Olympic bronze medalist Irina Slutskaya, who has battled a heart disease, will be a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s “Go Red For Women” campaign.
Slutskaya, a bronze winner in February at the Turin Games, a silver medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and a two-time world champion, missed nearly all of the 2003-04 season with vasculitis, an inflammation of blood vessels that can cause major vascular organs to deteriorate.
The Russian star takes pills daily for the problem, and needs to clear her medication each year with Olympic and skating officials.
“I want to show women that they can still do what they want, that their life is not finished even when they have these problems,” Slutskaya said Monday. “I still can tour with Champions on Ice like I am doing now, and train and compete.
“It is scary, but it can’t be the end. My life was normal and healthy, then suddenly one day I am sick. I was shocked, because I didn’t know anything about this disease and that’s so scary. But you can see that I have lived my life and done the things I want to do.”
Slutskaya is the rare Russian who has become a spokesperson for an American organization. Although she still lives in Moscow — where she helps care for her mother, who has kidney disease and needs dialysis — Slutskaya spends much of her time in the United States. She’ll be with Champions on Ice through mid-August, giving her ample time to campaign for the AHA.
“I’m so proud of this,” she said, “and I can do it on two continents.”
Slutskaya, a 12-year veteran, said she will decide in the fall whether to continue in competitive skating.