When Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov had their first tryout in May 2010, neither believed the pairs partnership would work. Coming from two opposing schools, she from the Ukraine and he from Russia, their skating styles were very different.
Volosozhar took up skating at age 4 and competed as a singles skater for 10 years before turning to pairs. In 2004, she joined forces with Stanislav Morozov and competed on the international circuit for six years. Midway through their on-ice partnership, they became a couple off the ice.
Following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Morozov, 31, decided it was time for him to retire.
“I knew that the Sochi Games were too far ahead and I knew I would not be able to skate,” he said. “I would be 35 and it is not easy at this age.”
Volosozhar’s first thought was to find a new partner. “I did not want to stop skating, I am only 24 years old,” she said.
Trankov started skating shortly after his fourth birthday. Initially a singles skater who was just having fun, he turned to pairs at age 11. “I grew up in Perm, which is a very good city for pairs skating. I was tall at 11, maybe 1.70 meters, too tall for singles,” Trankov explained.
“A coach asked me if I wanted to do pairs skating. I said no at first because I was afraid to grab the hand of a girl, but I tried it and then I liked it.”
Trankov and Maria Mukhortova, with whom he had competed for seven years, split at the end of last season. Trankov cited irreconcilable differences among himself, Mukhortova and their coach Oleg Vasiliev, openly admitting that what was going on behind the boards had caused him to lose interest in the sport.
Trankov was set to retire from skating when Volosozhar and Morozov approached him. “After the Olympic Games in Vancouver, I wanted to stop because I did not feel good about my work,” Trankov explained.
“I did not like what I was doing. All the time fourth or fifth place. I did not have good results so I thought it was the end for me. But when Tanya and Stas asked me to be a partner for Tanya, I said yes.
“The first time we tried out it was not so good, because Russia and Ukraine are not the same schools. We did not feel comfortable because we came from completely different directions. It was not so easy, and when we saw how we skate together, we did not like it. We could do almost all elements on the first practice but the skating, it was horrible.”
Morozov, however, was confident it would work. “When they told me that it was not good, I said: ‘It is okay, it is just the first time you skate together, and you must give it time,’” he recalled. “I told them to relax, work and it will come together.”
The pairing started to jell about a month later, Trankov said. Over time, he and Volosozhar have developed a strong friendship. When asked what they like the most about each other, both replied “everything.”
The trio relocated to Moscow and got down to business. They enlisted Nina Mozer as the primary coach with Morozov assisting. Igor Chiniayev signed on to craft the short program and Nikolai Morozov choreographed the free.
On Oct. 6, 2010, Volosozhar received her Russian citizenship under what is known as the Presidential Program. Two months later, she and Trankov upset the Russian skating establishment by capturing the national title in a runaway victory.
“We needed to be in the top three to qualify for the World Championships and so we just wanted to show our best skating,” Trankov said. “We did not think we could win but we skated clean programs and the judges gave us first place. It was a big surprise. Everyone was surprised.”
With no international ranking, the duo needed to meet the International Skating Union’s minimum score requirements in order to qualify for Worlds.
Their performances at the qualifying event, the Mont Blanc Trophy in Courmayeur, Italy, last February put them in a class of their own. They won the competition by an astonishing 63 points and earned a ranking of 68 in the World Standings.
Morozov was pleased with the result. “They are both very good skaters and they are now skating like a couple,” he said.
Volosozhar and Trankov were extremely disappointed when they heard that the World Championships might be cancelled. “We were hoping to skate well and have a good result. It was to be our first competition and we wanted to see what the judges would say,” Trankov said.
When it was announced that the Championships would be moved to Moscow, Volosozhar and Trankov were ecstatic. “Now we can see what the judges will say,” Trankov said. “If they say we are good couple we will get good scores and that will be good for us for the next few years. We hope for this.
“The main thing, of course, is to make the Russian team and compete at the Olympic Games in Sochi,” he added. “Without that goal, I don’t think I could skate any more in the competitive arena.”
“I feel like I have more power and more control over my career than before.” Maxim Trankov
“Tanya wants to compete at the next Olympic Games so she needed four years to skate with a new partner.”
Originally published in June 2011