Adult Pairs Skaters Achieve Success at Chicago Clinic

by Ellen Zurfluh, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Russian national pairs champion Maxim Trankhov works with Kimm and Rich Walin as they practice a press lift exercise.

(6/25/07) - It was a weekend of breakthroughs at the Ninth Annual Chicago Adult Pair Clinic, June 16-17 at the Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, Ill. One team put up a platter lift on the ice for the first time; another found an easier takeoff for the throw loop; and one skater found she could do a forward inside death spiral with just a bit more support from her partner.

Olympic pairs champion Oleg Vassiliev, who has taught this clinic since its inception, gave the six participating teams many different approaches to mastering or improving their pairs skating maneuvers during two hours of work off ice and four hours on the ice.

"You can do this; it's simple," he said, leading the teams through a progression of exercises on the ice toward a split twist. (Watch video of Maria Muhkortova and Maxim Trankhov demonstrating a twist lift here.)

Commented first-time participant Katie Van Ark (Skater's Edge of West Michigan), who attended the clinic with Karl Jacob (Midland FSC), "Oleg did a superb job of breaking down pairs elements that even allowed we beginners to experience some success."

Vassiliev enlisted five of his current elite level pairs skaters to demonstrate maneuvers and assist with teaching. They, too, learned from Vassiliev.

Jerome Blanchard of France, who competes for Russia with partner Valeria Vorobyeva, said, "It's good to try different approaches. I also enjoyed the contact [with the adult skaters]."

Maxim Trankhov, reigning Russian national pairs champion with partner Maria Muhkortova, added, "Helping with this clinic was good practice for the future when I become a coach - and it helped my English."

Leslie Gaudreau, a clinic veteran with husband Peter (Indiana World Skating Academy FSC), praised this year's coaching staff.

"It was such a wonderful opportunity to meet these future stars of pairs skating," she said. "We had almost one-on-one instruction. It seemed that they saw all of us as athletes, not just older people trying to learn to skate."

Another clinic benefit was hearing Vassiliev describe the latest changes in the ISU rules regarding pairs skating and explain which maneuvers earn the most points. Vassiliev is a member of the ISU Technical Committee.

The clinic also enhanced the natural camaraderie that exists among adult pairs skaters. "I feel very fortunate to be part of this special bond," said Lauren Yahiro (individual member), who partners with Larry Scibilia (DuPage FSC). "With the support of the other pairs teams and the coaching of Oleg and his students, Larry and I were able to make progress on elements that were totally unachievable in the past."

That included performing their first platter lift on the ice.

With temperatures outside in the mid-90s, what better place to spend a weekend than in an ice rink learning from one of the masters of pairs skating? As Kim Minarik, who skates with husband Tim (FSC of the Quad Cities), so aptly put it, "Life is short, live it screaming and having fun."

Watch video of Vorobyeva and Blanchard, and Muhkortova and Trankhov demonstrating the death spiral here.

The Chicago Adult Pairs Clinic is organized by Ellen Zurfluh and Les Ascher (DuPage FSC). For more information, contact Ascher at

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