Georgia is a small country with only a few figure skaters. Vakhtang Murvanidze, 24, is one of the best known. The 7-time national champion finished 17th at the 2002 Olympics and 20th at the 2002 Worlds. He has finished as high as 11th at Europeans and 17th at Worlds and won the Karl Schaefer Memorial in Vienna in 2000.
Murvanidze began skating when he was three. “My mother liked figure skating so much that her dream was to see her son on ice,” Murvanidze said. “I wanted to play because figure skating is a really hard job. I liked to play a lot of soccer and I liked boxing. That’s my favorite sport. I still go boxing during my summer break.”
“For a long time, I didn’t have any triples,” he said, “but one day when I was 15, I landed all five triples in one day.” He landed his first triple Axel the next year, then didn’t begin to try a quad until 2002. “I was confused before that year,” he said, “but that summer I decided that I would do the quad toe loop. I lost ten kilos so I could jump higher. Now I am landing it about half the time. I am also trying the quad salchow.”
Murvanidze likes competing in men’s singles because he said it’s the hardest. He practices about three hours a day on ice, with another hour every day in the gym. He had worked in Moscow with Elena Tchaikovskaya as his coach for four years before moving to Montclair, NJ this summer to train with Alexander Zhulin. Murvanidze cited his association’s inability to continue to pay for Tchaikovskaya’s coaching and his desire to be near his girlfriend, Kristen Fraser, as reasons for the move.
He retained last year’s long program to Mozart’s A Little Serenade, but has a new short program using Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. Tchaikovskaya choreograped the long, while Zhulin did the short. He includes several interesting moves in his programs but said, “I have many more moves I can’t include in the programs because I have to do all the jumps. I can do more in the exhibition program. I like that best because you can relax there. I’d like to skate to James Brown’s I Feel Good. I also like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley music. Older music is much better, more classic.” He also has a tape of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that he’d like to skate to, but said, “It’s too hard to do the steps.”
Other than soccer and boxing, he likes to go break dancing and to the movies, where he likes old films like the Godfather and Guy Ritchie films. He also reads a lot. “My coach’s husband reads lots of books and gives me the best books to read,” Murvanidze related. “I read Russian and Georgian history, gangster books, and psychology. I find that really interesting.” He gives skating pins and stuffed animals he receives to younger skaters in his rink. He has traveled throughout Europe and to Australia, but liked New York City best and hopes to see more of the United States. He also likes to go home to Georgia on holidays.
Murvanidze plans to compete until the 2006 Olympics, then finish. “If you compete then the Olympics is the most important,” he stated. “I was so happy to go to the Olympics because I had a lot of health problems. I was injured and missed almost the whole year. I landed a triple Axel in the same hole and tore the muscles around my ankle. So when I went to the Olympics it was unbelievable I was so proud to march in the opening ceremony and have my mother see her son in the Olympics.”
He plans to study once he finishes but isn’t sure what he wants to do. “I help smaller skaters sometimes but I don’t want to coach,” he emphasized. “It’s too hard and takes too many nerves.”
“Next year will be better, he said. I’ve never trained like this before and I feel great.”