Getting to Know Olga Ganicheva

Over the last decade, Olga Ganicheva and Aleksey Letov have quietly moved toward the top rank of American figure skating coaches. The husband-and-wife team, who are originally from Russia, started coaching in the Dallas, Texas, area in 2002. There, they built up a skating school based at one of the Dr.Pepper StarCenter rinks in the area (now Children’s Health StarCenter). Their skaters started appearing regularly at U.S. Nationals. In 2016, Ganicheva and Letov’s coaching success was recognized with a Developmental Coach of the Year award from the Professional Skaters Association. 

Last year, Ganicheva and Letov started a new chapter when they moved from Dallas to Boston to become High Performance Directors at the Skating Club of Boston’s new three-rink facility in Norwood, Massachusetts. They brought their skating group to Boston with them. Ganicheva and Letov are unusual among elite-level coaches in that they coach both singles and pairs. Their top pairs teams, Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov and Emily Chan/Spencer Howe, finished just off the podium, in fourth/fifth place respectively, at this year’s 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships. 

Recently, Ganicheva took a few minutes between coaching sessions to talk about her and Letov’s background, their move to Boston, and her thoughts on the pairs event at the 2021 ISU World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.  

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Worlds 2021: Pairs Predictions

‘Tis the night before Worlds … and I have pairs predictions! Fair warning: This is a very last-minute look at the pairs field for Worlds, at the end of a very odd season of figure skating (due to the covid-19 pandemic). And, as Kirsten Moore-Towers pointed out in a pre-Worlds teleconference call, we just don’t have a lot of data for this past season. For many pairs at Worlds, this will be their first international competition of the season. So neither they, nor we, really know what to expect. Therefore, take the following predictions with a grain of salt.

These are my thoughts about where the pairs may place in Stockholm.

Continue reading “Worlds 2021: Pairs Predictions”

Meagan Duhamel: Life After the Olympics

Three years ago this month, Meagan Duhamel stood on the podium at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, having just achieved a lifetime goal. Already a World champion with partner Eric Radford, Duhamel also won two Olympic medals in Pyeongchang (team gold and individual bronze). It was the pinnacle of her figure skating career.

Duhamel/Radford at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games

Yet, as much as she savored her Olympic success, Duhamel was already looking ahead and making plans for the future. While still in Pyeongchang, she had already ventured into coaching, helping to teach North Korean pair Ryom/Kim, who also competed at the Games. Duhamel and Radford were planning a professional skating career with Stars on Ice and other shows. And she and her husband/coach Bruno Marcotte were looking to start a family.

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Roman Sadovsky: Figure Skater & YouTuber

The Grand Prix season always seems to bring its share of new stars and surprises. Roman Sadovsky was a bit of both in November, when he unexpectedly won bronze at NHK Trophy. 

Not many picked the 20-year-old Canadian skater to medal at NHK, which featured an impressive field of men’s competitors, including two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. But Sadovsky seized the moment in Sapporo, impressing judges and fans with his sweeping quad Salchow jumps and elegant programs. His medal was a bit of a surprise; yet, it was something he’d been building toward for several years.

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Finster/Nagy: Young Team on the Rise

When Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy began their pairs partnership in late fall of 2017, they were a bit of an unlikely duo. The new partners had a five-year age gap–and also came from different disciplines. 

Nagy, 20, had been a singles skater for the majority of his career, with only one brief season of pairs skating at the Juvenile level in 2011. Finster, although five years younger than Nagy at 15, had significantly more pairs experience. She started competing in pairs at age 10, and won the 2015 Novice National title in pairs at age 11 (with former partner Eric Hartley). In the course of her pairs career, Finster has worked with noted U.S. pairs coach Dalilah Sappenfield, as well as Jessica Miller, former competitive pairs skater from Canada. Finster hails from the area of Louisville, KY, while Nagy was born in Budapest, Hungary, and later moved to the United States.

Finster-Nagy-spiral

 

But despite the disparity in their ages and backgrounds, Finster/Nagy immediately sensed potential when they tried out together in fall 2017. They decided to become partners, and relocated to Colorado Springs to work with Sappenfield. Success followed quickly. The team earned a Junior Grand Prix [JGP] berth in fall 2018, took silver in Junior Pairs at 2019 U.S. Nationals, and were named to the U.S. team for the 2019 Junior World Championships, where they placed 11th.  Continue reading “Finster/Nagy: Young Team on the Rise”

In Honor of Tenley Albright’s Birthday

Today, July 18, marks the 84th birthday of Tenley Albright. Born in 1935, Tenley Albright was a trailblazer in U.S. figure skating, becoming the first American lady to win an Olympic title (1956), as well as the first to win a World championship (1953, 1955). Albright captured a total of six World and Olympic medals in her career, as well as five National titles. Albright’s success–together with that of her contemporary, Dick Button–signaled the United States’ coming of age as a competitive force in the figure skating world.

Albright-in-competition
Tenley Albright in her competitive days

After her Olympic victory, Albright left competitive figure skating to focus on her education. Here again she was a trailblazer, graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1961 and becoming a surgeon during an era when women represented only 6% or less of the average medical school class. She practiced surgery for 23 years, raising three daughters along the way. Continue reading “In Honor of Tenley Albright’s Birthday”

Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson: Finding Success on Their Terms

Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson are the definition of skating veterans. Both have been involved with figure skating at the elite level for over 30 years, first as competitors and more recently as coaches.

Mitchell competed internationally for the United States in the early 1990s, attaining two top 5 finishes at the World Championships, as well as three medals at U.S. Nationals. Johansson, who hails from Sweden, competed in the 1988 Olympics, as well as at four World Championships. After retiring from competition, Mitchell and Johansson started coaching together at the Skating Club of Boston. There, the duo built a strong group of talented students, including Ross Miner, Emily Hughes, Christina Gao, and, more recently, Megan Wessenberg and Emmy Ma.

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The Skating Club of Boston Breaks New Ground

Despite cold and windy weather, the mood was festive Monday at the Skating Club of Boston’s groundbreaking ceremony for their new three-rink facility in Norwood, MA. It was a long-anticipated day, as planning for the new rink complex first started some 20 years ago. Now, construction will commence on what is intended to be a state-of-the-art facility, to open in summer 2020. Continue reading “The Skating Club of Boston Breaks New Ground”

Interview with Alexander Johnson (2019)

Alexander Johnson is starting a new chapter in his life this spring. After a 9-year career at the senior international level, which featured two top 6 finishes at U.S. Nationals and a Challenger Series medal, Johnson is shifting focus from competitive skating to his first full-time professional job in finance and a budding side career in figure skating choreography and coaching. Johnson hasn’t closed the door on a possible return to competitive skating; but for now, his priority is exploring these new opportunities.

I recently had a chance to chat with Johnson before his appearance in Ice Crystals, the annual club show for the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Acton/Boxborough, MA. Johnson spent several weeks at Colonial this spring, teaching and choreographing for Colonial skaters and working with different coaches, including 1980 Olympian Sheryl Franks and 1992 Olympian Konstantin Kostin. During our chat, Johnson shared some thoughts on his work at Colonial, his approach to choreography, and his programs for Ice Crystals.

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Ice Crystals 2019

Skating shows in the Boston area come like a cascade every spring. Sometimes, I miss out on the earlier shows because it all starts happening so quickly. But I usually try to make it to Ice Crystals, the annual show of the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Acton/Boxborough, because it’s a nice way to end the local show season. This year was no exception, as Colonial put on a fun spring show titled “Destination Colonial.”   Continue reading “Ice Crystals 2019”