Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev – Legendary, Unbeatable and Timeless
Victories of the famous Soviet figure skaters Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev were and remain one of the most significant phenomena of international sports of all times. Their achievements in the pair skating look fantastic by the modern standards: two-time (1976, 1980) Olympic champions, six-time World champions and seven-time European champions. From 1973 to 1980 they won every event they entered.
In April 1972, Alexander Zaitsev was recommended by the famous USSR coach Stanislav Zhuk to Irina Rodnina as her potential partner. Irina Rodnina was already the gold medalist of 1972 Olympics in Sapporo and a four-time World champion with her previous partner Alexei Ulanov, who decided to skate with Lyudmila Smirnova. Alexander Zaitsev was three years younger than Rodnina and has much less international experience at those times but learned very quickly. He was from Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) while she was from Moscow.
His partner, Irina Rodnina, is one of the most successful figure skaters ever and the only pair skater to win ten successive World championships (from1969 to1978) and three successive Olympics – 1972, 1976, 1980. Irina Rodnina is the first pair skater to win the Olympic title with two different partners, followed only by Artur Dmitriev.
She began her skating career with Alexei Ulanov. The pair Rodnina / Ulanov won four consecutive European and World titles. They won their first World championships in 1969, ahead of Tamara Moskvina and Alexei Mishin. After that they won their next two World champions’ titles, 1970 and 1971, ahead of silver medalists Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin.
Irina Rodnina coached many elite Soviet Union figure skaters and taught at the University of Moscow. From 1990–2002, she lived and coached in the USA and led the Czech team of Radka Kovaříková and René Novotný to a world champions’ title. Later she moved back to Russia. Since 2005, Irina Rodnina is a member of the Public Chamber of Russia.
No less significant is the fact that the pair Rodnina / Zaitsev remembered around the whole world for their strong and staunch character, which they fully demonstrated at their debut World Championships which was held in 1973 in Czechoslovakia. During the performance of their program the music was stopped because of the provocation. Known for intense concentration, they finished the program in silence, earning a standing ovation and the gold medal.
Currently, Alexander Zaitsev passes his experience to young generations of skaters. One of his students is the young and talented Polish skater Ola (Alexandra) Kamieniecki, which Alexander Zaitsev is currently preparing for the Polish national championships. With this young skater he works for the fifth year. One day in Omaha took place a skating training camp and Ola’s parents asked him for a consultation. After that they began to work. Ola is very talented and already has the whole arsenal of triple jumps. Last year she became the Polish junior champion and in this year she performed very well at the junior Grand Prix events.
Before the beginning of morning workout at the rink in Colorado Springs, Alexander Gennadiyevich gladly agreed to answer a few questions.
Author: Vladislav Luchianov
Rodnina / Zaitsev – Famous tears during the 1980 Olympic medal ceremony
Rodnina / Zaitsev – 1980 Olympics, Free skate
Rodnina / Zaitsev – 1976 Olympics, Exhibition