Drew Meekins: “Pairs skating is ready for a rebrand”

On first sight, you could almost mistake Drew Meekins for a current competitor in pairs skating (especially these days!). Fit and youthful at 36, Meekins retains an energetic passion for the sport of figure skating. It’s this drive that inspired him throughout his competitive career with pairs partner Julia Vlassov and culminated in the 2006 World Junior pairs title. Indeed, the former champion admits that the idea of competition still crosses his mind at times.

Today, though, Drew Meekins’s focus is on making his mark on the other side of the boards. For over a decade since his retirement, he has worked with top national and international skaters as both a coach and choreographer. Now, he’s fulfilling a longtime personal goal by launching his own pairs skating group in Colorado Springs, CO. Meekins hopes to help grow and reshape the discipline of pairs skating in the United States. 

Recently, Meekins took some time to chat with me about his competitive skating career, his development as a coach and choreographer, current trends and challenges in pairs skating, and what he hopes to accomplish with his new pairs skating group. 

Continue reading “Drew Meekins: “Pairs skating is ready for a rebrand””

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.  

Continue reading “Getting to Know Olga Ganicheva”

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.

Continue reading “Roman Sadovsky: Figure Skater & YouTuber”

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”

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.

Continue reading “Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson: Finding Success on Their Terms”

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.

Continue reading “Interview with Alexander Johnson (2019)”

Denney/Frazier: “We’re motivated to get to work” in off-season

It was a challenging season for U.S. pair Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, but it ended well with a silver medal at 2018 U.S. Nationals and a 5th-place result at Four Continents. After Four Continents, Denney/Frazier took a few minutes to speak with me about how their season went and their plans for next year.  Check out my article at Figure Skaters Online:

http://figureskatersonline.com/news/2019/03/11/haven-denney-and-brandon-frazier-were-motivated-to-get-to-work-in-off-season/

Denney-Frazier-2019

 

Walsh/Michaud: “Our partnership has grown a lot this year” (2019)

Following a successful junior career, Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud of Canada made the jump to the senior ranks this year. After some ups and downs at their fall events, the young Canadian team earned the silver medal at Canadian Nationals and berths to Four Continents and Worlds. The duo is focused on learning and growing as they gain experience in during their first senior season together. Get to know this young team in my interview with them for Figure Skaters Online:

http://figureskatersonline.com/news/2019/02/25/evelyn-walsh-and-trennt-michaud-our-partnership-has-grown-a-lot-this-year/

Walsh-Michaud

 

Interview with Richard Gauthier (2019)

Recently I traveled to Anaheim, CA, to cover the ISU 2019 Four Continents Championship for Figure Skaters Online. While I was there, I had the great pleasure of chatting with pairs coach Richard Gauthier of Canada. As most pairs fans know, Gauthier has been among the world’s top pairs coaches for 15 years or longer, having coached such famous teams as Jamie Sale/David Pelletier and Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford to World championships. Currently he works with coaching partner Bruno Marcotte in Montreal, where they have a pairs school including teams such as Moore-Towers/Marinaro, Alexandrovskaya/Windsor, Ruest/Wolfe, and more. During our chat in Anaheim, Gauthier shared some updates on his current teams, broke down the field of top pairs heading into 2019 Worlds, and gave his opinion on how recent rules changes have affected pairs. Take a few minutes to check out our interview!

http://figureskatersonline.com/news/2019/02/20/coach-richard-gauthier-handicaps-pairs-field-for-worlds-analyzes-rules-changes/

Interview with Stellato/Bartholomay (June 2018)

When Deanna Stellato and Nate Bartholomay announced their new partnership in 2016, many in the skating world were taken by surprise. Bartholomay was a U.S. National medalist and Olympian; but at 27, his skating career was in doubt after partner Felicia Zhang retired in 2014 and a subsequent partnership did not work out. Stellato, for her part, was just returning to elite-level skating at 33, after an unheard-of 16-year absence from the sport. She also had no previous pairs experience. Yet somehow, this unlikely duo joined forces to become a pairs team. Continue reading “Interview with Stellato/Bartholomay (June 2018)”