When Russian figure skating duo Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won the gold medal in pairs figure skating at the Sochi Olympics, it did not come as much of a surprise. The pair came to the Olympics as the favorite in the event, placed first in the pairs short program to help Russia to the gold in the figure skating team competition, and entered Wednesday's pairs free skate in first place after an excellent performance in Tuesday's short program. This was their competition to take, and they did just that.
Yet their immediate reaction after completing their routine suggests that this performance was about much more than the judges' scores and the gold medal. At the close of their routine, Volosozhar and especially Trankov were immediately overwhelmed by their emotions in a mixture of adulation, relief, accomplishment, and virtually anything else you would associate with the culmination of a lifelong effort and dream.
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Check out the slideshow at the top of this post to get the full look at the pair's reaction, including Trankov screaming, lifting his arms in celebration, and dropping to his knees.
Frankly, it looks as if Volosozhar had to cry just so her partner wouldn't be all alone in his emotion. I guess that's what friends are for.
By the time Volosozhar and Trankov made their way to the kiss-and-cry area to receive their scores, they had mostly collected themselves. They had plenty of reason to celebrate, though, because their mark of 152.69 points added up to a final tally of 236.86 — what NBC announcer Tom Hammond referred to as a "nearly invincible score."
When the results became official, Trankov lost some of his composure again. In an interview with NBC's Andrea Joyce, he made his mindset clear: "I just want to run, I want to hug all these people around me."
His excitement was understandable. In addition to the thrills of winning a gold medal on home soil to re-establish Russian dominance of pairs skating after a medal-less event in 2010, Trankov's professional skating career did not get off to the easiest start. From Tatjana Flade's 2008 piece for GoldenSkate.com:
In search of a new partner, Trankov moved from his hometown Perm to St. Petersburg in 1999 when he was 15-years-old, but he didn’t have money to rent an apartment. “At the beginning, I more or less lived in the coaches’ room at the ice rink for about half a year,” the athlete recalled. “At this time, I trained in the SKA ice rink in St. Petersburg, and then I moved in with the soldiers who worked at the ice rink. I stayed with them in their rooms underneath the tribune of the rink and lived like a soldier,” he smiled. “There was a cafeteria at the ice rink and I got one free meal there per day. I had to take care of the other meals myself. Sometimes the coaches or my partner brought me some food.” Trankov lived like this for three years before moving into an apartment.
Given the context, such an outpouring of emotion seems pretty natural.
Of course, to the credit of both Volosozhar and Trankov, they know when to put on a professional face. Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko interrupted the pair's post-competition media scrum to give both an embrace. Their were no tears — just respect for the man who's effectively their boss.
That's what I call the discipline of champions.
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