Griazev gravitates toward professional skating

Beautiful scenery, intimate audiences inspire happy transition

Russian Andrei Griazev has enjoyed the transition into show skating.
Russian Andrei Griazev has enjoyed the transition into show skating. (courtesy of Andrei Graziev)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(07/25/2013) - He scored an upset over Evan Lysacek to win the 2004 World Junior Championships, but Andrei Griazev's transition to senior international competition was somewhat rocky.

Often coping with injuries, Griazev's best placement at a world championships was 11th in 2005, although he certainly earned many fans along the way. Since officially retiring from competitive skating in 2009, Griazev, who turns 28 on Friday, has found his groove as a performer and coach.

Currently in his fifth Royal Caribbean International cruise ship contract with Willy Bietak Productions, Gryazev checks in with from the Freedom of the Seas in the Caribbean. When did you start skating on the cruise ships, and what are some of the interesting ports you've seen?

Griazev: I started with the company in November 2009 and have seen many Caribbean and European ports, beautiful beaches, lots of history and interesting tours. What made you decide to try the ship shows, and what have you found you like about them?

Griazev: When I finished competitions, I still wanted to continue skating myself, so performing in shows like these was a great option. Studio B (the theater with the ice rink) is a very intimate space. It gives you a vastly different perspective of an audience than skating in an arena. How do you feel you've developed as a performer working in this space that's so close to the audience?

Griazev: Working in such a small, intimate setting was an adjustment, as was performing on such a small sheet of ice with a cast of 10 skaters. Interacting with the guests is a lot of fun. I understand you have performed on several tours produced by Ilya Averbukh. Did those shows begin to get you interested in performing as opposed to competing?

Griazev: The first Russian tour with Ilya Averbukh was in 2005. I was competing at the same time and continued shows and competition for three years. I wouldn't say performing made me want to leave competition, but I guess there comes a time that -- with injuries and the body getting older -- I had to look at future options such as shows and tours, etc. Over the past decade, the popularity of skating in Russia has returned. What is it like to perform in Russia?

Griazev: Skating in Russia in front of a home crowd is always so rewarding. I love my country and am so proud of our talented coaches and skaters. What are some of the other professional jobs you have had other than the cruise ship shows?

Griazev: Skating has been my passion since the age of 4, so I have been fortunate enough to perform in shows and tours for my work so far. I have also spent a lot of time coaching in Russia. Do you miss competing?

Griazev: I am enjoying my work at the moment, so I wouldn't say I miss it. Just different stages of skating life. Do you have a favorite memory from competing?

Griazev: Winning junior worlds, of course! Do you want to explore other professional jobs, such as Holiday on Ice or a park show?

Griazev: I am open to any opportunities that may come. As for right now, I am happy skating with Royal Caribbean. How do you feel physically now that you aren't pounding your body with intense training for competition?

Griazev: I have continued to keep up with my fitness and practice on ice, so physically I feel great. Also, without the intensity of competition, there is less chance of any injuries. You've been away from competitive skating for four years. Do you see skating in a different light now than you did when you were competing?

Griazev: I feel now the competition is with myself. I try to better my jumps and stylistically improve with performing rather than for the thrill of competitions against others. What is ahead for you in the next few years?

Griazev: I hope to continue doing what I love: skating and performing for years to come!