The Russian figure skating school re-affirmed its title as the best school in the world at the world championship in Dortmund, Germany. Russian figure skaters won three out of four gold medals. Tatiana Totmianina and Maksim Marinin became champions in the pairs competition, Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov won the ice dance competition, and Yevgeny Plushenko won the men's event. This was the sixth time that Russians have accomplished the outstanding feat of winning three gold medals. They achieved the same results in 1975 (Colorado Springs), 1985 (Tokyo), 1992 (Oakland), 1998 (Minneapolis) and 2002 (Nagano). However, in 1999 in Helsinki, Russian figure skaters won four gold medals.
Russian figure skating has a long history. Nearly 100 years ago, Russians achieved their first big success in this sport. In 1908, Nikolai Panin-Kolomensky, a famous Russian figure skater and a world and European champion, won a gold metal at the Olympics in London. After the 1917 revolution, in early Soviet times, figure skating was overlooked in Russia. This sport was considered aristocratic and expensive primarily because of the need to construct rinks with artificial ice.
But in the 1950s, the Soviet Union had developed into world power in sport, and figure skating was promoted. Numerous children's figure skating clubs opened and ice skating rinks were built. As a result, in 1964, 56 years after Panin-Kolmenkin's victory, Soviet figure skaters Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov won the pairs title at the Olympics in Innsbruck. Four years later, they repeated their victory at the Grenoble Olympics. Since then, the laurels in figure skating have belonged to Soviet, and later Russian pairs. The glorious Irina Rodnina won Olympic gold three times (in 1972-1980) in pairs skating. Soviet pairs, too, became trendsetters in the ice dance competition in the 1970s. The skills of the legendary couple - Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov - are still marvelled by both experts and admirers all over the world.
Soviet sportsmen began to set individual skating records later than they did in pairs skating. Sergei Volkov's victory at the 1975 championship was the first Soviet victory. Two years later, Vladimir Kovalev became a champion. Since then, Soviet men's ice dancers have ranked among the best. In the 1990s and in the early 21st century, they dominated international events and won gold medals at three Olympics in a row - Alexei Urmanov in 1994, Ilya Kulik in 1998 and Alexei Yagudin in 2002. Russian women skaters - Maria Butyrskaya and Irina Slutskaya - have also caught up with the men, scoring victories in world and European championships in the past few years. In Dortmund, though, Olympic silver medallist Irina Slutskaya's performance was not the best but this is understandable, considering the lengthy interval between her performances. She will certainly make up for it at the next world championship.
Russian figure skaters have won 72 gold medals in the world championships over the past 40 years! This phenomenal outcome is obviously the result of the efforts of gifted sportsmen and their coaches. The Russian coach school confirmed its prestige at the world championship in Dortmund. For example, the Japanese skater, Shizuka Arakawa, who won the women's event is trained by Tatiana Tarasova, a Russian coach. The skaters Tarasova has trained - Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev, Irina Moiseyeva and Andrei Minenkov, Natalia Bestemyanova and Andrei Bukin, Alexei Yagudin and many others - have already won 16 gold medals at the world championships. Tatiana Tarasova is the first coach in the history of figure skating, whose sportsmen have won gold medals in all four events of the sport.
Many Russian specialists are now working abroad, helping foreign figure skaters to improve their skills and achieve high results in top-level events. Thankfully, the departure of many experienced coaches abroad has not affected Russian figure skaters. Figure skating is so popular in our country that children's figure skating clubs are full. Moreover, there is no shortage of coaches either. Therefore, champions are replaced with other champions. And former stars become coaches, join professional shows or, like Igor Bobrin and, recently, Maria Butyrskaya, create their own "ice ballets" reviews. The bright and striking shows performed by these outstanding figure skaters are the best promotion of their favourite sport.