#Unearthed: Linichuk And Karponosov's Road To Olympus

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. Today's 'buried treasure' is an interview with Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov that originally appeared in the January 1979 edition of "Soviet Life" magazine. The interviewer was Andrei Batashev. At the time, Natalia and Gennadi were the reigning World Champions, looking to defend their World title in Vienna and compete for Olympic gold the following year in Lake Placid.


Gennadi Karponosov is the very incarnation of temperament, while Natalia Linichuk is serenity itself. But she has the knack of unobtrusively getting her femininity and lyricism to lead in their dance.

Q: How did you come to figure skate, and why did you choose ice dancing?

A from Linichuk: My parents used to to work in the morning, and to keep the 'baby' busy, they enrolled me in a figure skating group when I was seven. I skated alone at first, but my leaps were so bad that - this was in 1970 or 1971 - I was told: "Better start dancing or stop skating altogether." The latter was completely out of the question.

A from Karponosov: I was a sickly child, and the doctors advised my parents to keep me out-of-doors as much as possible. In those days - the late fifties - our figure skaters trained in the open, and so my parents took me to the rink. I didn't care for figure skating at all, especially singles. But during the European championship in Moscow in 1965, I saw Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman of Czechoslovakia skating and discovered that ice dancing was just the thing for me.

Q: What is peculiar to this form of figure skating?

A from Linichuk: The partners must be completely integrated, an ensemble. Each of them must, under the influence of the music, create a world of images. And they must fuse these worlds. Then the blend will turn out to be far more expressive than its individual parts. Of course, I'm speaking of
the ideal variant.

A from Karponosov: In ice dancing there must not be any blank spots, any "running starts," which are acceptable for singles and ordinary pairs. Complexity here is achieved by the pattern of the steps, turns and various tricks performed with filigree precision. The technique has to be refined to the point where the spectators won't detect it. And they often don't. Unfortunately, I once suggested that a well-
known singles performer dance to a pattern. He tried it and ended up by banging into the wall of the rink.

Q: Have you ever had a wish you couldn't realize?

A from Linichuk: My dreams have always come true.

A from Karponosov: When I was in the eighth grade, I was told that I ought to transfer to a school for mathematicians. It was a very tempting invitation, but when I went there the principal was out, and I never could muster up the courage to go back again. I'm not sorry now.

Q: Still, you got your degree in economics at Moscow University, so that you didn't avoid mathematics altogether.

A from Karponosov: I always liked math. I just didn't want to specialize in it. In the Economics Department you study both math and the humanities. I liked the combination. I'm now writing my thesis on the economics of industry.

Q: And what are your plans, Natasha?

A from Linichuk: I want to be a skating coach. This year I'll be graduating from the Central Institute of Physical Culture.

Q: Is there anything you don't like about yourself?

A from Linichuk: It takes me too long to learn new things.

A from Karponosov:I'm very short-tempered and don't forgive people easily.

Q: What qualities do you prize most?

A from Linichuk: The ability to forgive easily.

A from Karponosov: Industriousness and a sense of humor. The kids on our figure-skating home team are past masters at practical joking.

Q: What kind of jokes do they go in for?

A from Karponosov: I once forgot my cap on a bus. I went back and asked if anybody had picked it up. The answer was No. That evening we gave an exhibition performance. As always, the ice was sprinkled with flowers and notes from the audience. They were mostly for Natasha. But suddenly a
large package "For Karponosov" came hurtling down. I was pleasantly surprised, anticipating something interesting. Back in the dressing room, our team gathered around me, saying: "Aren't you the lucky one!" But when I unwrapped the package, there was my cap.

Q: Natasha, have you any bones to pick with your partner?

A from Linichuk: He's very obstinate. Even if he knows he's wrong, he won't ever admit it.

Q: And you, Gennadi?

A from Karponosov: I want to thank Natasha for making me a world champion.

A from Linichuk: We're both indebted for our victory to coach Yelena Tchaikovskaya. She found the form and the music that enabled us to express our natures and temperament in the dance.

A from Karponosov: Usually coaches offer their skaters the same program with a few variations. Tchaikovskaya finds a style to suit each pair.

Q: What do you wish for most?

A from Linichuk: To enter the Olympic Games at Lake Placid.

A from Karponosov: To enter and win. And to skate well enough to please our audiences.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.