Figure Skating

Malcolm Kelly - Monday Feb. 17, 2014 21:51 ET

Marina Zoueva finishes a brilliant 4-year coaching job: Day 10 Newsmaker

Russian coach brings glory to Virtue and Moir, Davis and White

Marina Zoueva, right, and assistant Oleg Epstein, left, share some joy with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir after the Canadian couple’s long program on Monday in Sochi. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

In the story of Scheherazade, a Persian girl is able to escape death by weaving magical tales for the king over 1,001 nights, eventually causing him to fall in love with her.

It would have been too perfect for there to have been that many nights between the gold medal won by Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at Vancouver in 2010, and that taken on Monday by America’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White at Sochi.

But the ending couldn’t have been better for our Newsmaker of Day 10.

She’s Marina Zoueva, coach to “all of the above” who are now evenly split winners of everything through exactly 1,450 days, night to night.

Zoueva, a 57-year-old Moscow native, has been the envy of the ice dancing world through the two sets of Games, sending her proteges out time after time to win or come second as all others were forced to line up over there.

Everything was close at hand. The four stayed under her tutelage in Canton, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, where she could create, adjust, tinker, soothe and smooth with no outside influences.

No egos allowed. No complaining about the other couple. Positive always. A balancing act worthy of the Moscow State Circus.

Even more remarkable is how evenly it has all worked out. Canadian and American dance teams with a gold, silver and a pair of world titles each. Both famous, reflecting a glow the coach and choreographer herself created.

There has not been a more potentially dominant ice dance or pairs coach since the Moskvins (Igor and Tamara) were working in the Soviet system out of Leningrad.

After Zoueva’s current pairings leave (and she has a list of other silver and bronze medalists from world and Olympic skates), there will certainly be a lineup of athletes to take their place.

"Marina really just does an incredible job," Davis said a few days ago, after the short program. "I think the two teams have very different styles, very different strengths and very different approaches to skating in general.

"We are just grateful that certainly while there are complexities that arise, she just does such a wonderful job with putting us all exactly where we feel we need to be."

Calm in the storm

This past week in Sochi, with rumours of a fix circulating and pressure building on her charges, Zoueva may have done her best coaching job by keeping the skaters calm and the press under control.

“I just wish both skate really, really good and get [the] best performance, special for [the] Olympic Games, just a nice, strong performance.”

She would not come off of that line under any circumstances.

You can find a lot about Zoueva in her choice of music for the dance couples. 

It’s Russian.

And that has meant everything to a passionate woman who skated for the Soviet Union as an ice dancer and was coming home to the birth place of the style to show Mother Russia what her daughter has been to accomplish.

"It was important for me to do a special program for my mother land country," Zoueva said. "I chose a Russian story for each program. I wanted to touch the heart of the people."

For Virtue and Moir, it was Petit adagio and a waltz, by Alexander Gazunov, and Allegro Moderato, by Alex Skriabin.

And for Davis and White, it was the retelling of an old Persian story, by Rimski-Korsakov – Scheherazade.


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