I realy like Tiffany Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro at Russian Nationals, they look interesting, have a different sitting style than other Russian pairs and I think have good perspectives. So, I read their interview to FSRussia with great interest. Here is a translation.
I also want to highlight the short content of interview that author gave: “About crazy motivation, patience and hope, when it seemed that nothing is waiting ahead, about belief in coach and new plans.”
At the Russian Nationals you took fifth place. How significant this result to you in case of events that happened with your pair lately?
John: Of course it’s very cool to become fifth at Russian Nationals. But on that moment possibility to participate officially in Russian Nationals was even more important for us than the result. After actually missed last season, when we competed only twice and, as it turned out, unofficially, the beginning of this season was difficult, with the delayed start, although, after summer camp and tremendous work that have been done, we were very well prepared. However, the French Figure skating Federation didn’t immediately issue a release for Tiffany. Participation in competitions again has been postponed indefinitely. Frankly, we were in complete confusion, because didn’t understand what will happen next to our pair. And as soon as the situation is cleared up, we prepared just in two weeks for the stage pf Russian Cup and went to Kazan.
You can’t even imagine what this first tournament meant for us, with such positive we skated. After we went to international competitions in Hungary, where earned a technical minimum. Then we participated in stage of Moscow Cup. At all these events we were in a state of some euphoria with crazy emotions, and for some reason I thought that it can’t continue for so long, there must come a recession. That is what happened before the Russian Championships.
Tiffany: Yes, in Yekaterinburg, were not our best skates but speaking seriously , I felt like we was improving from competition to competition. Some things we did better. From start to start your skating becomes different.
John: Because of the crumpled beginning of the season we had to re-build competitive chain quickly. Perhaps that is why the body has failed. Before the Russian Nationals I got ill and had to use a course of antibiotics. But we still practiced, though didn’t skate the programs fully. The short dance we skated completely only once in a week before the Championships, free dance just before trip to Ekaterinburg. After the illness it was very difficult. But we haven’t even thought to miss Russian Nationals, because we had a long road to this event.
So, our participation in these event meant for me even more than the result. In all the circumstances, I was able to overcome myself, my not very good condition. But what about me, that’s Tiffany. Nearly four years of waiting. Two of which practicing without partner in complete obscurity. Only now, after everything that has happened to our duet, I understand how hard it was for her, and how strong had to be her desire to continue to skate. After the Russian Nationals we even joked with coaches that now nothing can scare us.
Tiffany, what really motivated you?
Tiffany: When we parted ways with my former partner, I didn’t want to leave skating. I started looking for a new one. Then I didn’t think that it will be delayed for so long. All the while, I didn’t really study, work, I continued to train. By the end of the second year of searching I was in total depression, because simply didn’t know what’s next. And when it seemed that there no strength to wait anymore, my mother suddenly told that there is a partner in Russia. I said then that if we don’t work out, I will finish with figure skating. But, fortunately, at the first meeting with John all came together, we kind of just felt each other, though at thet time I was fat, and overweight in those two years, not everything succeed on the ice. But I realized that we both really want to continue skating and set serious purpose. And when John said that we should train in Moscow, I didn’t hesitate for a second.
Wasn’t it scary to go alone to Russia?
Tiffany: None. By nature I’m a bit strange girl and I love adventures. Even after all I wanted to start everything from scratch – an independent life with a new partner in other country. I immediately liked Moscow. Although at first it was difficult because I didn’t know the language, I couldn’t speak Russian. Now it’s much easier. And maybe I speak not so good but I can talk, I had friends. Of course, initially there were moments when it was very hard, but I knew why I’m doing it. The most important thing was continue to skate and I knew that I have a great partner. That is what helped to cope with all the problems.
John, you, too, have been living in Australia till 13 years-old. How and why you move to Moscow?
John: I started to skate in Australia. My mom (figure skater Svetlana Lyapina) worked there as a figure skating coach. At first I skated with Australian partner, but it was more for myself, just for “fun”. We participated in local competitions, and one day my mother offered to go to Moscow to training camp of her former coach Svetlana Alexeeva, to see how the other athletes train. That trip has played a crucial role in my life. After a month of training in Moscow, then in Alekseeva’s group were Katya Bobrova – Dima Soloviev, other guys, I got the idea to do figure skating seriously. And Alekseeva told my mom that I’m gifted. In general, when we returned, parents asked me what I want to do. And I said that I want to continue skating but on different level.
Only then, after some time, having grown older, I realized what responsibility I took at that moment. I was only 13 and a half years and my desire meant that our family had to move to another country – parents, my two brothers, grandparents, who also lived with us. Maybe If I had stayed in Australia, then I would have had a completely different life. Would have swimmed in the ocean, studied at the univercity, continued to skate for myself, probably would have gone to the Olympic Games and participated there as a “tourist”. But it would have be a different story. And I have setted an ambitious goal.
Australian girl didn’t want to go with me. I had to try with other askaters, with different coaches. Svetlana Alexeeva, Igor Shpilband, Sergei Ponomarenko but in the end I started to skate in a group of Alexeeva. At the junior level I quickly achieved good results. Together with Katia Ryazanova we won bronze medals at the Junior World Championships. In the same season we won the National Championships, showed great results at stages of the Junior Grand-prix. Everything developed logically, we was seen as a promising couple but suddenly everything collapsed. Katya decided to skate with Ilia Tkachenko. Although I also found another partner but it seemed to me that something went wrong. Maybe that’s why I changed so many coaches, because I wanted to go back to what has already been but didn’t get it.
To tell the truth, our joint project with Tiffany initially seemed as a kind of adventure. But, oddly enough, all that we have gone through together and have experienced gave us a crazy motivation, that we, without realizing it, have changed, changed the attitude to many things.
Why did you decide to skate for Russia? Certainly, there were many other options?
Tiffany: Because Russia is the best. There are good coaches and training conditions. Even when I was little and skated with another partner, constantly heard that skaters from Russia are the best, I have many friends among them.
My grandfather is from Russia and this country has always attracted me. I even have studied Russian language for a year at school but master it without practice is very difficult.
John: Tiffany is right. I have trained in different countries and I can say that Russia really created excellent conditions for the athletes. We didn’t hesitate which country to represent. We decided immediately that we will skate for Russia, although there were other very tempting offers.
John: In hindsight I don’t want to announce them. Probably, if Tiffany and I hadn’t set serious goals we would have agreed. But it seemed very cool to us to train in Moscow in Zhulin’s group.
And at that moment, when we teamed up, Tiffany hasn’t been skating for France for year and a half, so, no problems with the release to another country shouldn’t have occurred. But the French Figure skating Federation haven’t been giving her a release. For this reason, in the last season we were able to participate only in two competitions – the stage of the Russian Cup and the National Championships. Then we were warned that without the proper documents we shouldn’t participate even in Russian local competitions.
Tiffany: I was advised to go home and wait there until all the circumstances will be clear, not to waste my money. But wait for how long? Unknown. And then it would mean that we wouldn’t skate all this time.
John: Actually, it was very hard for us. There were tears and hysterics and depression. I don’t know how we survived it. I remember once I came to Alexander Zhulin and asked: “Maybe we took to much? Is it possible to deal with all of this?” And he said some very important words that he believes in us. And he added: “If you work and become a cool pair, then you will be wanted everywhere and you will succeed.”
Perhaps your words explain why you train exactly with Zhulin. By the way, why you didn’t start to work with John’s mother?
John: My mother is a very good coach. But parents should be parents. If you ask any athlete, he will surely say that it’s very hard to train with mom or dad. Because you bring home all the problems from ice and then all life is filled with work. And it is wrong.
Tiffany: I agree. My father is a figure skating coach, and I started to train with him. But at some point, I felt that grew, that I need a high level coach, not a for children. And how to tell it to my dad? This means to hurt a person you love, who desires only best for you … No, it’s easier to work with other coaches.
John: And why Alexander Zhulin? Because he’s actually a great professional. And there are other wonderful people in our team – choreographer Sergei Petukhov, our coach Oleg Volkov and others. And that’s not a compliment, I just have worked with different coaches. Everyone had something different and this experience was very useful for me. I learned a lot.
For example, Svetlana Alekseeva gives a tremendous technical base. Nikolai Morozov has a particular vision of figure skating, so he makes cool programs. Natalia Linichuk and Alexander Zhulin I consider as coaching elite. They are coaches from God that can give athletes a lot in terms of technique and choreography, and in general.
The first half of the season is over, what’s next?
Tiffany: We started training after the holidays, preparing for the Russian Cup Final.
John: fifth place in the Russian Championships gives us the opportunity to be in an expanded team list, but we want to finish the season on a positive, to skate well in Saransk (Russian Cup Final). During the remaining time before the competition will polish the entire programs, because in past competitions it was important to gather all the elements together, to skate without errors.Next season we want to start as early as possible. We hope that everything will turn out. We plan to go to “Challenger”, the pre-season competition in Oberstdorf, somewhere else.
Tiffany: If we perform well, maybe we’ll get the opportunity to perform at the Grand-prix. As John said in the beginning, we have crazy motivation.
Great interview! And I can feel their support to each other! I’m glad they get into the national team and will receive some fundings. Hope that now when the situation stabilized they can prepare for the next season in more calm atmosphere. Zhoulin is really “their” coach and he can create some interesting programs for them. The situation in Russian ice dance is quite unpredictable now, so, everything is possible.
See also an interview with Elena Ilinykh