In the late 1990s, a figure skating coach emerged from a rink in Detroit, Michigan, and began to build a dynasty that would put United States Ice Dance on the international radar. Igor Shpilband’s name has appeared next to fourteen of the last seventeen United States senior national champions in ice dance, but another coaching team out of the state of Michigan should provide for some interesting competitions at the US Nationals in the coming years.
Iaroslava Netchaeva (Ir-ra-sla-va Ne-cha-ae-va) and Iouri Tchesnitchenko (Your-ri Tches-nit-chenko) came to the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to begin cultivating a dynasty of their own in 1998. The two were introduced to each other when they were both fourteen years old to compete for their native Russia, and have been inseparable ever since. “We attended the same high school and college,” explained Netchaeva. “We care about each other and look after one another like a brother and sister would do.”
After having success on the junior international circuit, earning a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in Hull, Canada, in 1992, Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko made the Russian National Team that competed at the European Championships in 1994 where they finished 13th. Along the way, the duo studied with some of the most prolific coaches in recent skating history including Natalia Linichuk and Natalia Dubova. The team also trained alongside Olympic Champions Oksana Grischuk and Evgeny Platov as well as Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko. After they closed the book on their eligible skating careers, Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko opened a new chapter in their lives as professional skaters, and began touring with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean in the 1984 Olympic Champions’ show Torvill and Dean’s Ice Adventures.
At the 2007 US National Championships in Spokane, Washington, the arena was abuzz after the junior dance final, an event that many called the most exciting in recent memory. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates narrowly defeated the brother and sister team of Madison and Keiffer Hubbell for the gold medal. In a heated battle for the bronze medal, Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt defeated a young team from Colorado, earning the last step on the podium. At the press conference immediately following the competition, Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko beamed with pride as all three medalists were coached by them in Ann Arbor. “Sweeping the podium at the last US Nationals was an unbelievable moment,” gushed a proud Netchaeva. “We never thought that was even possible, but it was exciting to see our students get rewarded for the hard work and dedication they put into figure skating.”
While Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko will not reveal training secrets to the public, they attribute much of their skaters’ success to the training conditions in Ann Arbor. “The Ann Arbor Ice Cube has three sheets of ice, an off-ice ballet room, as well as physical therapy all in one building,” explains Tchesnitchenko. “We usually have no more than six teams on the ice at one time.”
Netchaeva and Tchesnitchenko continue to coach last year’s medalists, but are also responsible for the development of seven young teams who are already beginning to make some waves in the competitive ranks. Junior dancers Rachel Richardson and Brad Coulter skated well at the recent Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, finishing second in the free dance over last year’s nationals pewter medalists. On the novice level, Anastasia Olsen and Jordan Cowan won their group in both the compulsory dance and free dance, setting themselves up as possible favorites for the national crown in January. For the coming season, Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt are scheduled to make their senior Grand Prix debut at the Cup of Russia, and will competed as seniors at the National Championships in St. Paul, Minn., in January 2008. Joining them as senior level skaters at nationals will be teammates Samuelson and Bates, who will continue to skate on the junior circuit internationally. Meanwhile, last year’s Junior Grand Prix gold medalists, Hubbell and Hubbell will compete on the junior level in all of their events this season. Netchaeva says that the approach to training will not change. “Our goals are to help our students do their best and accomplish their goals.”
Outside of skating, the 34-year-old Netchaeva enjoys spending her free time with her fiancé and their Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, while Tchesnitchenko, also 34, enjoys snowboarding in the winter, SCUBA diving in the summer, and his latest hobby – his pet fish.