik about this subject. In 2001, when Katja was pregnant with Ilja’s child and even moved with him to California where he had a house, they seriously quarreled. It was hardly a surprise. Seen by outsiders as a fragile and unprotected woman, in reality Katya had nerves of steel. Olympic Champions rarely could be any different. It was no wonder that the sparks flew in their relationship.
That year, for the first time, Ilja was able to win the professional World Championship. It was a paradox that regardless of the specifics of this event that he was talking about in the previous years, he won in Washington, the permanent venue for this event. He won by performing his "Rhapsody in Blue," which he performed almost as flawlessly as in Nagano. When, after the competition, I asked him to say hello to Katya, he refused to do it. A few months later they got married.
2003, St. Petersburg.
Sometimes it is enough to hear how a woman pronounces the name of her husband as to realize if she is happy or not. The way Katya called her husband Iljusha, stayed in my ears for a long time after we met in St. Petersburg where Gordeeva performed in the show of Artur Dmitriev. She told me that in addition to his own shows, he is coaching Dasha and is teaching the younger one to stay on skates. Katya said that Ilja helps other people, helps around the house and she added sincerely that she was happy that her life went that way. A big family was happiness for her, although she would like that the age difference between her two daughters would not be so large. On the one hand it was good – Dasha was helping her with Lisa. On the other hand it would be nice if Lisa would have a brother or sister closer to her in age. “If one would know for sure that the third one would be a boy….” - said Katya.
It seems now that Kulik was always more mature than he was given credit for. For the first time I thought about it when I heard what he unexpectedly said in 1997. At that time he lived in Malboro, selflessly practiced, but off ice sometimes he was behaving as a naughty boy. Once when we were driving to the rink together, I tried to scald the cheeky youngster for his behavior towards Tarasova. And I was surprised to hear: “Don’t you understand that I can cook and wash my clothes by myself. But Tatiana Tarsova likes to be in charge and to control all of my life. She needs it, not me. I am just playing her game. It does not have any relation to my work.”
Actually the decision to leave the big sport after Nagano was the decision of a grown man. It was not easy at the age of 20 to make a decision and not to feel sorry for it later.
During our meeting in Moscow, Ilja confessed: “I can not say that I think about figure skating all the time. Life changed. If I have an opportunity I try to spend more time with my family. Lisa is practicing on ice. We drive her to the rink and we do not have time for our own serious practice on ice in preparation for serious performances as we used to in the past. We are selecting our own tour schedule these days. We reject all proposals for New Year Eve since we want to spend that time together as a family. I am not concerned about finding a job. Maybe there will be fewer proposals, or maybe I will earn less, but figure skating is still very popular and so far we are getting more proposals that we could fulfill. Our plans are unpredictable - something falls through in one place, but something else appears in another. Last year we were lucky with Katya – we were invited to perform at 20 shows in "Stars on Ice." We could not do the whole tour – to take away 3 month from the family was too much. Naturally the producers were not happy when we could agree only to a few shows, but in our case they understood.
"Performances in shows are unequivocally the main way for us of earning money. In the summers, I am usually involved in teaching the seminars for coaches in Switzerland and I always take my family with me. At home, when I have time, I coach everyone who would ask me. These are mostly temporary jobs, but these are the only ones that I can do at this time. It is impossible to practice by myself and to coach others in the same day. I really understood it last winter. Also, even though complex jumps are always well accepted at the shows, I stay away from performing quads – it is too risky to jump – there is not sufficient time for warming up or good illumination. Last winter I started feeling that it was more difficult for me to perform at the shows since I was more involved in coaching others, than in my own practices.
"I learned the lesson and now I would not agree to participate in any show if I feel that I was not ready. To give a low quality performance is not recommended in our profession in principle, but for me it is most important to prepare my body as it would tolerate any workload. Otherwise the risk of getting a trauma increases. When I am on the ice, there is no safety net. In the excitement of the performance one could overdo the jumps and if the body is not ready, it is very possible that the show may end up bad, and then it will jeopardize all future jobs.”
Japan and more.
The day after his performance in Moscow, Ilja was flying out to Japan. He likes to perform there since 1998.
EV – When could we expect you and Katya back in Moscow?
IK – We do not plan too far ahead. Dasha just started High School. The schools are so different between the States and Russia that our kids can not go to school in Moscow. On the other hand there is more work now in Russia, and it is good for us. We were coming to Russia every year with the children in the summer for vacations. I was offered some jobs at the TV shows, but they were for too long periods of time. Also, I am mostly a single skater and do not have sufficient experience in pairs as to expect to be successful in the TV projects. When in "Stars on Ice" we skated together with Katya, it took me 3 months to learn something. She is a professional. How one could skate with a person who never skated is beyond me.
EV – But nevertheless what will happen next? Wouldn’t you like to come back to the big sports in some way?
IK – I have enough of adrenalin rushes without sports. It is enough for me to see a full hall of spectators. I never come out on the ice without some excitement. For the first 3 years after the Nagano Olympics I could not watch the amateur’s competitions; it was not interesting for me. I like it more now. The new system gives the skater more opportunities than when I was competing. This system provokes people to make mistakes. One can do everything on ice, but if he would produce a wrong program, he would tactically loose. One could do the best in turns or runs, but may fail in jumps. I think that it is an interesting challenge for the coach as well.
EV – Katya thinks that you could become a very talented coach.
IK – The work of the coach is very interesting to me. Victor Petrenko, with whose family we are very close in the US, periodically comes to the competitions as a controller and he likes it very much. I like to be on the other side - on the side of coaches and sportspeople. I do not want to be on the side of the judges.
EV – So, may be it would make sense to take a pupil and to try bringing him to a substantial result?
IK – As of now out family budget would not allow that.
Marat Basharov: I am jealous for Navka more than I am jealous for my own wife.
Translation of an article by Elena Neskina, a correspondent of Russian Language publication “Tvoy Den”, printed on December 18, 2007.
The actor is burning with jealousy when he sees Navka near her new partner Ville Haapasalo.
An actor and an announcer of the TV show, "Ice Age," Marat Basharov confessed that he could not calmly watch how the relationship of Tatiana Navka and her partner on ice at the show was developing. He could hardly restrain himself with the rage of jealousy.
Unusually for coworkers, warm relations between Basharov and Navka became the topic of conversation at various parties of Russian elite. Although the stars themselves always denied everything.
At a recent tour in Ekaterinesbourg, Marat revealed that when the TV show "Stars on Ice" ended he was extremely sad. To be close to the skaters he convinced Ilja Averbuch to make him an announcer and initially he was happy with his role. Later the emotions on ice became very hot and Marat felt uncomfortable again. No one could even guess how tormented Basharov was on ice. The source of his suffering is his former partner at the show – Tatiana Navka.
Marat said: “I was never a jealous person; even with my wife I was never jealous; which caused her to be very upset with me since she said that if I was not jealous of her, I did not love her. But when Tatiana became a partner with Ville, for the first time in my life I felt jealousy. Any time I see her with Ville I got enraged with jealousy. I can not fight my feelings, and besides, how could one fight them?”
Basharov told Navka about his feelings a year ago in the city of Ekaterinesbourg. He said then: ”Tatiana is a wonderful person. I love her. She combines in herself the best qualities that a woman can have: she is understanding, smart, cheerful, tough and the most important thing – she is very beautiful. If I could not do some move on ice, we would practiced with her even at night. Those days I told my wife that I was going to practice with Navka and would stay there overnight.”
Translation of a biographical article published in Russian language Publication Russkoe Zarubezhje on December 7, 2007.
Legendary Irina Rodnina. She was adored by people in many parts of the world. They watched her sports' career and were happy for her successes. Her results were outstanding: there time Olympic Champion, ten times World Champion, eleven time Champion of the (former) Soviet Union.
Irina was born in Moscow. She was ill with pneumonia 11 times before going to school and was monitored by doctors for possible lung TB infection. Her parents - father a military man, mother a doctor -- decided that the best way to improve Irina’s health was to engage her in sports and in 1954 they took her to a rink.
Five year old Irina was skating for hours; she gradually became stronger and fell in love with the skates. Her fist coaches were Czechs who were working on contract in Moscow’s Central Sports Club of the Army in 1963. A year later, she was noticed by a Russian coach, Stanislav Zhuk, who said that she was unique and did not have an equal.
In 1969, Irina became European Champion and a month later she became a World Champion. At that time she was skating in pair with Alexey Ulanov.
In 1972, they became Olympic Champions at Sapporo. Three weeks later, a day before the World Championship, at practice, Irina fell down from a lift and ended up in a hospital with a brain contusion. She was unconscious for 2 hours. Some people speculated that Ulanov dropped Irina on purpose, because at that time he was married to a famous figure skater, Ludmila Smirnova, and it was possible that he wanted to skate with her.
Irina liked Ulanov as a handsome, smart and self confident man. Separated from him, she did not practice for a month. She stayed at home reading, listening to the Beatles and suffering from headaches. At that time, her coach told her that he found a partner for her and asked her to come over to the rink. In May of 1972 a new pair, also adored by the Russians appeared – Irina and an unknown figure skater – Alexander Zaitsev.
“I was very comfortable skating in pair with Alexander. I extended my hand without looking back. It is a wonderful feeling – not to have to look back. You stretch you hand and it is taken by a partner. It is like having some force with you,” - said Irina.
After a year of skating together, Rodnina and Zaitsev became European Champions. Those were unusual competitions. For the first time in the history of figure skating their performance was awarded so many 6.0 points. A month later, they became World Champions in Bratislava, even though in the middle of their performance of the short program, the music stopped.
It was 1974. Irina marked her birthday by leaving her coach Stanislav Zhuk. He was always authoritarian and rude, but Irina became stronger and more mature. Some kind of “parent – child” conflict was unavoidable. After many years they met again and made up, but Irina preferred not to remember the time when he was her coach. Irina and Alexander went on winning with a new coach. In 1975 they won the European and World Championships, and in 1976 the Olympic Games in Innsbruck. For the next 3 years they won all other major competitions.
Zaitsev fell in love with Irina and they got married. On February 23, 1979, after 8 month spent in a hospital bed, Irina gave birth to her son – Alerxander Junior. That day was a holiday – Day of the Soviet Army -- and for many years the boy thought that the flags in Moscow were raised to celebrate his birthday.
A year later, in 1980 Irina won another Olympic Gold and lest the big sport.
There are a lot of books written about Irina. She is entered in the Guinness Book of Records. She was working in the Komsomol’s Central Committee, than as head coach of the “Dinamo” sports club, and she was also teaching at the Sports Institute. Her new life was difficult. Some people, jealous of her success, or just ill-wishers decided to gang up on her and to get back at her for all of her successes in sports. Also, coming down to earth and beginning the life of mortals, Irina and Alexander started having marital problems. Soon after they finished skating, Irina came home and told Alexander that she fell in love. Nobody could understand Irina, even her mother was upset with her until the day she died.
Irina’s daughter Alena was born in 1986 when Irina was 35 years old. When asked how she risked having a child at such an old age, Irina replied that Alena was her most precious medal. She was a symbol of a kind of love that many women dream about all of their lives. After the birth of her daughter Irina quit her coaching job.
Irina’s second husband was a serious businessman. When in 1990 Irina received an invitation from the American International Center of Figure Skating (ed. note: In Lake Arrowhead, CA), he was the one who convinced her to accept the invitation. She did not object much. She was not pleased with her work at the Sports Institute, and her relations with her colleagues in the sports world were still complicated. Irina was worried. He husband told her that he would show her a different world and she agreed.
Their happiness lasted only a year. One day she learned that her husband had a girlfriend and soon he left Irina and was trying by all possible legal means to take their daughter away from her. She was suffering for a year and a half. He used the American law that children younger than 13 years old could not be left alone at home. If one of the parents violated that law, the courts would give the child to the parent who could provide better care for the child. Police were monitoring the status of Irina’s home, but she had to leave the children alone as to earn money, which was always in short supply. Endless court hearings were taking away her strength and she often caught herself wondering if it was worth it to continue living like that.
“There were moments that I wanted to get in the car and drive off a cliff” - said Irina. She started drinking. Her son helped her to overcome her condition. He came to Irina and told her that she did not look like herself and that she was getting old, having grey hear and did not take care of herself. She snapped out of her condition and won back her life.
She was saved by her children and her work. In that terrible for Irina 1992, sportsmen from the Czech Republic arrived to the International Figure Skating center. They wanted to be coached only by Irina. Radka (Kovarikova) and Rene (Novatny) became World Champions in 1995. It started a new stage in the life of Irina Rodnina. She became a World Class Coach and now her American colleagues envied her. Irina worked 14 hours a day, and regardless of her being very tired, looked good. She was getting strong physically, by her soul was hurting. She felt that she was betrayed not just in love but as a human being. She felt that if she and her husband fell out of love, it was their problem, but she could not forgive either of her husbands that they made their children suffer as well.
When her grown up son became a student in the States, Irina’s former mother-in law bought him a car. Alexander did not graduate at the top of his class and did not get a scholarship, so Irina was paying for his college, but she never reproached him for that, considering how difficult his childhood was. In Moscow, everyone knew him as a “star’s” child. He loved his father very much and it was a big trauma for him when Irina divorced Zaitsev and remarried. He said that if she would have another husband he would leave their home. Alena was different. She had a father who worshiped her, but Alexander needed her help.
These days Irina is doing fine. When asked which mistakes she would avoid now, she said that she would not get married any more. Learning from her 2 bad marriages she thinks that in youth people think that their whole life is ahead of them. If one makes a mistake there is time to fix it, to find someone else. Older people are just trying to protect themselves from mistakes. It is some physiological defense mechanism. One does not want any more stresses and sufferings in their life.
Irina said: “Every time when we are tested by out destiny, we ask God – what is it for? Why did it happen to me? Unfortunately one has to pay for everything in this life, and especially for success and an outstanding career. One always wants to believe that all of the suffering is behind you.”
Slutskaya went back on ice! First performance of Irina Slutskaya after giving birth became surprise of the ice show at Red Square in Moscow.
Translation of an article by Oleg Chirkis printed on December 21, 2007 in the Russian language publication Sovetsky Sport.
On Wednesday, December 19, Red Square in Moscow and The Palace Square in St. Petersburg became the venues for the “Ice Show of Two Capitals” in which the best figure skaters in the world skated in exhibition programs. The Moscow part of the show had several surprises: just one month after childbirth, Irina Slutskaya went on ice; after a 10 years break, the Olympic Champions Oxana Grischuk and Evgeny Platov skated together; and Canadian skater Emmanuel Sandhu not only skated but also sang a song that he composed himself.
“Pure souls, they are dressed so lightly,” said a woman dressed in a silver fur coat standing at Red Square and talking about Jana Chochlova and Sergey Novitsky who were opening the show to the gypsy music of “Dark Eyes,” dressed in too light costumes to perform outside on a cold December day in Moscow.
The beginning of the show in Moscow was delayed for 30 minutes since the TV crews could not establish the TV Bridge to St. Petersburg. Alexey Tichonov and Alexey Yagudin stepped out for a short time and went back to warm up inside. Finally the producer of the show, Ilja Averbuch, announced that the show would start in 2 minutes and the announcers of the Moscow show – Averbuch and Slutskaya came out on ice. The announcers from St. Petersburg - Evgeny Pluschenko and Tatiana Navka appeared on the screen. They shared their observations about the weather in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“How is the weather in St. Petersburg?” – asked Irina.
“Perfect – it is cold and windy” - replied Navka.
The show started and after the first pair on ice in Moscow comes out Emmanuel Sandu of Canada. The spectators, feeling rather cold, met him without much enthusiasm, but Emmanuel warmed them up by a perfect performance where he flawlessly performed three triple jumps and also sang his own song.
Sandu was followed on ice by Maria Petrova and Alexey Tikhonov, who were met with an ovation. These skaters never lacked the love of their fans, but after they participated in the TV shows on channel 1, they became super popular. The spectators forced them to perform an encore number.
Oxana Grischuk and Evgeny Platov, the only two time Olympic Champions in Ice Dancing were next on the ice. They have not performed together since their last Olympic Games in Nagano. Oxana tried herself as a movie actress and Evgeny tried himself as a coach, but not long ago they started performing together again. The spectators loved their performance to the music of a local band.
And then Averbuch jokingly announced – “ For the first time after giving birth to her child, Irina Slutskaya is coming back on ice on her “wobbling” feet.”
Irina jokingly replied: “It is nobody’s business to know about my feet.” She came out on ice to skate with Averbuch himself. Their performance reminded many of performances from the Ice Period show - a lot of smiles, emotions, very simple jumps and lifts without any complex elements, but it was just the beginning, since Irina gave birth to her son, Artem, only a month ago.
The show closed with the performance of Yagudin. No one could “blow up” the spectators as the champion of Salt Lake City could with the help of rock and roll music. The only person who could compete with Alexey in this was Pluschenko, but he was an announcer in St. Petersburg at that time.
Before I wrote mystery novels, I wrote romances. I published four: The Fictitious Marquis, Thieves at Heart and Annie's Wild Ride with AVON, and When a Man Loves a Woman with DELL.
There were also many (very many) that I did not publish. Among them was a proposal I called Love Spiral. It was a romance set in the figure skating world. The editor's reason for not buying it was that romance novels were about fantasy. And she didn't think any women fantasized about having a male figure skater fall in love with them. (Obviously, she hadn't done a thorough tour of Internet-based fan fiction).
The main characters in Love Spiral were Christian Kelly and Gabrielle Cassidy. He a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, she a former rink-mate who'd cracked under the pressure of elite competition. They meet again years later, when Gabrielle is running a training center based on the principle of no-stress teaching, and Chris is looking for a coaching job after injuries put an end to his performing career. There is a former coach in the picture (he runs a competing training center and is eager to see Gabrielle fail), but the bulk of the story is Chris and Gabrielle's sparring-turns-to-(what else?)-love relationship.
When it came time to write Skate Crime, I finally had a skating mystery I could drop Chris and Gabrielle in to. The coach became murder victim Lucian Pryce. And suddenly Chris and Gabrielle's very different feelings about their old mentor became the center of their story.
Even though it took over five years, ultimately a mystery set in the skating world proved an easier sell to publishers than a romance. But what do you all think? Is there a market for a skating themed romance?
Irina Lobacheva: I was afraid of the divorce. It is always difficult for a woman to be left alone.
Translation of an interview with Irina Lobacheva (IL) by Zipha Archincheeva (ZA), a correspondent of the Russian language publication “OK” printed in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on December 10, 2007.
ZA – Let’s start from the very beginning. When did you and Ilja first see each other?
IL - We met when we were 7 years old. We skated in one group. Then our ways went apart and we met again in the group of Natalia Linichuk, where Ilja came over after changing several coaches. At that time I was 18 and Ilja was 17. A year later we rented an apartment and moved in together.
ZA – What brought you back together after so many years?
IL - It is hard to say. We met at a sports camp in Novogorsk, sat down together, started talking, and then one thing led to another by itself.
ZA – Was it your first love?
IL – No, before Ilja I had a boyfriend, my partner Alexey Pospelov. But I think that for Ilja ours was the first serious relationship.
ZA – I remember that Ilja was very jealous of you at the beginning of your relationship.
IL – Yes, it was so, but after I gave birth to our son he realized that I was not going anywhere and he became rude - made me stay at home.
ZA – What do you remember most of your family life?
IL – Sport is a difficult thing, and to remember something separate from skating is difficult. Our whole life was dedicated to the medals. Of course there were some vacations, holidays, but I can not say that any of them remained in my memory. Really bright moments were only two – the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 (where Irina and Ilja lost the gold medal by just one vote to Anisina and Peizerat) and the birth of our son, Martin.
ZA – What was holding you in your family all these years – love or a habit to be together?
IL – Habit alone would not cut it for 16 years. Of course there was love.
ZA – You met again in November of 1990. When did you register your marriage?
IL – In 1994. But it was not that we wanted to legalize our relations. It was just that a situation occurred that we wanted to skate for Israel. Ilja would become a citizen automatically, but I would get it only if I was his wife. But then we were offered a long term contract for 5 years that scared us. We did not go and instead of us, Sergey Sakhnovsky went to Israel.
AZ – When did the problems begin in your family? It seems that they coincided with the first TV show, “Stars on Ice.”
IL – You are exactly right. Before that time we could quarrel as any family, could even stop talking for three days but then we reconciled. About one and a half years ago everything changed. I could see that something was different about Ilja. Although he did not hide it. Our fights became more frequent. I could not quite understand what was happening and why he expressed so much rejection toward me. I tried my best to save our family, hold on to Ilja, but he was moving away from me more and more. We stopped skating together. After the completion of the show, "Stars on Ice," Ilja did not take me on tour. He told all of our surprised colleagues that I did not want to lose my students in the skating school and did not want to go on the tour, but of course it was not so.
AZ – Do you feel sorry that the project "Stars on Ice" appeared in your life?
IL – No, if not that show there would be another one. When relations end, they end.
AZ – Is it true that lately Ilja was unfaithful to you?
IL – It is possible, since he did not live with me. From the time when we came back from summer vacation, we were separated. But Ilja is a man and hehas his needs. I heard a lot of gossip, but I still loved him till the last day. I never inspected his phone; I do not have that habit. I never controlled him, was not investigating him and did not spy on him. May be it was my fault that I let everything run that way. I was forgiving him a lot, was not showing that I was insulted and most of the time was keeping quiet. But when my patience ran out, I told him that if he wanted freedom, he should have it. Although, frankly I was afraid of a divorce. It is always hard for a woman to be left alone - it is not easy to start a new life. But now I feel that I made the right decision – it was not as hard as it seemed. I wanted an official divorce. I could not live with him and did not want to step out on him. He would be comfortable if we were just separated. He would be able to live alone and to come back when he would like. I would go crazy over such life. Now it is much easier for me. I reevaluated a lot. If before I was rushing home to prepare dinner and to clean up the place as he would come to a nice home, now I am relaxed and it feels so good. I live now for myself and for my son, and I don’t even thing of getting back together with Ilja. God forbid! It is even hard to imagine for me what would happen if he would come back.
Of course the divorce was hard. At first, we were consulted. Than three weeks later we met again at the courts, but we were told that they would try to reconcile us. Ilja sharply rejected that step. We asked to have all of the procedure done in our absence. Ilja promised to leave the apartment, which we just finished remodeling, to me and to transfer our apartment in Crimea to our son when he turns 16, but as of now these things were not legally finalized and I am not sure if it would happen.
AZ – In one of the interviews Ilja said that he would support you and Martin.
IL – When he would do something for real, than we would talk about it.
AZ – When you were pregnant with Martin you said that you would have 2 children – a boy and a girl, Ilja would be producing some show, and you would be a coach. You were right on.
IL – Yes, if one would not count that we divorced in the process. Actually I had a girl. Not many people know that, but I had a miscarriage at the third month of pregnancy. Probably it was because of stress, but there were other reasons as well. It happened exactly a year ago in November. I just recently recovered. Ilja did not even come to visit me in the hospital. He was on a tour and told me that he could not get a flight. In the past he would find a way to come over by train or by bus. Than I forgave him even that, but it made me understand that I had to learn to rely on myself.
AZ – By the way, is the ice show “Ice Period” only Ilja’s property, or do you have a share in it?
IL – As all of the participants, I receive only honorariums.
AZ - Then, if I understand it correctly, your total income consist of the honorariums plus the profit from your skating school?
IL – That is correct.
AZ – What about dividends from the tours?
IL – If I participate in them, I get standard honorariums. But I did not go on the tours for a long time. I was not invited. Now Ilja seems to be suggesting for me and my partner Dima Marjanov to select the cities that we would like to go on the tour. It is some progress.
AZ – Do you still feel anything for Ilja?
IL – Nothing, neither he nor I have any feelings for each other any more. He is totally free now and I am going to put my personal life together.
AZ – That a girl! Do you have some candidates?
IL – Let’s say that I will have to make a hard choice. I know for sure that I want something completely different. I want love and respect. But in any case I am not ready to get married yet.
Just in time for the holiday season, S'More Entertainment has put out a DVD of a 2006 production of The Nutcracker on Ice, starring World Pair Champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, and Olympic Silver Medalist Linda Fratianne. (At least, their press release says the performance was taped November 2006 at the Auditorio Nacional Theatre in Mexico City. Amazon lists it as 1998).
The company sent me a copy for review, and, this snowy, Sunday afternoon, I popped it in to watch alongside my 8 and 4 year old sons (my almost 1 year old daughter wobbled between us without much interest).
The four year old was interested to see the dancing Nutcracker, but had a hard time following the story due to a baffling editorial choice on the part of the DVD's producers: Instead of one smooth broadcast, the recording includes the original bumpers that came with the television broadcast. Meaning that, every ten minutes or so, the action stops for a voice-over to tease what's coming up in the next segment. After a fade-out, the show returns, but it picks up in the middle of another scene.
For instance, we see Clara skating in front of her wrapped present under the tree, then cut away to come back and she's got the Nutcracker in her arms. If you didn't know where it came from, you'd have no idea what just happened. (My eight year old, who was more familiar with the story, had less trouble keeping up, but even he wondered where the Rat King suddenly appeared from).
The final book in my Figure Skating Mystery series, "Skate Crime," is out now.
I wrote the bulk of it in the Fall of 2006, taking a break for the birth of my daughter in January of 2007, before turning the completed manuscript in, in March.
I wrote a good section of Chapter Two, Antonia Wright's back-story about growing up in Harlem and fighting the racism of the United States Figure Skating Association, while I was still on the tail end of morning sickness. When I read it again now, it still makes me woozy.
On the other hand, I wrote Chapter Eight, Gina's back-story of Olympic Gold followed by no clue of what to do next, while sitting for four hours at the doctor's office, having my blood drawn every sixty minutes and not being able to eat. Rereading that particular section makes me hungry.
Of all my skating books, "Skate Crime" took the longest to get from concept to shelf. I first came up with the idea when I worked as the Associate Producer for "A Skater's Tribute to Carlo Fassi." (Though Carlo is, by no means, a model for the murdered coach in the book, Lucian Pryce; and neither are any of Lucian's students based on Carlo's. Well, not officially anyway).
I got the inspiration for Lucian's jealous daughter, Sabrina, however, from Carlo's wife, Christa, talking about the sibling rivalry that sprung up between the Fassis' daughter, Monika, and Carlo and Christa's student, Jill Trenary.
I ended up writing the first few chapters of the "coach murdered at his own tribute" concept while working for TNT at the Nagano Olympics. But when I sent that proposal around to editors, the feedback I got was that Sabrina, as the sleuth and narrator, wasn't very sympathetic.
I sat on the story for half a decade, only figuring out a way to rework it once I'd launched the Bex Levy series. Sabrina Pryce is still a character in the book, but now her motives are very different. She isn't trying to figure out who killed her estranged father -- she's one of the suspects!
The Mystery of the divorce of Averbuch and Lobacheva analyzed.
Translation of an article by Andrey and Anna Veligzhanin printed in the Russian Language newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on November 15, 2007.
The famous couple of Lobacheva and Averbuch was always considered one of the most beautiful and romantic. Bright, successful and in love, Ilja and Irina amazed their admirers and caused jealousy among their colleagues. The news about their divorce shook up a lot of them. What really happened?
The first opinion - it was just a PR move.
For the cast of the TV show, “The Ice Period,” the news became a sensation as much as to all other admirers. They stated that just a week ago they could observe how tenderly Ilja was taking care of Irina. Their son visited with them at the stage and Ilja was especially nice with him and Irina.
Sometimes Irina was upset when Ilja paid a little too much attention to other women, but it was accepted in bohemian, artistic society and there was nothing to worry about. Even if they quarreled sometimes, no one thought that they would divorce. These comments brought up the possibility that divorce was a tax dodge, a PR, or a financial move. It is known that sometimes couples, where husbands do not want to make public their income, are getting divorced and shifting the assets to the wives who would also pay less tax. There were rumors that Ilja wanted to enter politics and would want to keep his income, which was estimated to be about $2 Million annually, private.
Their ice show production company was established by Ilja and Irina together. Their previous show – "Stars on Ice," shown on Channel One of Russian TV was seen in more that 50 cities. Ilja feels very good in the role of entrepreneur. At the end of May he presented to the public a new gymnastics show – "The Flight of Time" by Olympic champion Alexey Nemov. He was a producer of the show at the celebration of Tarasova’s birthday. Currently he is in charge of the show – "The Ice Period." He pays a lot of attention to PR and advertising. And that is why professional PR people are saying that the divorce is a PR move to attract more attention to the show. It is especially possible since Ilja is easily giving information of their divorce to the press.
Serious people in show business think that the divorce is a result of financial disagreements between Ilja and Irina. It is possible that Ilja wants to have the profitable company only to himself and to produce ice shows without his wife. He would just need to have her shares to be in complete control of the company, since he has all of the key positions for himself already.
Not long ago Irina confessed that she was tired of her work which did not leave her any time for regular life. She said: “I thought that when we leave the big sport it will be easier, but it became more difficult. When Ilja and I were in big sport we went to bed and got up together, we did everything together and we were happy. Now we communicate mostly by the phone. If I could have another child over the phone I would have one.” To her close friend she commented that Ilja is obsessed with the “gold rush.” That he does not want to think about anything else but his business and is not available to his family.
But some people are thinking that she may be in on the PR project together with Ilja. She did not wait for the end of the "Ice Period Show" when she could avoid public scrutiny, but rather announced about their divorce under the fire of reporters with their cameras trained on her. That event also coincided with a decrease of interest in the show and some people even started talking about the excessive length of the show. The news about the divorce brought back interest to the show.
The second opinion - the “Big Star” status went to Ilja’s head.
Among the figure skaters Ilja is known as a person with a complicated character. He became more arrogant, especially as he reached stardom status. He is tough, ambitious, and powerful, while also capable of tenderness and care. At the beginning of their family life, Ilja and Irina looked happy and even very much alike in appearance and by their characters. Probably that was why, as someone said, they were always competing for leadership in their duet.
In public Ilja was always a leader and Irina was kindly letting him lead, but at home she took the initiative in her hands. Their household was solely on her and sometimes she reproached him for that. They quarreled a lot, but soon made up because they loved each other. From the outside, quiet and beautiful Irina was a second fiddle in their duet. But in reality Irina is a person with an iron rod in her spine. She was the one who decided to get a divorce. She wrote in the divorce application that they had separate households for the last few months and lived like roommates. They saw each other very rarely and mostly because of their son. Actually the birth of their son was supposed to cement the marriage, when there was a beginning of the break in their relations. After the first ice project the fame and the money went to Ilja’s head. He was often invited to the parties of the stars without his wife. He started living “high on the hog” as a bohemian and was loving it.
It is well know that at the parties of the stars there are a lot of temptations including attractive women like butterflies gravitating to the rich and famous. Ilja was often seen in expensive clubs surrounded by exited female admirers. At the same time Irina continued to treat him as a regular husband and not as a star. And regardless of the advice of her friends after 15 years of living together, she was not ready to place him on a pedestal. She assumed that their relations were based on constructive criticism, irony and trust. She felt that she was also worth something in this life. It was said that Averbuch was telling Irina that she was lucky to have him for a husband since he provided her with her status in life. But she did not want to be obedient and submissive, considering it to be wrong. She considers herself an open, straight and strict person in her own right. It was also mentioned that lately the character of Ilja - the “ice king” was changing which irritated Irina. It seemed that being called by his coworkers a genius, he lost the sense of reality. At the same time Irina was not visible. In the first project she did not skate well with a singer called Sitkin and was voted off the the ice at the very beginning of the competition. She observed the program from the sideline. Averbuch was angry with Irina and Sitkin, but could not change the outcome. It was said that at that time their relations became tense. After completion of the first project Ilja went with the winners on a world tour. Irina did not go. May be the artistic competition burned their relations?
These days Irina is busy with her business – coaching children at the figure skating school. It seems that the TV show caused the separation of the couple, they meet only on weekends when they are going with their son to the park.
The third opinion – Ilja was very easily falling in love.
The womanizing of Ilja is legendary. He changed his infatuations very so often. Lately Irina had more reasons for jealousy and she did not hide that she was insulted. There were even gossips that he had a child with another skater and that he had romances with many women. But it was possible that all these gossips were started as to break them up by their enemies.
Irina was visibly suffering. When recently she gave an interview to a TV channel she looked unhappy. Answering the question of what was it that people should learn, she thought for a while, leveling her head and then answered: “One needs to learn how to forgive.”
Opinion of a psychologist
Success of the husband is dangerous for the family.
A psychologist who consults “starry” couples, and was observing the lives of VIP people told this newspaper the following:
“As soon as the husband becomes rich and famous, he stops being a person as he used to be before in every aspect. At first it takes a form of revaluation of his persona and a fight for increased status in society. His character turns nasty. A successful man considers that nothing is forbidden to him, especially when he obtains an entourage of easy women following him. A real man would reject their offerings. At the same time, these men start looking at their wives as a tiresome property and demand their obedience. The woman living with a “starry” man should know her place and not to expect to be equal. If the wife is smart and would be obedient to her husband and could look the other way, she may save the marriage, at least formally.
But if she is self sufficient, has her own opinion, does not want to tolerate the behavior of her husband, or if she is submitting to the provocations of enemies and believes all of the gossips, then the crash of the family is unavoidable. Men, at the peak of their success, very easily drop their families and are even happy to get rid of the dead-weight that is interfering with their new life style. In this case women are the victims even if they apply for a divorce as it was in the case of Irina.
Alexey Tikhonov is praising the talent of his partner in the “Ice Period” show.
Translation of the interview by a correspondent of the Russian speaking publication “Dni.ru,” Sonya Ray (SR), printed on October 19, 2007.
World and European Champion Alexey Tikhonov (AT) was awarded a “Crystal Ice” prize in the category of “National Love,” together with his partner Maria Petrova.
SR – Did you know that you were nominated for a prize?
AT – No, we did not. We just came for a performance and it was a real surprise.
SR – Was it a nice one?
AT – Wonderfully nice. Fantastic! Winning anything is always nice, but winning the nomination of “National Love” was really something. It is always nice to know that someone loves you.
SR – Do you think that this award will become popular? Is it really needed?
AT – Figure skating is not just a sport, it is also an art. In the art world there are a lot of awards for actors and directors. We will have similar ones and it is perfect. This way they recognize not just our sports achievements. Lately I can see a lot of changes in figure skating. All of the many ice shows, programs and awards are affecting the development of this sport. You can not imagine how many parents are bringing their kids these days to the rinks. And it is wonderful because it will help us to overcome our decline. It is like a dive down before takeoff.
SR – Yes, this is how we comfort ourselves.
AT – Correct. Why did we crash? Because in the 90s no one was thinking about the takeoff. There were just kids like Evgeny Pluschenko and Alex Yagudin, there were Berezhnaya and Sikhuralidze, Totmjanina and Marininn and Maria and myself. We practiced, we wanted to win and we were going forward. But behind us there were nobody. Now it became very clear. But these days, especially thanks to Ilja Averbuch, children are coming to the skating schools in droves.
SR – Will there be enough coaches for these kids?
AT – There are a lot of our famous coaches who are still working.
SR – Many of them are of advanced age and will not stay on forever.
AT – Some of the former sportspeople became children’s coaches – Irina Lobacheva, for example. Maria also wants to do it and I am very interested in doing it in the future. Not now, but in the future, I will definitely become a coach. Although to be honest, I like it more to work with the adults.
SR – So you will continue what Maria is starting.
AT – It is very possible, we will think about it.
SR – Now you are trying yourself as a coach of adults at the “Ice Period” project. You are training the actres Alisa Grebenschikova to skate. What do you think about her progress?
AT – It is something unbelievable. She never skated before in her life, but these days she is performing complex lifts and turns. She amazes me.
SR – How would you judge her professionally?
AT – You know, if she practices a little bit more, it will be ideal. It will be on the highest level.
SR - Alisa is really performing difficult lifts. Apparently she trusts you completely. Are you afraid for her?
AT – No, I have that professional feeling that everything will be all right. It is hard to explain, but I have it. That is why I am caught up with her fearlessness, I admire her and when we are performing the overhead lifts or even without holding hands, I feel that it is all right.
SR – This year at the “Ice Period” you changed your specialty.
AT – Yes, and I am very happy about it. Last year, when I skated with Anna Bolshova, we were just a quiet dancing pair. With Alisa we are skating closer to sports pairs and I enjoy it very much. I am so interested in watching her progress and she is doing really well and that helped us to find our own style.
SR – At the awards show you skated with Alisa, a not experienced skater at the stadium for the first time. Were you nervous before the show?
AT – I was a little nervous, but I am used to these shows, while she used to a theatre scene and people in front of her, but here there were people all around. She was very nervous, shaken, but we skated very well. She performed excellently and I am happy that I could support her.
SR – And then, when you skated with your regular partner Marina Petrova, you fell down twice. It was funny. The stadium did not see that for a long time.
AT – Yes, it was very funny. I hope that spectators there were amused. It was just like a damned element, that we fell two times by trying to perform it. Probably it happened because everything was going so fast and we did not have time to sharpen our skates.
Translation of an article by Svetlana Orlova a correspondent of the Russian language publication Express Gazeta printed on December 5, 2007
Not long ago, the Ukrainian figure skater, currently living in the US, swore that she has not had a drink in 10 years, since her auto accident when she almost died in the crash.
After a righteous celebration of her 30th birthday in the central synagogue of NYC, the figure skater had a grandiose drinking party. Ordering vodka by the case, she was complaining that she was denied a chance to become a mother.
Initially everything in the synagogue was as decent as Oxana promised – a fashion show, a concert and a huge kosher cake with candles. When she completed the “compulsory” program, the figure skater went with a small group of friends into a bohemian night club in the center of New York for a “free” program. The waiters could not serve her vodka fast enough. The birthday girl drank one shot after another. At some point, she climbed on the table and declared that she was the number one figure skater in the world. The next moment, she was crying and smearing her makeup. While crying, she took out from her purse a picture of her and a small girl in a pink coat. She was looking at the picture for a long time, gasping. In the early morning hours, Oxana was so drunk that she could not get up from the chair and refused to vacate the premises. The management called a taxi and escorted her out.
Before her 30th birthday, Oxana told the press that she was planning to adopt a 6 year old girl who lived in an Odessa children’s home called Tikva. Mark Dreerman, director of Tikva, told this correspondent that Oxana visited the home twice this and last year as part of a delegation of business people. The skater was teaching the children to skate, and took them to the movies. She became very fond of one little girl- 6 years old Vera. The girl also took to Oxana and was crying when Oxana left. Oxana told the management of the home that she wanted to adopt the child, but Mr. Dreerman refused her. He explained that it would be possible only if Vera was an orphan. Although she was from a broken family, she had living parents. Oxana was very upset.
The figure skater lived in the US for more than 10 years after she won Olympic Gold. She was hoping for “mountains of gold” in the States, but she could not handle the fame and the money, and developed a drinking problem. She was treated for alcohol and drug abuse for three years. Oxana was married twice: the first time she married a young businessman and former Russian emigrant Evgeny Sunik; the second time it was a 40 years old businessman Jim Brennan. She did not have any kids with either of them. (Ed. Note: It's questionable whether Oxana ever actually legally married either of the men.)
Oxana makes a good living by skating in the ice shows. She has a luxury apartment in New Jersey with two Mercedes in the garage. The only thing that she is missing is a woman’s happiness. That was why Oxana wanted to adopt a child. It is questionable if she could do it in the USA. Her scandalous reputation of a drunkard would prevent her. So she decided to adopt a child from her former motherland, where she is still remembered and loved. But if she could not put a stop to her drinking problem, she may never enjoy the happiness of motherhood.
Alexey Yagudin: Return to big sport is not possible.
Translation of an article printed on December 5, 2007 in the Russian language newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.
The famous figure skater succumbed to his traumas.
At the presentation of his autobiographical book, the Olympic champion of Salt Lake city in figure skating, Alexey Yagudin, announced that he was not planning to come back to amateur sports and definitely was not going to participate in the winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
He said: “My operation of the hip joint was performed with the objective of restoring my health as I would be able to get back to amateur sports. I wanted to come back very much! I already compiled the music for my program. But my body did not cooperate. I had to see the doctors more often. During my tour in Germany a few weeks ago, I was carried away from the ice and I could not complete my performance. That is the reason why I officially declare that my return to amateur sports is not possible.”
Yagudin also stated that he was not going to become a coach since it was too high of a responsibility and he was not ready for it.
Translation of an article by a correspondent of the Russian language newspaper “Tvoy den” Alexey Savichev, printed on November 21, 2007.
The Olympic champion in figure skating, Tatiana Navka – until lately an exemplary wife and mother – after taping one of the episodes of her TV show, went off with last year's partner at the ice show, Marat Basharov.
Apparently Tatiana is a superwoman. In one night, she managed to perform her program at the show, pay attention to her mother and daughter, to pose for a magazine, to arrange a clandestine date and to show herself as a reckless driver on the streets of the capital.
For the taping of the "Ice Age" show, the starry couple of Tatiana Navka and Alex Zhulin came separately. On the stage, their interest in each other was limited only to their work. In everything else, they were as cold as ice. Tatiana warmed up in the company of her mother and her daughter, Sashenka, who came to visit her at the taping. The two women were in a perfect mood, talking and smiling. But the meeting was not long. Immediately after the taping, Tatiana sent her mother and daughter home while she continued to sweat under the lights when she was posing for a posh magazine.
After such a tiresome day, anyone would drop dead tired. But not Tatiana Navka! After completion of the modeling session she decided to play James Bond. Her husband stayed at the stage, while Navka left the studio, sat in her car but was not leaving the studio. She drove in front of the windows for a while and then parked in a secluded place. She stayed there for about half an hour and then took off in a hurry, but not before a gray shadow scurried in the car.
Who could that be, her husband? No, Navka took on board her former partner at the ice show and current announcer of the show "IceAge," Marat Basharov. After that, she drove away from the studio like a speeding bullet. On the road, Tatiana drove faster than Schumacher. She easily crossed the double lines, drove extremely fast and behaved like a car racer. Several times she almost created an accident. She was driving like that for almost an hour. But to arrive together where they were going was not in the cards. Finding out that they were being followed by the correspondent’s car all the time, she showed her high spy qualities. At one of the intersections, she dropped off her passenger. Disappointed Basharov, who left his car at the studio, could do nothing better than to catch a taxi and to go home to his family.
Translation of an interview with Oxana Bauil (OB) by Lubomir Lukanjuk (LL), a correspondent of the Russian language Ukrainian internet publication “Sport.com.ua” published on November 16, 2007.
The fist Olympic champion of independent Ukraine turns 30. Tons of books and miles of film were written and taped about her fate. The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan, and this swan is now turning 30.
The phone call from this correspondent caught her busily preparing her party. She said that she was rushing out the door to a special store to buy a kosher cake for the celebration. The reason for that was that the party will take place in the central synagogue of New York City. She expected to have about 500 guests there.
LL – Why at the synagogue?
OB – I remember from my childhood that my mother and grandmother were called "dirty jews." When a few years ago I met my father, I asked him if it was true that I had Jewish blood and he told me that it was true. My grandmother and my grandfather met during the war. She was a Romanian Jew.
LL – What will you wear for the celebration?
OB – In the first part of the program I will be in a simple dress over which I will wear a tallis. The second part of the party will be a fashion show which I organized with a well known fashion designer, Levi Okunov. In the beginning of the second part I will come out in a wedding gown. It is not a hint. It is just a tradition in fashion shows that to be successful it has to be opened with a wedding gown.
LL – What presents are you expecting?
OB – My friends are keeping it secret but I guess that they invited Adriano Chelentano to sing for me. It was hinted to me that before the fashion show he will sing and after the show the TEQULAJAZZ will perform for me.
In the last few years Oxana became very active in philanthropy. In particular, she is sponsoring Jewish boarding schools and children’s homes. Whenever the Olympic Champion has free time she comes back home and spends time with the orphans.
The head mistress of the Odessa children’s home, Tikva, Ms. Hala Melamet, told us that Oxana is a frequent guest at their facility. When she arrives she takes the children out to the skating rink, and to concerts and restaurants, where they play and are generally having a good time. The children adore her.
LL – Are you planning to have kids?
OB – When my schedule will be less crowded, I will definitely have kids. There is no higher happiness for a woman than to have kids. Children are the reason for living.
That may be why Oxana became so attached to a six years old little girl named Vera at Tikva. Oxana is seriously considering adopting her. Vera lost her mother a year ago and became very attached to Oxana. Oxana says that she understood Vera very much because she was an orphan herself and knows firsthand the feeling of being alone. When Oxana was leaving for the States, the girl was very sad and Oxana promised to come back for her. Next year, she is planning to start the adoption process. Oxana thinks that she will have to overcome a lot of obstacles but hopes that she will be able to adopt Vera. When asked if she would like her adopted daughter to become a figure skater, Oxana replied that she would not push her and that children should select their own activities.
The next project for Oxana is a Broadway show – “Cold As Ice.”
History of Oxana:
Oxana was born in the city of Dnepropetrovsk on November 17, 1977. Two years later, her parents divorced and the girl lived with her mother and grandmother. She dreamed of becoming a ballerina, but she was told that she was too fat for it. Then her grandmother took her to a skating rink, assuring Oxana that figure skating was like a ballet on ice.
At the age of 8, Oxana was traveling all over the former Soviet Union. After the break up of the USSR, Oxana went to live in Odessa, Ukraine and worked with the duet of coaches – Galina Zmievskaya and Valentin Nikilaev. In 1993, at the World Championship in Prague, Oxana won a Gold medal.
At the Olympic Games of 1994, during practice, Oxana collided with Tatiana Shevchenko. She received a cut on her leg and a trauma to her shoulder.
She overcame her pain and went on the ice. The tears came afterwards – the tears of victory. Oxana became the first Olympic Champion of an Independent Ukraine.
After the victory, Oxana moved to the USA. She was showered with fame and money and she cracked under the pressure. She developed a drinking problem. In the winter of 1997, she crashed her Mercedes into a tree. She recovered from a brain contusion and was sentenced to three months of detoxification treatment.
Last year, for the first time in many years, Oxana skated in Ukraine. She performed at the "Stars on Ice" show at the Kiev Palace of Sports. She looked as if she were only a shadow of the former Bauil – the champion. * * *
"Skate Crime," Book #5 in The Figure Skating Mystery series is out today! The perfect Christmas gift for the skating fan on your list!
Tuesday, December 4, is the official release date for my fifth and final Figure Skating Mystery, Skate Crime. (It’s also the first night of Hanukkah. Skating murder mysteries make excellent first night of Hanukkah gifts. Really. It’s in the Talmud.)
You can see the cover above.
Skate Crime is the story of a high-powered, politically connected, vaguely misogynistic coach being murdered on the eve of a televised tribute celebrating his achievements. A male coach named Lucian Pryce.
Why is there a pair of presumably female legs lying dead on the cover?
Maybe one of his students fainted when she heard the news.
My first skating mystery, Murder on Ice, had a skater with no head on the cover. My second, On Thin Ice, had the shadow of a skater with no feet.
#3, Axel of Evil, did feature a whole girl, but also a pair of gloves, lying like disembodied hands rink-side. #4, Death Drop, had a full-bodied ice-dancing team (albeit in pretty sloppy Killian position).
And now we’re back to random body parts, the aforementioned female legs, and a torso shadow in the corner.
I do love the color scheme of Skate Crime. The cool blue and white really conveys the proper mood.
Do you have a favorite Figure Skating Mystery cover? Let me know!
Irina Slutskaya is back on the Ice Age show after giving birth.
Translation of an article by Lidia Pavlenko, a correspondent of a Russian language newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” printed on November 29, 2007
The announcer of the ice show, "Ice Age," Marat Basharov appeared at the latest taping of the show with a shapely woman.
Could it be Slutskaya, the extras of the show asked each other? Some commented that it could not be her since she just gave birth, and she was not that slim, although the smile was her's. Really, if it was not for her smile, it would be hard to recognize the famous figure skater – she lost more than 20 pounds. And she did not use any special diets or exercises. Just dropped the weight and became a new person.
As promised, Irina decided not to stay home, even though her son is only 2 weeks old. She missed only one taping of the show, where she was replaced by an actress, Ingeborga Dapkunaite. But for the next show, Irina came in smiling as usual. The producer of the project, Ilja Averbuch, promised to arrange special conditions for the new mother and a special room where her son would stay with his nurse and where she could breastfeed him. Irina decided that she would not bring her son to work, but would rather have the option to have “nursing breaks." The new schedule of taping will include these breaks for feeding her son, Artem.
The return of Irina to the show was not the only good news. The show "Ice Age" received a guest of honor – Evgeny Pluschenko, who performed a beautiful program on ice. He had to repeat it three times since his phenomenal skating speed was too much for the cameras to catch all of the nuances of his performance.