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American Dancer Represents Azerbaijan

by Barry Mittan

Kristin Fraser, an American ice dancer from Palo Alto, California, is having a very successful career representing Azerbaijan with partner, Igor Lukanin. The couple finished 14th at the 2002 European Championships, 15th at Worlds and 17th at the Olympics. So far this season, they have finished fourth at the Nebelhorn Trophy, sixth at Skate America and seventh at Skate Canada.

Fraser began skating when she was seven. “My baton teacher at the park and recreation center quit and I had to pick a new sport,” she stated. “I skated both pairs and singles when I was young, but I became too tall for pairs and couldn’t jump well enough to continue in singles.” She competed in U. S. Nationals for five years, four years with Peter Kongkasem and one year with Jonathan Nichols. “Peter and my best placing was in 1994, second in Intermediate,” she noted. “Jon and I were eighth in senior in 2000, but stopped skating together because we had different goals.”

Lukanin was five years old when he first started to skate because he had a heart disease that doctors said could only be helped by participating a winter sport. “I skated dance because I was too fat according to the coaches. They said I didn’t have enough talent for pairs or singles.” In 1996 and 1997, Lukanin competed with Xenia Smetanenko, finishing fifth and fourth in the German Nationals, before moving to Baku in Azerbaijan to compete with another American, Jenny Dahlen from 1998 to 2000, before she retired to attend law school.

Fortunately, Lukanin’s coach, Genrikh Sretenski, and Fraser’s coach at the time, Natalia Annenko, had once been partners themselves. They arranged for the two to try out together and once the pairing looked promising, Fraser moved to Maryland to train with Sretenski and Elizabeth Coates. The dancers work for about four hours a day on ice and another hour and a half off ice. Off ice training includes running a few miles three times per week, ballet and conditioning classes. Fraser has studied ballet since she was two. She also studied jazz, tap, and modern dance and competed in Salsa in ballroom dancing events. She also took gymnastics lessons for two years. Lukanin began ballet classes when he was seven. He practices karate and plays basketball and soccer.

Both skaters are focused on the competitive aspects of their sport. “I like winning most about skating,” Lukanin said. “My goals are simple… to win.” “Definitely competition is the most exciting aspect,” Fraser added. “My goals in skating are to obviously be the best skater I can be. I would like to compete at the Olympics and I would like to medal at a major international competition in the future.” The dancers plan to compete through the 2006 Olympics. “Maybe more depending on my body and my life at the time,” Fraser stated.

Lukanin, who has graduated from the Russian State Academy of Sports, definitely plans to coach skating after he finishes competing. Fraser noted that she was planning to be involved in skating but said, “I never though of myself as the coaching type. I want to pursue a career in fashion marketing, but if that doesn’t pan out I think I might like coaching.” She is currently taking classes at a community college.

Looking for the right music for their programs is always a challenge for the dancers. The dancers are using a Johann Strauss waltz and polka for the original dance and several pieces from Orchestra Mundurucania’s “Fiesta de Boi Bumba” for the free dance. These include a rumba, a samba and a cha-cha-cha.

Lukanin usually likes to skate to “strong music like the paso and tango.” “My favorite type of music to skate to is definitely latin,” Fraser said, “and my favorite off ice music is actually latin too.” That explains why both the Silver Samba and the Rhumba are among her favorite compulsory dances along with the Ravensburger Waltz. Lukanin prefers the Tango Romantica and the Westminster Waltz. He dislikes the Killian because it’s too boring.

To relax, Fraser likes to go dancing, go to hockey games, watch movies (comedies and love stories) and sometimes go bowling or play pool. She also enjoys reading. “I enjoy any touching biography. I like to read about people overcoming unbeatable odds,” she said. Fraser collects Hoppy Vanderhairs, which are bunnies dressed up in different themes. “My parents have kept that collection going for years now,” she said. Lukanin enjoys listening to Russian and techno music, driving cars, watching movies, reading and relaxing in the sauna. “I like to read almost anything as long as it is good,” he said. He used to collect small car models. Lukanin has a dog and a cat, but they now live in Russia with his parents.

Lukanin is married to the 2000 world junior champion Daria Timoshenko. On holidays, both skaters return home to visit family and friends in Russia, while Fraser goes home to California. While they have enjoyed visiting foreign countries, their favorites were quite different. Kristin’s favorite trip was to the Caribbean, while Igor’s was to Canada. He hopes to visit Australia, New Zealand and Spain while she wants to see the Greek isles.

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