Ice Network

Boston brewings: Gordeeva praises today's skaters

Two-time Olympic champ likes Stolbova, Klimov best of current pairs crop
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Katie Gordeeva doesn't believe the judging system is a hindrance to today's skaters. -Getty Images

When the very private Ekaterina (Katia) Gordeeva joined twitter in December, even close friends were astonished.

Kristi Yamaguchi, who toured with the two-time Olympic champion (1988, 1994) for years on Stars on Ice, tweeted back, "Katia is this really you :)"

"I guess I'm not really into social media," Gordeeva said. "I have my own life, and I like it to be private. But skating, I would like to talk about."

The 44-year-old pairs legend has a lot to say. A keen observer of the current skating scene, she's fluent in the language of the international judging system (IJS), although she and her first husband, the late Sergei Grinkov, won their titles in the 6.0 era.

"My younger daughter (Elizaveta Kulik) is competing, and I enjoy being involved," she said. "Some past skaters just don't like it now, but I'm looking at it from a different point of view. I'm enjoying every second. I'm interested in who can skate what (elements). Maybe for the first five years (after retirement) I didn't care for skating much, but right now, I do. It's my life, really."

Professional performing has been Gordeeva's skating life for more than two decades, but now she's ready to make the leap to full-time coaching. The longtime Orange County, California, resident is already voicing a familiar U.S. pairs coaching lament.

"There are a lot of girls around, but finding the big boys for pairs, it's hard," she said. "I don't have any (elite) skaters yet, but I would really love to start a little team, from the ground up, or help an established coach."

The 6.0 system yielded beautiful programs, including the "Moonlight Sonata" free skate Gordeeva and Grinkov performed to win their second Olympic title. But Gordeeva is fully on board with the present judging system.

"Now, it's not only the elements -- it's also the connections between the elements," she said. "Judges are asking for more and more difficulty in the second marks: the transitions, the choreography. The footwork has to be difficult so all of the edges show."

Gordeeva watched all four disciplines compete and practice at Boston's TD Garden this week. The quad twists planned by U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim and China's world silver medalists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han caught her eye. She and Grinkov performed the element during the 1986-87 season and got so little recognition for it, they removed it the following year.

"We took it out for the Olympics," she said. "We didn't get extra credit. They were not (awarding) points for elements, like they do now. It was all about skating clean, all about putting out elements at the highest quality, not difficulty, I would say. We didn't even do a triple (jump); we did two double axel combinations, and it was enough at that point."

She grew a bit offended at the suggestion that many of today's skaters are more athletes than artists.

"No, no. Yuzuru [Hanyu] skates from his heart," she said. "Adam Rippon skates from his heart. Grant [Hochstein] skated his free skate from his heart. It's not the amount of elements or difficulty -- it's how you feel the music, how you feel the program, how you feel your partner at that moment. The dancers (Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron), you didn't want their programs to end. With all of the difficult elements, today's skaters definitely have to be more concentrated, a little bit more conservative with their emotions, but still I think it's possible."

Gordeeva shrugged off suggestions that she go into commentating -- "I don't know about that" -- but had a lot to say about the pairs short program Friday.

"I think that Russians (Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov) were a little stiff, a little bit nervous, but hopefully they will release themselves a little bit in the free program," she said. "Obviously, Tatiana and Max are coming back from Sochi and it is not very easy to come back as Olympic champions to any event, I can tell you. Sergei and I did it (in the 1993-94 season), and it's a double pressure, I would say."

She loves Germany's Aliona Savchenko with her new partner, Bruno Massot, but reserves her greatest praise for Russia's Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

"They also were a little nervous in the short, but usually their skating, I would say, doesn't look like they are competing," she said. "It looks like they are doing a show, so that's what I like about them."

Asked to give a bit of advice to young skaters, Gordeeva urged them to live fully in the present and set manageable goals.

"That's what I've always tried to do -- keep my goals small -- and I think that's what has helped me to grow," she said. "I never [set] a long-term goal, because then when you reach it, what else? So I try to achieve a smaller goal. OK, I skated a good Olympic program...what next? I have to do show skating and develop myself...what next? Now I maybe start to coach kids. It's all a process."