May 5, 2011
Voodoo: The Darker Side of Figure Skating
Figure skating is a sport that puts much weight on illusion and politesse. While it is no mean feat to constantly and consistently revolve three or four times in the air and land on a slender blade fractions of an inch wide, the ideal figure skater does not pant or heave or give any indication that such a gravity-defying feat requires hours of arduous practice--at most, he or she daintily perspires. The ideal skater is not only required to be polished and sophisticated on the ice, but such qualities are also prized off the ice as well. As examples such as the vilification of Tonya Harding and raising of Michelle Kwan into near-demigod status demonstrate, figure skaters are also implicitly expected to be gracious, sportsmanlike and only aim to "do their best" at a competition.
Yet this emphasis on illusion and politesse is but a thin veneer hiding a dark and shameful secret among the ranks of figure skating: the use of the black arts by skaters and their coaches in order to achieve desired results. The use of curses, spells and other occult practices has had a long and storied history in the sport of figure skating. From Katarina "Demon Eyes" Witt infamously standing at the boards during her competitors' programs and causing havoc and panic to the more contemporary examples discussed further into this article, the use of black magic has been the refuge of unscrupulous skaters and their coaches. Indeed, prominent persons in the figure skating world have even spoken out against the use of the dark arts in figure skating competitions. "There is a lot of dirty stuff in figure skating," warns high-profile coach Alexei Mishin, while 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko, a past victim of such nefarious practices, concurs. "I don't know if it's true or not, but I believe in it."
Indeed, the use of black arts has particularly manifested at times of great rivalry in figure skating, as the more crooked skaters in the sport are compelled out of sheer desperation to turn to less-than-savory methods in order to triumph over their foes. One notable example of this morally dubious behavior is the case of 2002 Olympic Champion Alexei Yagudin. During the 1998-2002 Olympic cycle, Mr. Yagudin was increasingly threatened by the rising star of rival Evgeni Plushenko coming up the ranks with a formidable array of quadruple jumps. Indeed, Mr. Yagudin even lost his strangehold on the European and World titles to the young upstart during the 2000-2001 season. After hitting the nadir of his career by finishing a shameful third at the 2001 Goodwill Games, Mr. Yagudin began his descent into the Dark Arts at the behest of his coach Tatiana Tarasova. Ms. Tarasova, notorious slayer of many innocent and fuzzy creatures to appease her addiction to garbing herself with their skins, suggested to Mr. Yagudin that he employ the services of shady 'psychologist' Rudolf Maximovich Zagainov. However, as the video below shows, 'psychology' was but a mere cover for the full extent of the highly dubious services provided by this Mr. Zagainov:
Video can be found here if the embedded video doesn't work.
Although Mr. Yagudin feebly defends himself by brushing off these serious allegations as "nonsense", the results of the 2002 Olympic Games at Salt Lake City speak for themselves: Mr. Yagudin was able to win the coveted gold medal while Mr. Plushenko was relegated to silver after an uncharacteristic fall on his quadruple jump in the short program and several other mistakes in the long.
The retirement of Mr. Yagudin ended Mr. Zagainov's curse on Mr. Plushenko and resulted in Mr. Plushenko's eventual victory at the 2006 Olympic Games, but the use of dubious practices nevertheless continues in figure skating among the more disreputable elements in the sport. The uncontested master of the black arts in figure skating today is Nikolai "Voodoo Master" Morozov, formerly of Team Yagudin and current coach of 2007 and 2011 World Champion Miki Ando and 2011 European Champion Florent Amodio. Mr. Morozov is widely known to use spells to bolster the performances of his students and curse their competitors through a variety of methods, which include whispering blasphemous chants under his breath while skaters are performing their programs, adopting a penetrating glare with his searing eyes similar to Ms. Witt and waving his limbs to form undoubtedly occult patterns. Mr. Morozov's abuse of the dark arts in figure skating competitions has been well-documented by the international media as well as concerned netizens:
Perhaps the most egregious example of the dark arts being employed in a figure skating competition this season was at the 2011 World Championships held in Moscow, Russia. There, it is alleged that the combined forces of both Ms. Tarasova (known to be associated with the Japanese 2010 Olympic silver medallist Mao Asada) and Mr. Morozov on their home turf resulted in some highly anomalous occurrences at the competition. Korean figure skater and 2010 Olympic Champion Kim Yu-Na, for example, was favored to win the ladies event but suffered through some unexpected mistakes on her usually-textbook jumps and instead won the silver behind Morozov student Miki Ando.
"It was unfortunate what Morozov and Tarasova did to Kim Yu-Na but frankly, she got away fairly lightly at Worlds this season," disclosed an ISU judge who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Because I'm pretty sure I saw Morozov staring at Daisuke Takahashi's left skate before the men's LP."
Daisuke Takahashi, the 2010 World Champion and 2010 Olympic bronze medallist, was a heavy favorite heading into the World Championships but fell to a distant fifth place after a mysterious incident involving the screws coming off his left skate boot, causing him to pop his quadruple jump and stop his program. Rather tellingly, Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Morozov have had a very public split following a successful partnership a few years ago.
When asked why the ISU tolerates this flagrant abuse of the dark arts, the judge shrugs. "Everybody knows about it, but we're all too scared to do anything. You have no idea what it feels like to have that Russian glare staring into your soul."
The judge also spoke about the use of the black arts at the 2010 Olympic Games as well. "Tarasova looked mad enough to smother us judges with her furs after Mao Asada lost to Kim Yu-Na in Vancouver," he reveals. "Luckily, I managed to get away unscathed by carrying a crucifix, a vial of holy water and a PETA sticker with me at all times during the Olympics but some of my colleagues were not so fortunate." The judge refused to say what exactly happened to his colleagues but rumors persist that certain judges on the ladies' judging panel at the 2010 Olympics were last seen giving 8s to Russian figure skater and new Morozov student Alena Leonova's Program Components Scores at the 2011 World Championships.