When the Ukrainian-born Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov teamed up in May 2010, skating fans and experts were sure that they could become Russia’s new dream team – and they did. Even after a few days of practice it was obvious how well they were matched. In December, after skating together for five months, Volosozhar and Trankov won Russian Nationals, upsetting three-time champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov.
However, their much anticipated international debut was delayed until Volosozhar was eligible to skate for Russia in February – exactly one year after competing at the Olympic Games in Vancouver for the Ukraine, with former partner Stanislav Morozov. After skating at the Montblanc Cup in Italy, Volosozhar and Trankov finally entered the big stage at Worlds and made a splash. Ranked third after the short program, they moved up to take the silver medal with a strong free skate.
“We didn’t even think about the silver medal (before Worlds),” Volosozhar confessed. “We thought, maybe we can get the bronze. The result was completely unexpected for us. The most impressive moment of the championships was how enthusiastic the spectators were even before our short program, and I’ll never forget how they gave us a standing ovation after the free program.”
“We were very nervous before the short program,” revealed Trankov. “We relaxed only after the throw jump when we knew that we landed all jump elements.”
For his partner, skating last in the long program was hard. “At first I was tense because of the starting number,” Volosozhar noted, “but then I got into the right mood, calmed down and felt confident when we went out to skate.”
Coach Nina Mozer agreed with her students. “There was more tension before the short program, of course, because it was the first time, the first part, one of the first warm up groups. Before the short program it was unknown how they would be received – how the judges, the spectators would receive them – and how they (Volosozhar and Trankov) deal with themselves.”
“This caused a moment of anxiety,” continued Mozer, “but before the free skating, there was already a certain calmness. It was clear that they had done half the way and they did it well, so there were positive emotions. Plus our free program was calmer and energetic. Our short program was very intense and emotional, very fast, therefore it was harder. The free program was easier in this regard.”
The silver medal on the other hand wasn’t such a big surprise for the coach. “Overall, they are very professional people and during the season it was evident that they were ready for such a strong result even in the first year as a team,” Mozer said. “Of course we hoped that thanks to their experience and their abilities that they are able to fight for medals in their first year. We hoped for it, we wanted it, and thank God it happened.”
It also happened thanks to a lot of hard work and the commitment of two athletes who agreed to change a lot in their life and to start from scratch. Volosozhar moved from Germany (where she had been training since 2008) to Moscow and Trankov moved from St. Petersburg to the Russian capital. Volosozhar’s fiancée and former partner Morozov became part of their coaching team.
“Honestly, it is now easier for me to have a partner on the ice and a different partner in life,” Volosozhar shared. “Stanislav is so happy now; coaching is what he wants to do. His father was a coach as well and his mother always told me that she thinks Stas would be a very good coach.”
For Trankov on the other hand, Morozov used to be his competitor. “For me it is not true when they say ‘there are no friends in sports’,” said Trankov. “I don’t see it that way. I think on the ice is one thing, but you can be friends in real life.”
“I was just a little cautious at the beginning when Tania told me that Stas would work with us, because I wasn’t sure how I’d relate to a person I was competing with and whom I always beat in competition,” Trankov continued. “I had to think something like – ‘what do you want to teach me, you were always behind me’. I had these thoughts. Then we went to the summer training camp and worked on lifts and the twist and I tried to analyze what he was saying and doing, and he did say some very good things. Yes, often our opinions differ, but he never forces his point of view upon me. He treats me as an equal. We discuss. I can convince him, and he can convince me.”
Morozov was also the one who suggested Trankov as a potential new partner to Volosozhar when he knew he was going to retire after the Olympic Games in Vancouver. And it was him who had the idea to turn to Nina Mozer for help. It all came together and the new team is training in a nice facility called “Inspiration” in northeast of Moscow.
The ice rink is sitting in the middle of a calm and green – at least for Moscow – neighborhood with new multi-story apartment buildings and some smaller shops. The skaters rent apartments within walking distance to the ice rink so they can go home in the break between the two daily practice sessions and walk their dogs. Volosozhar lives with Morozov and their dog while Trankov shares his apartment with his long-time girl friend Alexandra, a cat, and a dog.
When they started out, the side by side jumps and the death spiral were the easiest elements for them.
“The pair combination spin was hard,” admitted Trankov.
“We’ve worked a lot on the throws and on the twist and we are still working on them,” added Volosozhar.
Volosozhar had to change her technique in order to adapt to her new partner, but she did it well; their amazing triple twist is the proof.
“Obviously my goal was not to do it worse than Stas, and I wanted him to teach me the maximum,” Trankov said about learning the twist with Volosozhar. “At the beginning, we couldn’t even do a double. It was bad. At one practice it wasn’t working at all, and Stas said, ‘just try a triple. Tania says it is easier for her to do a triple’. And we did a triple, and it was decent for the first time. It worked from then on. We first learned to do a triple and then we were able to do a double,” he continued, laughing.
While they are technically already very strong, Volosozhar feels that they can still skate better as a pair.
“Our biggest weakness is probably that we are human beings and can make mistakes,” Trankov commented. “It would be easier if we were robots. So we believe in each other, we believe in ourselves, and look for a positive experience. We are both maximalists. If something doesn’t work, I’m upset and I ask myself why I can’t do it. Tania is calming me down then. At the same time, if she can’t do something right away, it is a tragedy for her, then I support her. We support each other.”
“We both have a similar kind of humor,” continued Trankov. “We can make jokes and nobody is offended. We have a good relationship with each other because we are friends.”
And indeed, the skaters seem to get along very well. During practices, they often share a smile or a joke. The atmosphere is relaxed but productive.
Coach Mozer sees the professionalism of her students as one of their strong points.
“It is the professionalism of someone who knows why and what they are doing something, and how to achieve a result,” she noted.
Mozer doesn’t want to name any weaknesses.
“For a professional, these are just things that aren’t finalized yet,” she pointed out. “You know, when someone is second in the World, they’re fighting for first place, so what weakness could they have? There are incidents, but after working with them for a year, I cannot say that they have a weak side. I didn’t see any weaknesses that I could name. They can grow stronger in some professional qualities, moral qualities, psychological qualities – this is just about self-improvement.”
“It speaks about their strength if people do within nine month such a big volume (of work) and become competitive,” Mozer summed up. “Each human being has weaknesses, but it isn’t even worth talking about them. The important thing is something else. It is interesting to work, to live, and to talk with them.”
Mozer greatly enjoys working with Volosozhar and Trankov and describes Volosozhar as “very soft” and Trankov as “absolutely emotional but reasonable”.
“As people, they are easy to communicate with,” Mozer explained. “They are approachable and they know how to present themselves. Maxim especially is an interesting person to talk to, he is well-read. Tania is also very interesting, but just calmer and so level-headed. She is a woman with a cool head. She goes out on the ice and just transforms and turns into an emotional, intense person.”
Asked to describe each other in three words, Volosozhar answered quickly: “Emotional, quite good-natured, positive,” but Trankov took a while to think. “I cannot describe her in three words,” he finally said. “I just can say that her main trait of character is the ability to communicate. She is a very social being and can find an approach to everyone. She is caring, she is taking care of me and of Stas. It is important for me that she has a good sense of humor, because I am cheerful and like to make jokes, and we can laugh together.”
On May 15, the skaters and their coaches travelled to Nikolai Morozov’s summer training camp in Hackensack, New Jersey and plan to stay there until June 23. Both programs will be new and both will be choreographed by Nikolai Morozov this year.
Morozov choreographed their long program to Romeo and Juliet last season, while the short program was done by Igor Tchinaev.
Mozer wasn’t ready to reveal the new programs yet. “We’ll have two completely new programs. There are some interesting ideas, but I won’t tell now.”
After the summer training, Volosozhar and Trankov want to take part in some shows in Asia before returning to Moscow. They plan to debut their programs at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September and want to do two Grand Prix events. At press time, they decided not to use the option of doing three.