It's true what they say -- the best place to find your future mate is at work. And why not? You spend most of your time at work, hang out with people at work, get to observe them in all sorts of settings. I guess the skating world is not that different from the office environment. If your job is to skate, chances are, you'll find your future mate on the ice -- You're touring together, entering the same competitions, maybe sharing coaches and choreographers and traveling in the same circles. What could be more natural than falling for someone in that context?
In honor of Valentine's Day, the February issue of SKATING magazine profiled two couples who started as partners on the ice, and became husband and wife. Ice dancers Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev (see above) fell in love while training together in Hartford, Connecticut. They were married three years later on May 6, 2006. After the 2010 Olympics, the pair said that they will likely put their competitive skating aside for a while to start a family. The second couple is pairs skaters Larisa Spielberg and Craig Joeright. They dated for eight years before tying the knot on May 27, 2006. After retiring from competitive skating in 2004, Craig and Larisa both continued to coach in the Detroit area. Larisa will soon be pursuing a career as a physician's assistant, while Craig continues to be involved with skating programs.
After reading the article, I started to think of skaters who fell in love with other skaters and off the top of my head, came up with a lot of names. And just like the real world, some ended unhappily, some happily, and some we are waiting to see how they fare.
Perhaps the greatest love story that ended too soon is Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov (see right). When Sergei died suddenly at the age of 28, Katia later fell in love with and married Ilia Kulik. I also thought of Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, who are still touring together and coaching. There's Canadian sweethearts Jamie Sale and David Pelletier (by the way, they will be on the Today show March 7.) We also have the American sweethearts Jenni Meno and Todd Sand. I wouldn't call the next couple sweethearts, but I'm sure Christopher Dean and Isabelle Duchesnay had a fiery relationship. After they divorced, Christopher married Jill Trenary, a sweetheart I've heard. Lovely skater/prima ballerina Katherine Healy married her (much older) coach Peter Burrows. Isabelle Brasseur and Rocky Marval also paired up. Of course I have to mention Isabelle's pairs partner Lloyd Eisler, who left his then-pregnant wife when he fell for Skating with Celebrities partner actress Kristy Swanson. Kristy was later arrested for allegedly assaulting the spurned wife.
I'm not sure that beats the torrid ice dancing Maia Usova-Alexander Zhulin-Oksana "Pasha" Grishuk-Evegny Platov ordeal. In short, Alexander was married to Maia, but in 1992, cheated on her with skating rival Pasha, and the two did a horrible job of hiding the affair. When Maia confronted Pasha, things then got really ugly, but Maia continued to dance with Alexander into the 1994 Olympics. Eventually, they separated and Maia took a new ice dancing partner, none other than Evegny. And Alexander paired up with Pasha. Here's a link explaining the affair and partner swapping. In case you can't get enough, here's another link. Now, Alexander is married to ice dancer Tatiana "Tanya" Navka, Maia and Evegy both continue to coach, and Pasha, I don't know what she's pursuing. Someone told me she's an ISU Technical Specialist but I need to confirm this.
Let's go back to regular romance...Chen Lu and Denis Petrov are married and teaching in China. Beautiful Italian champion Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman are also married. Charlene Wong (Mirai Nagasu's coach) and Scott Williams were at one time married. Ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Pethukov are happily married, as are Karen Kwan (Michelle's sister) and Peter Oppegard. I also thought of ice dancers Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko and Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. Chinese pairs skaters Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao are married and touring. Rory Flack married Austrian champion Ralph Burghart and live in Alaska with their two boys. The newest cast member of Dancing with the Stars Kristi Yamaguchi couldn't quite escape the ice and married professional hockey player Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican.
On the dating front, Evan Lysacek and Tanish Belbin are a couple. Must be hard with Tanith living in Detroit and Evan living in Los Angeles. And we already know Rena Inoue and John Baldwin are engaged.
Who's gone 180 degrees? As in I want nothing to do with skating when I go home to my spouse? I remember reading a story on icenetwork about Natalia Mishkutenok's life in Texas --she's married to a
plumber home builder/real estate bigwig, has a family and coaches. Previously, Natalia was married to a professional hockey skater and they performed in shows for a while in the 1990s. Also, Caryn Kadavy married a doctor, got divorced and then married a car dealership owner and Peggy Fleming married Dr. Greg Jenkins, a dermatologist. Together, Peggy and Greg Jenkins own Fleming Jenkins Vineyards and Winery.
After reading over my list of names, I realized how much clutter I have stored in my brain. This information came second nature to me and yet I struggled to remember that the last five presidents were Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter and Ford. I won't be auditioning for Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?