The "Petrovka, 26" Prince: The Yuriy Zel'dovich Story

Though we do know that Yuriy Samoilovich Zel'dovich was born in 1897, not much is known about his early life. As Zeld'ovich is a Russified version of the Jewish last name Zeldin, it is believed that Zeldovich was born to Belarussian Jewish parents who at some point emigrated to Moscow. Yuriy started skating at the "Petrovka, 26", an outdoor rink at a Moscow yacht club that was billed as the first "free school of figure skating" in Moscow in the early twenties.

The "Petrovka, 26" school, managed by Nikolai Ivanovich Korabelshchikov, had daily evening group classes. Yuriy attended these and received a weekly private lesson from Korabelshchikov, soon becoming "the best pupil of the school" according to Russian skating historian Yuri Vasilyevich Yakimchuk. Korabelshchikov paired Yuriy and another of his promising students, Anna Bykovskaya, and soon the duo began assisting their coach in teaching the club's other members. Yakimchuk noted, "The first serious test of the effectiveness of the yacht club school at the ice rink 'Petrovka, 26' was the participation of her pupils in the first USSR championship in figure skating, organized by the winter sports section of the Moscow Council for Physical Culture. The championship took place on February 24 and 28, 1924 on the skating rinks of the Mossovet Sports Club in Samara Lane, 22 and the River Yacht Club of the regional committee. As a result, all the first places were won by the representatives of the NRC: Yuri Stankevich among the newcomers, Yuri Zel'dovich among the senior figure skaters, and Zel'dovich-Bykovskaya in pair skating. The victory gave the club a great moral satisfaction and a conviction in the correctness of the chosen path. Unfortunately, none of the members of the club and pupils of the school then imagined that just a few days later, in accordance with the directive of the Higher Council for Physical Education... the Leningrad and Moscow Physical Culture Councils would order the dissolution of 'civil, private, public sports clubs and organizations, with the exception of 'Spartacus' and 'Dynamo'."

This directive forced Yuriy to join the All-Russia Sports Society "Dynamo". He represented the "Dynamo" at the 1927 and 1928 Championships Of The USSR, winning the senior men's title on both occasions. In 1928, he also won an All-Union 'Olympic' competition put on by the "Dynamo" club. He retired from competitive skating after the 1929 Championships of the USSR, where he tied for first place with Konstantin Likharev as a five time Champion of the USSR. As the Soviet Union's membership wasn't even discussed by the ISU - let alone ratified - until 1947, there simply wasn't anything for Yuriy to 'go on' to. That didn't stop him from remaining incredibly involved in the sporting world.

After his skating career ended, Yuriy graduated from the Medical Faculty of Moscow State University and became a doctor at the "Dynamo", working with football and hockey teams both domestically and on international trips. Konstantin Beskov and Mikhail Yakushin were among the many high level athletes he worked with. He was awarded the honourary title of Honored Doctor of Russia and in 1936, became the first chairman of the All-Union section of figure skating, which later became the Federation of Figure Skating of the USSR. In October of 1945, he was made an Honored Master Of Sports of the USSR. He was not only the third athlete in any sport to receive the honour, but he was the first figure skater.

Columbarium at Vagankovskoe cemetery in Moscow where Yuriy Zel'dovich's urn is interred

Despite his important contributions to Soviet figure skating, Yuriy died in relative obscurity on October 27, 1992 in Moscow of a heart attack at the age of ninety five. His skates were displayed in an exhibition of the history of "Dynamo" at the Academy of the Federal Security Service of Russia in September of 2013.

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