Russia’s Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov caused quite a stir last season when they finished third at the European Championships, jumping from seventh place the preceding year. The duo also won Russian Nationals, finished second at the ISU Grand Prix Final, and came fourth at the World Championships, a significant jump from their best prior finish, eighth in 2002. They also took silver medals at Skate America and the Cup of Russia.
Both skaters have been on the world scene for many years. Navka first competed at Worlds in 1995, finishing fifth with Samuel Gezoljan for Belarus, while Kostomarov won the World Junior Championships the following year with Ekaterina Davydova. In 1997 and 1998, Navka returned to Worlds with Nikolai Morozov, finishing tenth in 1998 before he retired to become a coach and choreographer. She teamed up with Kostomarov in 1999, finishing 12th at Worlds before taking off in 2000 to have a baby with her husband, Alexander Zhulin. Kostomarov skated with Anna Semenovitch that season, finishing 13th at Worlds, but after Navka’s daughter Sasha was born in the summer of 2000, he called and asked her to compete with him again.
Kostomarov started skating when he was nine. “It was something to do,” he said. “I tried swimming but I wasn’t good at it so my mother took me to the rink. When I was eleven, a coach saw me and took me for dance.” On the other hand, Navka begged to skate. “When I was five, I saw skating on television at the Olympics and from then on it was my dream to skate,” Navka said. “Every day I talked about it. I begged my mother to buy me skates. She couldn’t find blades but she bought me boots. I slept in my boots, dreaming about skating. Finally she found me a place to skate and blades and I started lessons.” Navka skated singles in Odessa, training at the same club and with the same coach as Oksana Baiul, who arrived a few years later. After winning many city and regional competitions with a full array of double jumps, Navka hit a major growth spurt at twelve.
“I competed in singles for several years and did double Axel and triple salchow,” she said. “I got to the juniors in Ukraine. I was first in figures, second in the short and third in the long. I was a pretty good jumper,” said Navka, “but suddenly my legs grew longer, my arms grew longer, and I couldn’t do the triples. My coach told me I had to do the jumps or I could switch to dance. They told me I could wait a year but if I was not jumping I would have to go to dance. During the year, they taught me singing and dancing. And I learned to love to dance very much. I was dancing at the bus station. Then one of the dance coaches asked me to join his group.” At 13, Navka’s coach took several dance teams to Moscow to try out with the legendary Natalia Dubova. Only Navka was selected. Soon she was paired with Gezoljan, with whom she skated for six years and reached her first Worlds.
Navka and Kostomarov are coached by her husband, Sasha Zhulin, and Elena Tchaikovskaia. They train in Hackensack, New Jersey for one to two hours daily, five days a week during the summer, increasing to as many as four hours a day in the winter. In season, they take ballet classes, while in the summer, they run and work in the gym for conditioning. Kostomarov also cycles.
Tatiana Druchinina choreographed their dances for last season. They used a march and a waltz from the movie My Sweet and Affectionate Beast for their original dance and Peter Gabriel’s The Feeling Begins for their free dance. “We all sit together to choose the music,” Kostomarov said. “I like fierce music,” Navka stated, “and sexy music.” Off ice, she likes to listen to jazzy music and Russian pop music, while he likes hip-hop.
“We liked the free dance music because it had a lot of energy and passion. The first time I heard it I liked it and dreamed of skating to it. It was one of our best free programs.” “I think the music we chose for the original dance was very dramatic,” she said. “We were trying to tell a story, like War and Peace. At first, people are dancing, then they meet and fall in love, but war is coming.” “It’s very nice, very romantic,” Kostomarov added.
Off ice, Kostomarov likes to play pool, soccer and tennis and go bowling. Navka played tennis when she was younger but is now learning how to play golf. “I’m just starting, but Sasha is a very good player,” she said. She spends most of her time with Zhulin and her daughter. “My baby is my fun now,” she said. “I spend every minute with her and miss her a lot when I’m gone. I’ve taken her skating a couple of times and I give her all the toys we get. We’re also buying a new house, so I’m collecting dishes and china and things.” Navka also likes to think up ideas for their costumes. “Sasha and I work together on the designs,” she said.
They both enjoy travel. Kostomarov’s favorite trip was to Australia, but Navka loved Italy. “It’s very romantic. The food is unbelievable, the people are friendly, and there’s lots of shopping and all kinds of things to see. Every part of the country is different with mountains and beaches.”
The dancers’ goal is to win an Olympic medal in 2006. “We won’t go until 2010,” Kostomarov said. “People might hate us if we stayed another four years.” Both skaters have finished their studies at the Academy of Sport and may coach after they finish competing. Navka, who has a very exotic look, has also considered a career as a model.