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Bobrova and Soloviev step up

Russian ice dancers join the senior scene

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev.
Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. (Wire Images)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(11/02/2007) - Flying high after taking three gold medals at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Russian figure skating is back down to earth. It was a harsh landing. Last season, the once successful Russian team came back empty-handed from the World Championships and garnered only one silver medal at European Championships. That medal went to ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.

These days, Russia's hopes are pinned on ice dancing and behind the two top teams of Domnina and Shabalin and Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski. However, there is a pool of young and talented couples ready to step into the limelight; one of those couples is the reigning World Junior Champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. They make their debut on the senior scene at Skate Canada International in Quebec City this weekend.

Aged 17 and 18, the Muscovites are actually still age eligible for two more junior seasons, but chose to move up to seniors.

"We almost won everything in juniors", Bobrova pointed out. "The earlier we are competing in seniors, the earlier we get used to it."

"Here (at the senior level), the workload is different, the programs are different and you have to skate in a different way. So we can reach this level step by step", Soloviev added.

Bobrova and Soloviev's career happened in fast forward mode, at least for ice dancers. Competing in their first international junior season in 2005/06 they qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final right away. In 2006/07, they won the World Junior title the first time they participated in this event.

"We've worked very hard", Bobrova answered when asked about the secret of their success.

"We have excellent coaches who are able to prepare us very well. They have a special approach and it works for us", Soloviev said.

The couple is training in Moscow with Svetlana Alexeeva and her daughter Elena Kustarova, a former competitive ice dancer herself. However, the young Russians know that their success at the junior level is not a guarantee for similar success at the next level.

"You can't compare juniors and senior. In juniors you can say we've reached the highest level, but now in seniors we'll have to start from scratch", Soloviev cautioned. "We have to change our skating and have to grow up. This is not so easy, obviously, but we're trying our best."

The team is excited about competing in their first senior Grand Prix. "This is another level, of course, and we don't want to look worse than the others", the 18-year-old dancer said.

"Our first senior Grand Prix is overseas, and we haven't been there too often", his partner explained.

Personally, they get along very well, having known each other since childhood. They both started out as single skaters in the same club.

When he was nine years old, Soloviev almost left skating. "I suffered a concussion, when an iron hook fell off the ceiling in the ballet room and hit me on the head", he recalled. "I didn't skate for about six months, and when I came back, I couldn't do the jumps anymore. So I decided to quit and it took them a long time to convince me to stay in."

Ekaterina was present when the accident happened and later called Dmitri to ask him to come back. When they switched to ice dancing in 2000, they teamed up right away and never skated with other partners.

They celebrated the 7th anniversary of their partnership on Nov. 1.

For their first senior season, the couple is skating to the traditional Russian Folk song "Kalinka" in the original dance and to a modern arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Suite in D" and "Toccata and Fugue" for their free dance. The music was picked by their coaches.

"They always find the right music for us that suits us perfectly. Whether it's rock-n-roll one year or a slow Rhumba in another year, it always fit," Bobrova explained. "Our coaches know us very well and know what kind of music we are able to interpret and how to make us look good. They always put everything together so that we have an interesting program."

The World Junior Champions set modest goals for themselves for this season: "We just want to skate clean and to show everything we can do", Soloviev said.

"We want to please everybody and want to make our coaches happy", his partner added. "They don't yet want to think about the possibility of qualifying for Europeans and Worlds this season although Russia has three spots. We aren't looking so far into the future. We are not competing for any placements this season. We just want to skate well and to present ourselves."

However, there is a realistic chance for them to make the World and European team this year, although competition inside Russia will be strong. Although they are still very young, the statuesque couple doesn't look junior anymore on the ice.

Off the ice, as well, they are mature for their age and looking ahead to a bright and successful future.