Golden Skate

Matthews and Zavozin Make Quick Impact on Dance Scene

After winning the junior ice dance title at the 2003 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, Morgan Matthews and Max Zavozin are one of the hopefuls for a podium finish at the 2003 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

After winning the junior dance title at the 2003 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, Morgan Matthews and Max Zavozin are one of the hopefuls for a podium finish at the 2003 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

The couple began skating together in 2001 and was third in novice dance at the 2002 U. S. Nationals. This season saw the dancers win both the free dance and the original dance at the Lake Placid Dance Championships, with two second and two third places in the compulsories. Then they finished third at the North American Challenge Skate in Huntsville, Alabama, moving from fourth in the compulsories to third in the original dance and second in the free dance. They then took the bronze at the Junior Grand Prix in Montreal, moving from sixth in compulsories to second in the free. They finished fourth at the Trofeo Rita Trapanese in Milan. “We want to make it to Junior Worlds. That’s our big goal,” Zavozin said. “We’re just taking it one day at a time,” Matthews added, “but we’d like to get to the Olympics someday.”

Matthews began skating when she was five. “My grandmother took me to Nutcracker on Ice, then I begged my mother to take me skating,” she said. “Then when we went to Poland, I saw ice dancing there and I liked it. My freestyle coach was a former ice dancer, so she got me started in ice dancing when I was eight.” Zavozin, on the other hand, was a late starter. Although he comes from a famous Russian skating family, he resisted the family tradition until he was 13.

Matthews has competed in both dance and pairs. “I skated pairs before and had two pairs partners and a couple of dance partners,” she said. “I kept going back and forth, but the last time I went back to pairs was because I didn’t have good results in dance. My heart really was in dance. I love the choreography of dancing.” Her best pairs result was fifth at Nationals in novice with Val Rising-Moore in 1999. Zavozin competed with Stephanie Ellis, reaching 12th in novice dance in 2001, before partnering with Matthews.

Matthews and Zavozin train in Sunrise, Florida, where they are coached by his mother, Elena Garanina, along with a second coach, Valeriy Spiridonov. They work for about four hours a day, five days a week on ice, plus another hour or so on Saturdays. Their off ice training includes about an hour a day, six days a week. They take ballet twice a week and power training three or four times a week.

Both of the skaters were dancers outside the rink. “I competed in ballroom dance in Russia when I was between 7 and 11,” Zavozin stated. “I did all kinds of dances, but my favorite kinds were Latin dances. On ice, I like dramatic, powerful dances like Phantom of the Opera.” “I was in and out of dance studios all the time when I was younger,” Matthews said. “I did a lot of recitals when I was younger. But I didn’t want to do pointes. It was too hard on my feet.” She said she also liked to do Latin dances on ice. “I hadn’t done any dramatic dances until the free dance last year,” she continued, “I had always done classical dances.”

“Selecting the music for each year’s dances is ‘very interactive’,” Matthews said. “Our coach finds a variety of music for us and we decide together. When we pick the steps in the program, we try different variations to decide which is the best way to do it.” This season, they are using Strauss’ “De Fledermaus” and “Bandit Gallop” for the original dance and selections from “Phantom of the Opera” for the free dance. In each of their competitions this season, the couple has been behind after the compulsories but moved up after the original and free dances. “We’re aware and we’ve taken action and we have gotten better. But we’ve only been doing the compulsories for a short time. Most of the other dancers have been doing them for many years.”

Both of the skaters have been home schooled. Matthews is a sophomore in high school, while Zavozin is in his second year of studies at Broward Community College, in a dual enrollment program with the high school. Both of the skaters plan to go to college. “Not right away, but later,” Matthews said. “It’s too early to tell what I’d study, but probably something related to the arts. The only special course I’m taking now is oceanography through the University of Chicago.” Zavozin expects to study business, while Matthews hasn’t decided yet. “I’d like to be a coach or a choreographer, probably a choreographer,” Matthews said. “I’ve taught some classes as a volunteer for Learn to Skate.” “I may be a coach. I’m still trying to decide what I want,” Zavozin said.

Off ice, Zavozin said he likes “to do different sports. Any kind of sports. My favorites are tennis and ping pong, but I play soccer and basketball too.” Matthews, on the other hand, doesn’t play any sports at all. Instead, she’s been spending her spare time learning Russian. “If you understand the language, it really helps with our training,” she said, noting that they recently spent two months in Russia working with Zavozin’s father. She also listens to all kinds of music, with Pink being her current favorite, and rents a lot of movies to watch at home. “I collect clothes,” she said. “I used to have a lot of stuffed animals, but now I just bring the one I got at my first competition along as a good luck charm. It’s Simba from the Lion King.” Other than playing sports, Zavozin likes to listen to Russian popular music. “I’m not much on surfing the net,” Matthews said. “I just use the laptop for email and correspondence courses.”

They both love to travel. Zavozin saw a lot of the world early on when his parents toured with Torvill and Dean and the Russian All-Stars, visiting Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, England, and the United States. “England was one of my favorites, and I really liked Scotland,” he said. Matthews has visited Canada, Poland and Russia. “Moscow was my favorite,” she said. “”It’s very cool. A big city but very clean and pretty. The Kremlin was great. I liked to go inside the cathedrals where there were paintings all around.”