Golden Skate

Slovenia’s Urbas Battles for Recognition

For Slovenia’s figure skater Gregor Urbas, finding any competition in his own country is a challenge.

For Slovenia’s Gregor Urbas, finding any competition in his own country is a challenge. “We’re only a small part of what used to be Yugoslavia,” he said. “We don’t have many skaters and everyone is interested in hockey. Things are getting better because of the Junior Grand Prix and the Grand Prix series, which give us an opportunity to compete against good skaters from other countries, but I only have a few promising juniors to compete with in Slovenia. It’s more fun when I go to Moscow and skate with the Russian skaters. Last year before Worlds, I went with Victor Kudriatsev to train in Delaware with Elena Sokolova and Roman Serov and his skaters and that was great.”

Urbas started skating when he was eight. “My younger sister was a skater and my grandmother took her to practice,” he said. “I asked to come along and just skate around so she took me. Then one of the coaches saw me and wanted me to train. My father was a recreational hockey player and he really wanted me to play hockey, but I liked skating better.” Urbas landed his first triple salchow when he was 13 and began working on quadruple jumps last year. “I’ve been working on the quad toe,” he said, ” but I’ve only landed it on two feet.” In this year’s programs, Urbas is using a triple lutz/triple toe combination. “My triple Axel is more consistent this year,” he said, “so I may add a triple toe to it later.”

He trains with Elena Babitskaia and Valeri Babitcki. “We don’t have that much ice time because of hockey,” Urbas stated. “I usually have only an hour a day, every day but Sunday. Sometimes I get an extra hour Friday night after hockey. It’s nice when I get to go to Moscow for training because there’s so much more ice. In the summer, I can train more because of the training camps in other countries.” Off ice, he does about an hour a day in the winter. “I do jumping, conditioning and running but not much weights,” he said. “In the summer, I do three hours a day, including aerobics and dance lessons, but not ballet.”

Urbas usually changes one program each year. This year, his Tango Fantasy long program is new while his Carmina Burana short program was retained from last year. “Elena Kustarova picked the music for both programs,” he said, “She said it would be right for me. It’s hard for me to pick just one piece of music, but I like to skate to Russian music. At home, I listen to all kinds of music, mostly Croatian groups that no one has ever heard of.”

The 21-year-old is just finishing his primary schooling and plans to attend university starting next year. “I have one more exam in German and then I am done for school this year,” he said. “I have no plans yet for a career but I would like to stay involved with skating as a coach or a judge. I am coaching some younger skaters now and I like coaching.” Of the new Code of Points, Urbas noted, “It’s interesting, but it’s too early to learn the whole system and change my programs for CoP. There’s not enough time to redo it. Next year, we’ll start earlier in the summer.”

Urbas isn’t sure how long he’ll continue to compete. “I’d like to compete in the next Olympics,” he said. “Last time, our Olympic Committee wanted to send someone to get the best results so they sent a skier, but she didn’t do well.” For this season, he hopes to reach the top 15 at Europeans and do better at Worlds. Last season, he finished 18th at Europeans and 24th at Worlds. He finished sixth at Junior Worlds in 2002, Slovenia’s highest finish in an ISU championship. This season, Urbas has been very busy, finishing fifth at the Bofrost Cup, sixth at the Karl Schafer Memorial in Vienna, ninth at Trophée Lalique, and tenth at the Nebelhorn Trophy.

Off ice, Urbas likes to have fun with his friends. He enjoys comedies and romantic movies and reads when he has time. When he was younger, he used to collect phone cards and skating pins, but doesn’t work at it now. He does keep all the toys he receives from fans. “I’m collecting gifts for my future children,” he said. He uses a computer for emailing friends, but doesn’t spend as much time on it as he used to do. “I was on it too much,” he said, “then it was broken and I didn’t miss it so I don’t use it too much now.”