Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Memoirs of the great coach Tatiana Tarasova – “For Ilja I could kill!”

Translation of an article printed in the Russian Language publication “” on March 15, 2008.

The publishing house “Astrel” has published a book – “Beauty and the Beast," which consists of autobiographical stories of coach and consultant to the Russian Figure Skating Federation, Tatiana Tarasova. In the book, Ms. Tarasova frankly talks about her unique family and her outstanding pupils.

About the father, the famous hockey coach.

Father was always writing something. I do not remember him without a notebook or a huge amount of notes on his desk. Every day beginning at 5 am, he was writing. He never gave me this list of exercises that he was developing all of his life. He thought that I was not worthy of that list since I have not done much in my life. In that list, he had thousands of exercises for different groups of muscles. He was not just a professor, but rather an academician of sport. He would not start his day until he would think of at least 10 new exercises. Every day.

It was interesting to observe him working on the tactics of hockey. Sine there were no metal boxes where the figures could move on magnets, he would make the figures of the players out of the cardboard with a round base and would work with these figures for hours.

About Ilja Kulik.

We were flying to America. We selected a brand new airline. I do not remember what it was called, but remember that the tickets there were less expensive than on Aeroflot. But as soon as we arrived in New York, the company went bankrupt. We were holding worthless return tickets. That was our economy flight. Together with us on the plane there was another figure skater – Nikolay Morozov, a friend of Ilja who was skating with Tatiana Navka. At some point during the flight, Ilja went to see Nikolay and had a few drinks. When Ilja came back to his seat it was obvious that he could not hold the drinks and needed to have his stomach pumped. I made him drink as much water as he could to cleanse his stomach. It was an unpleasant but necessary session of shock therapy.

Ilja was getting ready for the World Championship in a normal way, without any twists. The Championship was held in Switzerland. We went there well in advance as to get acclimatized. Ilja jumped very easily and nothing indicated the upcoming disaster. Three days before the “qualification” skate, he was practicing at the main rink. Many interested people – the judges, coaches and participants came to see him practice. Ilja performed a great jump but at the landing his foot twisted and he fell on the ice dropping on his hands with a scream of pain. I expected that he broke his leg. But he was getting up and seeing that I was about to faint, he yelled – it's the skate! Apparently his skate broke upon landing, but he was fine. In the best case scenario the new skate could be delivered the day after next and he will have to spend time to sharpen it. He remembered that he had a spare set of skates in Moscow and we were able to get the new skate the next day. But it need to be sharpened.

Here an important role was played by another coach, Valentin Nikolaev, a Ukrainian coach who had a sharpening stand. Even though Mr. Nikolaev was the coach of Ilja’s competitor – Mr. Zagorodnuk, he immediately gave the stand to Ilja. Not every coach would do that in a similar situation. Ilja worked on the stand for hours, sharpened a replacement skate and missed a second day of practice.

That night, the ice was scheduled for the dance couple of Grischuk and Platov and we asked the organizational committee to allow Ilja to practice on ice simultaneously with the dancers to see how he could stand on the new skate. The time for really feeling the new skate was very short and the next day he skated at the “qualifications” in a state of shock, but even then he managed to jump a quad. Actually he put all of his efforts on the one leg with an old skate, since he was not sure about the feel of the new skate. Psychologically it was a very difficult test. A new skate feels differently from the old one especially for a high class skater. But Ilja holds up and ends up in the third place after Urmanov and Eldredge. Stojko comes in fourth.

The night of the competition he came out on the ice as usual. I was standing at the edge of the rink and was advising him not to do the quad on the new skate and to skate a clean program. As usual, he drew the first staring number, but he was very anxious to begin his program. I suggested to him to calm down, to stay at the edge with me for a little longer, to drop the tension, that he had two minutes after his name was announced, but the moment his name was called, he rushed on ice even though he did not completely recover form his accident.

I did not realize what a nightmare was unfolding around me, what a deceit was being prepared for me. I saw some unusual activity around me, but being preoccupied with his performance, I did not pay attention to it. As I expected, his morning practice took too much of his energy and he missed his opening jump and the rest of the program went downhill from there. He lost too much energy and was completing his program with a lot of mistakes. He needed just a few seconds to recover, but the program was so dense going without pauses and in one rhythm, that he did not have those few seconds.

But let’s go back to those minutes when I saw in the corridor that our doctor was rushing somewhere, that Mishin (coach of Urmanov) and Piseev (President of Russian Figure Skating Federation) were taking Urmanov somewhere. I understood that something was happening, but I did not want to get involved. I asked someone what was going on, but was told that everything was fine. Urmanov came out on the ice for practice and I could see how he was jumping. After Kulik had his unfortunate performance, Urmanov announced that he was not going to compete. Nobody told us about that. The foreign skaters knew that Urmanov was quitting and changed their programs with the knowledge that the main competitor was out of the race. The foreigners knew, and we were the only ones who did not know. Only we - the fellow compatriots -- did not know. I consider it such treason that I could never understand it and never forgive it.

Apparently Piseev knew early in the morning that Urmanov was quitting the competition, and he should have, even must have, told me about it. If Ilja would know that, he would not try to jump the quad and would not make all of the following mistakes. It was obvious to everyone. Everybody knew that he had a broken skate three days before the competition but did not do anything to help him. What does it say about the Russian National Team after that? To hide such a development from a teammate was highly unprofessional and bordered on the behavior of gangsters. They just wanted to punish me, to put me on my knees. It was their attitude toward me that reflected in Ilya losing a year of his life and work. I was so mad that I wanted to hit someone in the National team management. For Ilja, I was ready to kill! Especially after such a baseness.

Yagudin, the second pupil of Mishin, did not look great as well, but the judges were already rooting for him and he bypassed Ilja and came in third. Eldridg fell, but stayed in second place. Stoiko skated cleanly and won. It is not known what place he would be in if Kulik would have a clean performance. It is not known how that Championship would go if our geriatric management would not have a goal: anyone, but Kulik! Just to punish me for daring to coach singles.



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