Ice Network

Split after worlds? Ilinykh, Katsalapov stay mum

As rumors abound, Olympic bronze medalists remain tight-lipped
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Could these world championships be the end for Olympic bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov? -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Earlier this week, Russian press agency Itar-Tass, citing an anonymous source "close to figure skating circles," reported Olympic ice dance bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov would split after the world championships in Saitama.

Figure skating rumors often surface in the press, and some turn out to be true, but this one defied belief. The attractive young skaters, just 19 and 22 years old, electrified the Sochi crowd with a stunning performance to Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake that was one of the highlights of the Games. With the sport's two longtime leading tandems of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, possibly retiring, Ilinykh and Katsalapov seemed set to re-launch Russia's ice dance dominance and contend for world gold for years to come.

After a major gaffe on a twizzle sequence put the young Russians a disappointing fifth after the short dance, Katsalapov met the press in the mixed zone and was asked if the rumors affected their performance.

"A lot of things went through our minds," he said. "We have our goal here, and we prepared for the world championships. What does it matter what happens around us?

"We came here to fight for a medal," he continued. "We have a tight schedule, we get up, we train; we don't have time to think about that."

So, does that mean they are splitting up?

"No more questions," said Olga Ermolina, the Russian skating federation's press officer.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov's coach, Nikoli Morozov, has declined to speak with the press following practices, in the mixed zone or after the draw. Before he left for Saitama, he wrote "Game over" on his Facebook wall. When asked what this meant, he refused to clarify.

The second part of the Russian press report, based on the same anonymous source, states Katsalapov will form a new partnership with Victoria Sinitsina, who placed 16th in Sochi with longtime partner Ruslan Zhiganshin. Sinitsina and Zhiganshin were queried about the rumor and replied, "No comment now."

Alexander Gorshkov, president of the Russian skating federation, told icenetwork, "I have heard about this rumor, but there is no [official notification] letter from any coach or skater which talks about a split of one of the couples, so therefore, I cannot comment."

Nelli Zhiganshina, the sister of Ruslan who competes for Germany with partner Alexander Gazsi, is not convinced that Ilinykh and Katasapalov will split, or that her brother's partnership with Sinitsina will end.

"In Russia, a lot of bad politics is done by people who go to journalists and tell them bad stories about other people," she said. "They want to ruin skaters' careers to take profit for their own goals."