Ksenia Makarova came out of nowhere. She went from being an unknown junior skater in 2009 to Russian national champion and an Olympian in just one year.
After claiming the silver medal at 2010 Skate Canada, Makarova blew her chance to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with sub-par performances at her second assignment in Russia.
“I guess I relaxed too much. I went to Russia, which is my home country, and I was under pressure to skate well. It was just nerves,” she admitted.
Although Makarova is the daughter of Olympic bronze medalists and European pairs champions Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov, it was not a given that she would become a skater.
Makarova, who was born in St. Petersburg, first took to the ice at age 6. “I stepped onto the ice and I fell. It was really cold and my butt started to hurt,” she recalled. “I told my parents that I don’t like it.
“Two years later we moved to America, and I tried it again. My parents have a skating school there, and I looked at all the girls and tried what they were doing, and I started liking it. It was kind of unexpected,” she added with a laugh. “I like when I can be pretty and express myself on the ice, kind of like in dancing. I like to feel the wind when I am skating.”
As Makarova moved up through the U.S. ranks, she and her family had to make a decision: Would she skate for Russia or for the U.S.? “I really wanted to join the Russian team. It was a family decision,” she said.
Makarova started spending more time in her homeland, competing at national events. “When I first went there I was really scared,” she recalled. “Sometimes I can be shy, but everyone was really nice. They talked to me and made me really feel comfortable.”
Originally mentored by her parents, the 18-year-old is now coached by the 1992 Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko in Hackensack, N.J. Nina Petrenko is her choreographer.
With input from Johnny Weir, Makarova and her team chose two new programs for this season: a Flamenco piece by Russian guitarist Didulia and “Evita” for the long. “I can’t skate a program for more than one season. It gets annoying,” Makarova said with good humor.
Though she cites her parents as role models, Makarova said she has never considered taking up pairs skating. “I’m too tall, and I don’t think I could take it being all the way up there like in the lifts,” she said.
She also named Weir, with whom she skated during the Olympic season, and Irina Slutskaya as role models. “When Johnny comes to the rink he helps me with my artistry. He watches me a lot,” Makarova said.
“There was one day before Russian nationals last season when Viktor was stuck in traffic and was late for my practice. Johnny was there, and he gave me a lesson. It was very interesting.”
Makarova returned to the U.S. in November to prepare for 2011 Russian nationals. She is focused on winning that event and qualifying for Europeans and Worlds.
Asked where she sees herself in five years, Makarova responded without hesitation. “Hopefully I will still be skating and get to be almost as good as my parents. I hope I will be up there somewhere, so everybody knows my name.”
Originally published in February 2011