Ingo Steuer’s Ice Age

Ingo Steuer

By Olga Fluegge

Just in time of Sochi Olympics, the book “Eiszeiten Vom Ehrgeiz getrieben” (“Ice Times driven by ambition”) by Ingo Steuer has been released. It is written in German and available on Amazon.

A famous coach and choreographer of a four-time World champions and two-time Olympic bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy unveils many things in his work.

The autobiographical book begins with the memories of carefree childhood in Chemnitz, GDR. Ingo grew up in an athletic family and began to skate at the age of five. Four years later he started to attend the sports school. The coaches saw no future for him in a single skating. The coach J. Müller helped Steuer to switch in pair skating; this was the only possibility for Ingo to stay in competitive sport.

Manuela Landgraf became his partner for next years. They won a gold medal at Junior Worlds 1984. The chapters on competitive figure skating in Chemnitz, where many world-class athletes trained, provide an authentic picture and an interesting insight behind the scenes. The author recalls that he was ordered to do one year of strength training. For this he got a little blue pill every day with the comments “You should take it for a while” (page 55).

This is a direct reference to doping of minors. The blue pills came with high probability from VEB Jena Pharm. It was Oral Turinabol, an anabolic steroid, the standard doping in the GDR, which was also used in figure skating. The pills were given to athletes, without their knowledge, as “supporting means” according to the government-mandated, secret doping plan.

Ingo Steuer book

For many athletes figure skating was a way to escape the everyday’s grey of his country. He was very dedicated to sport and described himself at the age of 17 as “awkward and angular, stubborn and uncommunicative, haughty, an explosive mixture” (p.76). He came to the attention of the Stasi agents (the Ministry for State Security of former GDR), who managed to gain the trust of a skater and was urged to cooperate with authorities with the words: “We know that you are a successful figure skater and if you want to be it in the future, you must sign this paper and work for Stasi.

After Germany’s reunification it is known that the authorities were afraid that Ingo, who successfully competed for the GDR, could remain in the West. After split with Manuela Landgraf he trained as single skater before paired up with Mandy Wötzel in 1992. An interesting fact is that Ingo is a trained retail salesman, who worked in the morning from 5.00 to 14.00 in a supermarket and skated at the afternoon.

They won silver medals at 1993 European  and World Championships. For this success the couple got financial support from German army for the next 5 years. They became World champions in 1997 and Olympic bronze medalists in 1998, performed in many figure skating shows after turning pro.

During his time as a professional Steuer coached two German pairs in Chemnitz Nicole Nönning /Mathias Bleyer, Eva-Maria Fitze /Rico Rex. The greatest accomplishment he achieved with Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. The secret of success the coach credits to his philosophy of life, which the athletes are sharing with him: “All or Nothing. I’ll make no compromises” (p. 49).

He describes personal experience as a coach and choreographer, and these chapters are really my favorites in the book. “We are very different and therefore perhaps harmonize well together. I give the direction, Aliona catalyzes with her fire the progress of our work, and Robin keeps us in balance.” Steuer explains.

The programs of Savchenko/Szolkowy, who can interpret all genres of music and who influenced the development of pair skating during the last eight years, stand out due innovative choreography, so it is great that the author is going into details about his approach and music selection.

He needs a lot of time to work on choreography and compares the work with painting. Two skaters are colors; a final image should be created at the end of the work. As acoach Steuer gets requests from national and international athletes.

Being recognized worldwide as a great coach, in Germany he is still experiencing controversial attitude due to his activities as IM Torsten for Stasi, so DEU, the German skating federation, is not allowed to pay for his work. But on the other side, the medals of Aliona and Robin are also shine for the German sport and Ingo is looking for new ways to keep figure skating alive there.

Photo: Amazon, Spiegel

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