Ice Network

Reinvented Szolkowy turns to pro skating, coaching

Five-time German world champion joins Mozer's group in Moscow
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Robin Szolkowy is working as an assistant to Nina Mozer -- the coach of his chief rivals during his competitive days, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

After Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their fifth world pairs title last season, the 35-year-old Szolkowy retired from competitive skating. Many other changes followed.

His decade-long partnership with Savchenko dissolved when she decided she wanted to continue in the competitive ranks and teamed up with Frenchman Bruno Massot. In July, Szolkowy announced he will perform in shows with three-time Swiss singles medalist Myriam Leuenberger. He worked as an assistant coach at Michael Huth's iceDOME summer camp in Oberstdorf, Germany.

The most important change came on Aug. 1, when he married longtime Swiss girlfriend Romy Born in his hometown of Chemnitz.

In early September, Szolkowy made yet another big decision, signing a contract with Nina Mozer to work as a permanent assistant coach in Russia. Ironically, Mozer's skaters include Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who were Savchenko and Szolkowy's biggest rivals the past few seasons.

"I hired Robin Szolkowy because I like his skating skills very much, and I do not want to risk that such a talent is lost from the skating world," Mozer said in Oberstdorf.

Icenetwork met with Szolkowy during the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, where he is coaching one of Mozer's teams, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

Icenetwork: When and why did you decide to do shows with a new partner? 

Szolkowy: I always planned to do shows after I retired from competition. As this was no longer possible with Aliona, the real question was whether to say good-bye to skating on stage completely and concentrate on backstage, or to skate in shows with someone else. I decided to try with a new partner.

There are not many available girls who are a good match with me [in terms of] size, expression, language and age. I decided to skate with Myriam because I have known her for years from her participation in the Art on Ice shows. I told her about my idea, and she was full of enthusiasm. She has a lot of talent and learns pairs skating elements very quickly. I see us as an adagio pair with classic pair elements.  

Icenetwork: You did two Opera on Ice shows last week in the historic Arena di Verona, with Carolina Kostner and Stéphane Lambiel. How did it go?

Szolkowy: Our debut was very successful. The shows were completely different. There were hardly any solo numbers, but everybody was involved almost all the time. Myriam is used to skating in front of 10,000 people, because she did group numbers with the Art on Ice shows in Switzerland several times. 

Icenetwork: During the iceDOME summer camp in Oberstdorf, you worked as a coach for the first time. How did you get that job, and how was the experience?

Szolkowy: I have known Claudia Huth (Michael's wife) for a long time and asked her before the Sochi Olympics if I might join the staff in the summer as a test. Apart from one or two months in the summer of 1999 or 2000, long before Aliona came to Germany, I had never worked as a coach.

Therefore, it was a great learning process for me, with international colleagues. I could turn to my right and left, ask the other coaches questions and watch how they work, especially Peter Grütter from Switzerland. It is interesting to hear how they talk to their students.

Icenetwork: Do you plan to become a full-time coach?

Szolkowy: It is interesting, but it is also work, because you are dealing with young people; they have their own problems because they are still growing. At the iceDOME camp, they all get together and are in a good mood for two or three weeks, because they know at the end they will get in the car or plane and return to their own world. If you are together with skaters for one or two years, it is more difficult. But basically, yes, I plan to try full-time coaching. 

I would also like to organize events. Therefore, I founded a small enterprise which deals with sport events and sport management. I will do this with my wife, who also comes from the skating world. I will see how it works. I am still in the process of finding out what I'd like to do.   

Icenetwork: How did you get your offer from Moscow to work in Nina Mozer's camp, and what do you plan to do there?

Szolkowy: Nina Mozer contacted me at the end of May while I was on vacation in the U.S. with my wife. I was astonished at first, and then the email contacts grew more serious. In July, I flew to Moscow for a few days to have a look at the working conditions and to talk with Nina.

Just before leaving for the shows in Italy, I signed my contract of employment. Joining Nina's group gives me the opportunity to continue working in the highest level in skating after the end of my competitive career. This is a new challenge for me and a huge chance, which I absolutely want to make the most of.  

I will mainly work with two young teams: Tarasova and Morozov, who are here at Nebelhorn Trophy, and Vasilisa Davankova and Alexander Enbert. I will support the teams at competitions, and in a general sense. I will not be in Russia full time; I have to see how it works with my other obligations. Nina and I will discuss the schedule here this week.

Icenetwork: Does it feel strange to help the coach of the skaters who were your greatest rivals during your competitive career?

Szolkowy: I have always had some friendship with other skaters, even with my biggest rivals like Maxim Trankov. These good relationships are helping me now. I do not know if I will ever work with Tatiana and Max, or even give them a piece of advice, but I do not think of our past rivalry while I'm doing my work now. I am sure that I will never compete against them again.

It is [coincidence] that I plan to work now with Russian teams, because Nina was the first to contact me. The German federation also showed some interest, but it was a bit vague. Still, all doors are open. I will begin an official coaching trainee program in Germany now.