2004 Skate America

Pittsburgh, PA


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Totmianin & Marinin Suffer Major Accident in Pairs Final.

24 October 2004

Tatiana Totmianina and her coach Oleg Vasiliev appeared at a press conference at Mercy hospital today.  Totmianina suffered a concussion in her fall last evening.  She will be limited to absolute rest for at least a week, and in a few weeks may be able to return to the ice.  Totmianina was in a wheelchair and was bruised on the left side of the head and left eye.  She also said her neck and left shoulder were injured.

In the press conference, held shortly after her release from Mercy Hospital, Totmianina said she has no memory of the fall, but was feeling better.


“I don’t have any memory. I don’t remember how I fell. I just remember being on the ice (before I fell), but how it happened I didn’t remember. In pairs skating you fall sometimes. Not once in your life, but a couple of times. Actually, it wasn’t something unusual; it was just a simple lift. It wasn’t successful.”

23 October 2004

Skate America came to an unfortunate, shocking end Saturday night when, two minutes and 19 seconds into the last routine of the last event, a terrible fall occurred.  World Champions, Tatiana & Totmianina was high in a turning overhead lasso lift when her partner, Maixim Marinin caught his foot in the ice.  he collapsed and she plummeted down head firs.  He tried but failed to save her form crashing into the ice.

She lay motionless, but breathing with Marinin helplessly hovering over her.  Her coach, the 1984 Olympic Gold medal winner Oleg Vasiliev, rushed onto the ice, joined by others bearing a backboard.  She was carried of the ice apparently unconscious.

All three award ceremonies scheduled to take place immediately after the event were postponed until the next day's exhibition, and the four thousand large audience asked to leave.  They did so in stunned silence, their evening of enjoyment ending in a dreadful scene.

The 22 year old Totmianina and Marinin, 27, are experienced skaters who teamed together on 1996.  They moved to Chicago in 2001 where they currently train.

The attending physician, Shalana Gibbs, from Mercy Hospital said "we have stabilized Totminanina well, so she can be transferred to the trauma center at Mercy Hospital."  She was taken to the level 1 trauma center to be assessed.  No further details of her injury  are currently available.

The team to skate just prior to Totminanina & Marinin, Julia Obertas & Sergei Slavnov suffered their own close call on a similar lift, but in their case Slavnov was able to save his partner.  Slide show of their close call.



By Alexandra Stevenson


Two of the sport’s top stars, Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen, pulled out of Skate America just days before the event.

On October 1, the 24 year old Kwan won the invitational made-for-television Campbell’s International Figure Skating Classic at St. Paul, Minnesota, in a field which included the world’s top four women. She debuted her new ‘Bolero’ long.

However, a week later, two days before the event was shown on television, Kwan withdrew from both Skate America and the following week’s Skate Canada Grand Prix citing "back pain" which she had developed from trying to get her layback spin up to the requirements of the new judging system.

"They want you to do all these positions and hold your leg to get the higher level. The old system is what made me. This is like a new language to me." She will next compete in December in another made for television event and then in Nationals.

That means if the five time world and eight time US champion makes the world team, she will compete in Moscow never having been judged under the new system.

Kwan had won a record seven Skate Americas, 1995-2002.

Then on October 19, while others were flying through Chicago enroute to Skate America, Cohen was in the windy city to see Dr. Craig Weston, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine.

He treated her for back problems believed to be related to the injury she sustained in 2000. That forced her to withdraw from the 2001 Nationals in Boston and was a major upset in her career. (She had placed second to Kwan the year before.)

Cohen explained, "I have been having recurring issues and problems with back pain over the last several weeks. I have been seeing a physical therapist, Marika Molnar, who has been treating me for the past two and a half years, and we have had approximately six sessions together.

"Even though I was experiencing pain during this time, I tried to skate through it and train. I was looking forward to Skate America. Yesterday, it became apparent to me and to my physical therapist that I needed a professional to look at my injury."

Dr. Weston used an MRI scan to make his diagnosis. He determined that Cohen had reinjured her back causing severe back strain. He recommended she skate without jumps for four weeks and undergo intense physical therapy to strengthen her lower back.

"I was looking forward to defending my Skate America title," said Cohen, who was just a few days short of her 20th birthday.

A decision regarding her participation in her next event, the Cup of China November 11-14 in Beijing, will be made at a later date.


Ice dancers, Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov, who represent Ukraine but live in the United States also pulled out. No reason was given. They skated in a show on the Saturday before Skate America and did not appear to be injured. Perhaps they did not feel ready for this competition.

In last year’s Skate America, and in the Grand Prix Final, they were beaten by US champions, Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto. However, at the world championships, Grushina & Goncharov have always placed ahead of the Americans. In Dortmund G&G were fourth while B&A were fifth.

Other non-shows were the promising young Russian, Andrei Griazev, who is injured; Daisuke Takahashi of Japan; Damien Djordjevic of France and Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden, and pair skaters Marina Petrova & Alexei Tikhonov.


Skate America, the first major event of the 2004-2005 season, returned to Pittsburgh where it was last held in 1994, nine months after the infamous Nancy Kerrigan knee whacking by associates of Tonya Harding which rocketed the television popularity of the sport into the stratosphere.

The expanded public interest led to prize money. But the balloon has burst. Today’s reduced television viewing figures have caused a major reduction in revenue from selling airing rights of top competitions. Faced with this situation, the ISU has cut the money given to skaters.

A gold in Skate America, and the other five (Senior) Grand Prix events, was worth $30,000. Now it’s $18,000. (Gold in the SGP Final, which is in Beijing in December, is worth $25,000 as opposed to $50,000.)

David Dore, the former director general of the Canadian Figure Skating Association (now Skate Canada), who is the ISU vice-president in charge of figure skating, said the cutbacks were inevitable.

"It was either eliminate some meets or reduce prize money. You could look at this as a glass being half full or half empty, and I choose to see the glass half full because all of the competitive activity has been retained.

"In all sports, there has been a trend towards cable TV and the increasing variety of digital channels has greatly altered the ability of the various TV networks to carry sports and pay the money they used to pay."

Skating is still in a better position that some other sports where rights fees do not exist anymore.

To ease their reduced paychecks, US Figure Skating announced days before this Skate America that it had instigated a "money for medals" program for American competitors in major international events.

An American winning gold in a SGP will receive $10,000. Silver is worth $5,000 and bronze $3,000.

The event was held in the Civic Arena, now refurbished and called the Mellon Arena. 65 skaters from 15 countries took part. 2,000 all event tickets were sold.

The only skater who competed in 1994 and was entered this year was Michelle Kwan who, as a 14 year old, finished second behind Surya Bonaly of France. Irina Slutskaya was third.

Word was received from Moscow just before Skate America that Slutskaya, the 2002 world champion and Olympic silver medal winner, fell in practice and has sustained an injury.

Her coach, Zhanna Gromova, told press it was a minor ligament tear and that Slutskaya hoped to be recovered in time for her first Grand Prix event in China. Last season Slutskaya suffered a debilitating illness and was only able to finish ninth at Worlds in Dortmund.

In other results in 1994, Todd Eldredge won with two French men, Philippe Candeloro and Eric Millot, second and third. It was an event some remembered because of Oleg Taturov’s "Lizard Suit" bright green outfit.

Liz Punsalen and Jerod Swallow won the dance with Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat of France second, Elizaveta Stekolnikova & Dmitri Kazalig of Kazakhstan third, and Kati Winkler & Rene Lose of Germany fourth.

In a press conference after the event, Anissina dissolved into tears relating how she could not watch the Olympics in Norway because she was so upset that she and her partner were not competing. Anissina, who was Russian, had not gained her French citizenship in time.

Russian pair Marina Eltsova & Andrei Bukin deposed their teammates who had won the 1993 Skate America, Evgenia Shishkova & Vadim Naumov. Naumov was back in Pittsburgh but as a coach to the US pair, Kathyrn Orscher & Garrett Lucash.

The Czechs who were to become later world champions, Radka Kovarikova & Rene Novotny were third but there was a lot of favorable response to the Latvians, Elena Berezhnaya & Oleg Shliakhov. (Berezhnaya, of course, was to survive a terrible skate in the head accident, and begin skating with Anton Sikharulidze. Together they won the 1998 Skate America and the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic gold, along with a fireball of controversy that gave them enormous publicity and perhaps did their careers inestimable good from a financial point of view.)

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