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Behind the scenes of figure skating - May 22

Catching up with Angela Nikodinov

Angela Nikodinov is the 2000 Four Continents Championships gold medalist.
Angela Nikodinov is the 2000 Four Continents Championships gold medalist. (courtesy of IMG Worldwide)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/22/2008) - These days, two-time U.S. bronze medalist Angela Nikodinov is trying to find the right balance between coaching and performing, and it isn't easy. In the summer of 2006, she began training again just to see how she felt. Her first steps were tentative, as she was coming off of a long layoff following the tragic death of her mother, Dolores, in a car accident during the 2005 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"I decided to try just for fun and see if I got any offers to perform," says Nikodinov. "I got pretty much all my jumps and spins back in about a month. I was surprised, because I hadn't skated in more than a year and a half. I was on the ice because I was coaching, but I wasn't jumping and doing spins.

"Then, out of nowhere, IMG asked if I wanted to do half of the Stars on Ice tour. Then I did a Disson show. Then I did a few other shows. I was overwhelmed with it in the first year coming back.

"At the same time, we're coaching."

The "we" she refers to is she and boyfriend Ivan Dinev, former Bulgarian champion and an Olympic and world competitor. They co-coach about 10 competitive skaters, ages 10 to 21. Among this group are promising juvenile lady Nina Deschler, U.S. senior lady Tenile Victorsen (11th at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships ), and the rising pair team of Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobsen, U.S. senior competitors and ISU Junior Grand Prix finalists.

"Coaching is a very different experience," says Nikodinov, whose parents both came from Bulgaria. "It's hard, because you're watching from the side. It's a totally different view of things when you're on the other side of the wall. You have to hide your nerves, because you don't want to make your students nervous. It's a learning experience."

They are based at Skating Edge in Torrance, Calif., where Dinev focuses on jumps and endurance and Nikodinov handles spins, spirals and fine points of a program. Both do choreography.

With their coaching commitments so significant, Nikodinov decided to go for a lighter performing schedule this past season, but a sprained ankle left her with a temporarily empty slate. "I still want to perform and do shows, but I really enjoy coaching," she says. "We have good relationships with all of our students. It's kind of like a family. They all help each other and support each other.

"I'm fortunate that Ivan and I coach together, so when I was on tour, the skaters weren't alone. But at competitions, they like to have both of us there."

For Butler and Jacobsen, they've also enlisted Ekaterina Gordeeva, who moved back to California with husband Ilia Kulik and their two girls, to give some lessons. This summer, the young pair will spend time in St. Petersburg, Russia, working with renowned pair coach Tamara Moskvina and having their programs choreographed by former U.S. ice dance champion Peter Tchernyshev.

"There are no other pair teams at the rink we're at, so it's really hard to feed off of that," Nikodinov notes. "I always felt training at Lake Arrowhead helped me so much, because every day I was pushed. Not just by my coach, but I was training alongside Michelle Kwan. In the summer, international skaters would come. You just feed off of that. It was like a little competition. It will be good for them to go to Russia and see how the skaters there train."

On the home front, Nikodinov admits to having some pretty impressive domestic traits. She is a fastidious cleaner, and she loves to cook. The day before this interview, she found a Bulgarian recipe on the Internet, which she cooked with impressive results. Her mother was an amazing cook, who she used to call for recipes. Now she prepares some of her mother's specialties, as well as going through her mother's many cookbooks.

She turned 28 on May 9, but delayed birthday celebrations until longtime friend Timothy Goebel finished his exams at Columbia University, and former Lake Arrowhead housemate Jeffrey Buttle completed the Stars on Ice Canada tour. They were both traveling to Los Angeles, and Nikodinov hoped they'd take a road trip to Las Vegas for some festivities.

Then it's back to work preparing the skaters for next season. "Definitely, this year I would like to do some shows," she says. "I'm skating every day. We'll see how we can work that into the schedule."