Tamara Moskvina celebrated her 70th birthday on June 26, but that milestone was of minor importance to the accomplished Russian coach.
Moskvina still dons her skates every day and takes to the ice at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia to work on elements with her top pairs team, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. She often skates alongside her students as they practice sections of their programs.
“Ask me how old I am. I’m probably 40 and the rest is all experience,” Moskvina said with a laugh. “I don’t really know how old I feel.”
Her life has been connected to figure skating, in one way or another, for the past six decades.
She won five Soviet national titles in singles skating (1962–66) before switching to pairs.
Moskvina joined forces with Alexei Mishin and together the duo claimed silver at the World Championships and bronze at Europeans in 1969. Both retired shortly thereafter and both turned to coaching.
Over the decades Moskvina has become one of the most successful coaches in the history of the sport. “Every day there are good and bad moments, but I love what I do,” she said when asked what motivates her.
Moskvina said one of the secrets of her success is in finding the right balance for each individual athlete. “It is even important to invent an exercise or to find the right approach for each skater,” she said. “The number of medals your students have won does not measure your success as a coach. How you grow as a profess-ional, how you gain experience and approach each athlete to find a solution for each kind of problem or difficulty — that is what is important.
“I’m working and working and then comes a medal. I continue my work and another medal happens. I don’t feel that I’m doing something extraordinary. I’m just interested in my work. I look for new approaches and new tricks, and I try to find different music and come up with new ideas. I’m working on my own character and on the character of my athletes. And so victories happen and then we move forward.”
Moskvina has had her share of success in the pairs discipline over the years. Aside from the numerous Olympic, World and European medals her students have won, four of her teams have claimed Olympic titles: Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev (1984), Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev (1992), Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev (1998) and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze (2002).
Looking back on her career, Moskvina admitted she does not have a favorite team. “I can’t even say which kind of ice cream I prefer. The students you are currently working with are the ones that are the closest to you,” she explained. “The athletes are close to me because we are following a common goal. We work together a lot and we live part of our lives together.
“I care for my athletes. I try to teach them about life, the interaction within a collective and also with other people. I try to teach them how to plan their future lives, but none of them is like a son or daughter to me. I have my own children and my own family. They are my students and I’m trying to take care of them, but I am not a mother to them.”
Moskvina credits a calm presence for her success. Indeed, when she stands at the boards watching her skaters compete, she is motionless and impassive. “I let negative factors affect my mood and my work as little as possible,” she said. “This has helped me to love what I do up to today. I see it as a nice, interesting activity for the good of people and not a promotion of myself.
“Of course it is rewarding when a good result happens, but the most important thing is to organize the process, to make it interesting and captivating on the way to the major goal, which is to entertain the spectators. This is the main job and this is what I’m doing.
"The journey is the reward.”
Originally published in October 2011