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New Russian champion looking for breakthrough

Voronov hopes to make big splash at Europeans

Russian champion Sergei Voronov (right) and his coach, former Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov, are excited for Europeans.
Russian champion Sergei Voronov (right) and his coach, former Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov, are excited for Europeans. (Klaus Reinhold Kany)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(01/22/2008) - After winning his first national senior title just two weeks ago, Sergei Voronov is now hoping to continue his breakthrough season at the 2008 European Championships this week in Zagreb, Croatia.

The 20-year-old from St. Petersburg drew attention already this season when he claimed the silver medal at the Trophee Eric Bompard in November. At Russian nationals in early January, he upped the ante by landing a clean quadruple toe loop in both his short and free programs.

"It's a good feeling, obviously, that I finally ended up in first place at a senior-level competition. We'll continue to strive for more," he told icenetwork.com in St. Petersburg. Voronov not only started to land the quad in competition, but he also developed from a solid but unspectacular skater into a real performer on the ice.

"I probably grew up in general. After juniors, you realize that juniors is one thing and that the senior level is a little different. I've worked a lot with my coach this year in spite of injuries and in spite of some disagreements. The work led to some success," the athlete explained.

"Sergei has grown up a lot", confirmed coach Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic champion. "I would put this in first place. He also has talent. As a coach, I am striving for a 100 percent, and Sergei has started to follow."

It was not easy, though, as the skater had to overcome several injuries this season. "I actually had two injuries. My left knee hurt from practicing the quad, and then I sprained my ankle badly on a triple Lutz during a training camp in September," Voronov recalled. "I actually thought that's it, I have to finish my career. But the doctors told me that I can't jump for three weeks, and then it should be OK. So I skated, but I didn't jump." As a result, the Russian had to withdraw from his first Grand Prix event, Skate Canada, in early November. He still was unable to do a triple Lutz and flip at nationals because of the injury.

"It's better now, but I am still in pain sometimes and don't feel so good. But I'm fighting with that, and I hope to heal fully," Sergei said. "In any case, I'll strive for getting back the flip and maybe even the Lutz [for Europeans]. We'll just see how I feel and what shape I'm in. These toe pick jumps put pressure on the [injured] bone, and the slightest mistake leads to pain."

Voronov, who got a silver and a bronze medal from the last two world junior championships, was sent to senior worlds last year in Tokyo, Japan, but finished only 19th. He injured his foot during the free program but skated to the end, then limped off the ice.

"After the second Axel, suddenly my foot really hurt, like my old injury came back. I honestly didn't know how I can continue the program. But once I started my program, I had to finish it," he said at the time. Voronov was off the ice for some weeks after worlds. His strong will helped him to overcome the injuries and to come back strong this season.

He also felt that competing at worlds was a great experience for him. "I got a lot of experience, because I saw how the best of the world are skating, not only in competition, but I also saw how they are working in practice. This was a good lesson for me. I probably understood a lot afterwards. This helped me to progress, no doubt, because to see how Stephane Lambiel or Brian Joubert are skating is precious, of course," Sergei said.

He now will not only watch defending European champion Joubert and two-time world champion Lambiel in Zagreb, but he'll also try to come close to them. "I don't think about a specific placement. I think I just have to go out and enjoy to skate as I did in my previous competitions, and then everything will fall into place," he added.