• Sat
  • Jul 12, 2014
  • Updated: 1:39pm

Figure-skater finds happiness amid the romance of the rink

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2007, 12:00am

When I was growing up in the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, my mother was a figure-skater and I'd look at her dressed in her pretty costumes and think how I'd like to be like that.

She looked so beautiful going off to skating competitions and I'm sure a part of me wanted to follow in her footsteps.

We lived near the Ural Mountains in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fifth-most-populous city, and there was plenty of opportunity to skate.

In winter, the temperatures drop to as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius so I learned to skate before I even went to school. My grandmother would take me along to skate and I also liked to dance. I think now it was my destiny to ice skate in productions like Swan Lake on Ice.

I started to train as a figure-skater when I was just six and of course I had to combine it with my academic work, which wasn't so easy. I was so lucky, therefore, at school that I had the support of my teachers.

In those days figure skating was a particularly popular and well-regarded sport, and was covered extensively on television.

Even at such a young and tender age I think my teachers recognised just how dedicated I was to figure skating.

But I'd like to think that I was a nice student, which also made them want to help me.

About half of my school day was spent on training. Typically there'd be two training sessions lasting up to 21/2 hours each. I'd then try to find time to concentrate on my academic work.

Later on, when we started to learn a foreign language, the choice was French or German. I must have been about 12 or 13.

I opted for German, although by then I was already participating in figure-skating competitions where the language of communication was English.

I remember going to my German lessons and the teacher asking me something in German, to which I replied in English.

After the class, the teacher said to me: 'Olga, now that English is more important for you I can help you learn it because it'll be better for you'. I was so touched by that teacher because she didn't have to do that for me.

Initially I liked maths at school because I knew how to do it. However, I reached a point when it became too difficult.

I also really enjoyed geography. We were still living in what was the Soviet Union when it was difficult to travel and I was fascinated by different countries and cultures.

Reading was another important part of my schooling. I had to read books and I'd love to be able to have the time to read more of the classics now.

It's true that when you're young you don't tend to take much notice of being told that what you're learning will be useful in life.

Although I wouldn't really change my schooling for anything, because I was allowed to ice skate and that meant the world to me, I do recognise that there are elements I've missed out on.

However I love being a figure-skater. I love the feeling of happiness that it brings. It consumes my life and I feel happy about that.

There's such a beauty to dancing, and the way in which one can use it to tell stories on ice and that every dance tells the story of somebody's life.

I find it even more extraordinary when you think that it involves gliding around on ice on a metal blade.

I'm 29 now and I don't see myself skating even until I'm 50. I'll probably end up doing something else, something such as creating the shows that I perform in.

I'd also like to resume my education, in a way, and fill in the holes that I have from those schooldays.

Recently, I started chatting with a woman in the street who's a teacher. It was strange because she was a very nice old lady and I'd always wanted to learn another language, such as French. She told me she was a French teacher and that she could help me if I'd like her to.

It was extraordinary and it felt like something from my dreams. In fact, all I could think was that it was a beautiful accident.

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