Slutskaya, Irina


Slutskaya, Irina
▪ 2006
 On March 19, 2005, as Russian figure skater Irina Slutskaya stood before a jubilant hometown crowd that rained flowers and stuffed animals onto the ice at Moscow's Luzhniki Sports Palace, she sobbed with joy over the greatest triumph of her career. It was the day that Slutskaya capped an unbeaten season by skating an aggressive, error-free program that included seven triple jumps to win the International Skating Union (ISU) women's singles world championship for the second time in four years. Unlike her 2002 victory at Nagano, Japan—which came one month after she earned the silver medal at the Salt Lake City (Utah) Winter Olympics—Slutskaya's brilliant performance in Moscow came after she had missed almost two full seasons of skating. In 2003 she took time away from the rink to care for her ailing mother, a kidney transplant candidate who had to undergo dialysis three times a week. One year later Slutskaya was hospitalized with pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart lining; she also suffered with chronic asthmatic bronchitis, pneumonia, and the fear that she would never skate competitively again. The illnesses forced Slutskaya to sit out almost every competition during the 2004 season. She did skate in the 2004 world championship (after a mandatory tryout ordered by the Russian ice-skating federation), but she was less than fit and finished ninth. After all that she had gone through—and the fact that she won her latest championship at home—Slutskaya called her 2005 gold medal the dearest of her collection.

      Slutskaya was born in Moscow on Feb. 9, 1979. She began skating at the age of four upon the urging of her grandmother, who thought the sport might reduce the youngster's frequent colds. Slutskaya took up serious training at a Moscow skating school two years later, and in 1996, at age 16, she became the first Russian woman to win a European figure-skating championship. She went on to conquer the field at five other European championships (1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2005). Those six titles equaled the records of the legendary Sonja Henie and two-time Olympic champion Katarina Witt. Slutskaya also won both the Russian national championship and the ISU Grand Prix Final four times (2000, 2001, 2002, and 2005). At the 2000 Grand Prix Final in Lyon, France, she became the first woman to land the highly difficult triple lutz–triple loop combination. She improved on that at the 2001 world championships, when she landed a triple lutz–triple loop–double toe loop combination. She also invented the double Biellmann spin with foot change. Slutskaya's impressive record was the product of determination, superb athleticism, and technical skills that included remarkable speed, complex spins, intricate footwork, and superb jumping ability—all of which she would need as she prepared to compete at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Ron Reid

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Universalium. 2010.

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