Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vintage Video: Rodnina and Zaitsev

In pre-school years Irina Rodnina suffered from pneumonia eleven times, and in 1954 her parents brought her to her first skating rink, in the Pryamikov Children Park in Moscow. Since the sixth form of the secondary school, age 13, she trained at Children and Youth Sports School of CSKA on Leningradsky Prospekt.

Throughout her career she competed internationally for the Soviet Union. At the national level she represented the Armed Forces sports society.

Rodnina graduated from the Central Institute of Physical Culture. She won 10 World Championships and three consecutive Olympic gold medals in pairs competition between 1971 and 1980 with her partners Alexei Ulanov and Alexander Zaitsev. She also won 11 European pairs championships, making her the most successful pair skater in history.

Rodnina with Alexei Ulanov in 1970.She began her career with Alexei Ulanov. They won four consecutive World and European titles beginning in 1969. Their main rivals were Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin who regularly finished second behind them. Ulanov fell in love with Smirnova, and prior to the 1972 Olympics, the couple made the decision to skate together the following season. Rodnina and Ulanov went on to compete at the 1972 Olympics where they captured the gold. They then prepared for their last competition together, the 1972 World Championships. While practicing together a day before the start of the competition, the pair had an accident on a lift and Rodnina ended up in hospital with a concussion and an intracranial hematoma. Despite the accident, they skated in the short program cleanly and received some 6.0s. Rodnina became faint and dizzy in the long program but it was enough for their fourth World title. Ulanov continued his career with Smirnova, while Rodnina considered retirement.

In April 1972, her coach Stanislav Zhuk suggested she team up with the young Leningrad skater Alexander Zaitsev, who had good jumping technique and quickly learned the elements. At the 1973 World Championships, their music stopped during their performance. Known for intense concentration, they finished the routine in silence, earning a standing ovation and a gold medal upon completion, ahead of Ulanov and Smirnova, who they again defeated in 1974. They won six consecutive World titles together, as well as seven European gold medals, and became Olympic Champions in 1976. Rodnina and Zaitsev did not compete during the 1978-79 season and had a son together. They returned in 1980 to capture their second Olympic title together and Rodnina's third. They then retired from competitive skating.

Rodnina was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour (in 1972) and the Order of Lenin (in 1976). Since 2005 Rodnina is a member of the Public Chamber of Russia.

Rodnina coached numerous elite Soviet skaters and taught at the University of Moscow, and later coached in the United States and led the Czech team of Radka Kovaříková and René Novotný to a world title.

Alexander Gennadiyevich Zaitsev is a World and Olympic figure skating champion from the former Soviet Union. He is now a figure skating coach. His hometown is Saint Petersburg.

Zaitsev is best remembered for his successful partnership with Irina Rodnina. From 1973 to 1980 they won every event they entered, including the 1976 and 1980 Olympic games. They were coached by Stanislav Zhuk and trained in Moscow.

Rodnina and Zaitsev were married in April 1975. They took a break from competing in 1979 when their son, Sasha Jr., was born.

After retiring from competition, he became a coach and for a time was involved in the administration of the sport.

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