Interview With Morgan Matthews

American ice dancers Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin

From Chicago, Illinois, born and raised... in the ice rink is where she spent most of her days! Morgan Matthews' career as a competitive ice dancer was really quite the remarkable one. After winning the U.S. Junior title in both 2003 and 2004, she went on to find herself atop the podium at both the Junior Grand Prix Final and the World Junior Championships. In 2006, the Four Continents Championships silver medal was all hers. Along the way in her journey, she even defeated a pair of future Olympic Gold Medallists in competition - both Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Morgan was gracious enough to take the time to talk about her competitive career, citizenship issues, the skaters that inspire her most and much, much more in this interview I have a feeling you're really going to enjoy.

Q: You had crazy success during your competitive career - two U.S. junior titles, a win at the Junior Grand Prix Final, the 2005 World Junior title and a silver medal at the 2006 Four Continents Championships among them, as well as of course representing the U.S. at the 2006 World Championships in Calgary, Alberta. Looking back on it now, what are your proudest moments or most special memories from your career as a competitive ice dancer?

A: My most proud moment was winning the 2005 World Junior title. My partner, Max Zavozin, and I were extremely determined to win that medal. Our top competitors that year were Virtue and Moir, so as you can imagine we were very nervous. We had to skate our best every time in order to win. When the time came, it was one of those rare moments in which everything worked out exactly how we had hoped. That was definitely the peak of our career together.

Q: Before turning to ice dancing, you were were actually a pairs skater and you finished fifth on the novice level in 1999. How hard was making the transition from pairs skating to ice dancing?

A: From around 1997 to 2002 I trained in singles, pairs and ice dance. I liked pairs, tolerated singles, and loved ice dance. Therefore, when the right partner came along I was happy to shed the other two disciplines.

Q: After your partnership with Maxim Zavozin ended in 2007, you teamed up with Leif Gislason and applied for a release to represent Canada but were denied by U.S. Figure Skating and ended up continue to compete for the U.S. even though Kaitlyn Weaver was released around the same time to Canada. Do you think things could have gone very differently if you had have in fact been released or is it all water under the bridge now?

A: Leif and I were a great match on the ice, but the odds were stacked against our partnership. Even if the U.S. had granted me release, it would have been nearly impossible for me to have gained Canadian citizenship in time for either the 2010 or 2014 Olympics. Also, the injuries that caused me to retire would have eventually gotten in the way of our success. Our partnership aside, I hope that in the future more multinational teams are allowed to exist. Kaitlyn Weaver was fortunate enough to apply for release early in her career. The success that her and Andrew Poje have gained ought to inspire federations to be more accommodating to ice dance and pair couples comprised of skaters from separate countries.

Q: You later teamed up with Elliot Pennington but ended your career in 2009 while dealing with a serious injury. How hard was the decision to entire for you and how rewarding has the decision to continue in the skating world on the other side of the boards been?

A: Elliot and I were also a good match, but my injuries were too severe to overcome. It was very difficult for me to surrender to my injuries, even though I really had no choice. Elliot supported me through that period, which I am grateful for. Coaching has been a great resource for me while I put myself through college. Recently, I've enjoyed teaching and choreographing for several solo ice dancers. The Solo Ice Dance Series fills a major chasm in ice dance. Now all these girls and boys who haven’t yet found partners, or have no intention of finding one, can create programs and enjoy competing on their own.

Q: What's at the very top of your playlist - the songs and musicians you could listen to over and over?

A: My taste in music changes frequently. My current playlists include a lot of edm/alternative bands like Disclosure, CHVRCHES, and Seven Lions. However, for some reason I can’t stop listening to "Fancy" by Iggy Azzelea. Please don't judge me, it’s a phase!

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A: I was raised vegetarian. Three years ago I tasted bacon for the first time. It was a life altering experience. I also speak Russian.

Q: Who are your three favorite ice dance teams of all time and why?

A: My all time favorite ice dance teams are Grishuk and Platov, Angelika Krylova and ANYONE and Torvill and Dean. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze are another favorite of mine, but they are not ice dancers. Lastly, allow me to take this opportunity express my love for Hubbell and Donahue. In my opinion they are the most undervalued ice dance team currently skating.

Q: What do perceive as the biggest issues that are facing figure skating right now and quite frankly, do you think that the judging system currently being used is helping or hurting the sport's present and future?

A: I'd like to see a more modern artistic presence in figure skating. All the Balanchine gets tiring to watch. Allowing vocals in music should help but that won't be enough. Many skaters are turning to show skating because they are bored with the rigidity of competitive figure skating. As for the judging system, the IJS seems to be an improvement over the 6.0 system... but the day when everyone is happy about the judging system in figure skating is the day when pigs start flying. That said, I think that less restriction on music, choreography, and overall program content would be a welcome change.

Q: What do you love more than anything about ice dancing?

A: I love the creative process. My favourite time of year used to be the off season, when I'd get to help pick new music, choreograph new programs and design new costumes. Singles and pairs skaters do all of that as well, but for ice dancers the process is more extensive.

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