Alexander Majorov times two - meet the father/son team
If the name Majorov sounds familiar it's probably because you've heard it before, in connection with Alexei Yagudin. But Alexander senior seems a bit surprised that someone wants to interview him and wonders if his Swedish is good enough. Sure it is! He has spent many years as head coach for one of the skating clubs in Lule√•, the home-of-the-midnight-sun city situated on the east coast in Northern Sweden. He's a very down to earth man who doesn't mind sharing his story and he laughs a lot along the way.
"I'm from the Sovjetunion and I trained for Alexei Mishin. The training for boys was very good and I skated until I was about 25."
That was all back in St. Petersburg, so how on earth did he end up in Sweden?
"At the beginning of the 1990s things were very hard in Russia. Alexander junior (Sasha) was born in 1991 and there were no food and no jobs. We had to get money somehow and Sweden was the first country to offer us something. A short while later I had another offer, from Finland¬Ö I didn't think I'd stay in Sweden, I had some friends there and started out teaching maybe six weeks in a year and the second year it was three months and then five and after the fourth year I stayed. I didn't like to move around and just do a little here and there. It's a process to prepare for and do something, and I wanted to do it well."
And he does it well indeed. He has about 20 students and two of them earned gold at the last nationals which made him proud. Things are going well, but with the proper support from the city it could be even better.
"Figure skating is not such a big sport and Lule√• is mostly about hockey. Our club is working on making skating more popular but we're up against an ancient hockey tradition¬Ö When Sasha won novice Nationals for the first time the city officials had no idea there were such promising skaters in Lule√•. Now they know.
Last year the club earned gold and bronze at Nationals, this time we got two gold medals. Still, we need more ice time. There are two clubs and two rinks in town and one more is being built, but we always have to compete with the hockey teams for ice."
The club just celebrated its 20th birthday by organizing a successful Thumbelina on ice show and Alexander and his wife Irina hope it'll help spark the local interest. Irina was also a skater, but she now teaches ballet and helps out with the little kids.
"She's very good with the kids and she's an excellent teacher! She teaches them discipline, lines and extensions."
We actually saw her helping Sasha warm up before a skate and have no doubt she's very efficient. Efficient enough to care for the younger son, Nikolai, at the same time. At age five he's an experienced competition attendee as well as a bundle of charm and energy. And he already skates.
"Nikolai is like Sasha, we never forced either of them to skate. But when Sasha was little he was always with us, never in a daycare. We have no relatives in Sweden, no grandmothers to watch him, so he was with me on the ice and with Irina when she taught ballet; it was his way of life. He didn't do a lot of ballet though; the skating was hard enough to explain to his friends. People still give boys a hard time about ballet. Sasha is not crazy about ballet, but it helps. The stretching, the music, the discipline¬Ö"
Sasha's skating at Nationals last December was very impressive, and he also won the Nordics in Copenhagen at the beginning of February. He flew around the ice with the speed of lightning and blew everyone away.
"Sasha is making progress, just not so fast. Last season his triples were only 2 ¬ĺ rotated. He has three good triples now, and he can even do a triple - triple although it's somewhat under- rotated. Sometimes he can get away with it, but won't risk it since it can come to count as a triple - double, and a poor double at that. But we wrote the federation and told them he'd be doing a triple - triple in his program. They answered that a triple - double would be safer, and he can do those really well.
But he's now 14 years old, he has to increase the number of triples. Three isn't enough in the Junior Grand prix."
And how many triples can the coach still manage? Alexander laughs.
"I'm still skating with my students and I even jump occasionally, when I feel I have the energy! Sasha is the one with the energy! And his presentation skills are very good. At the JGP he attended last fall the judges told us he's a very interesting, non standard guy, and they were impressed. But I don't want to let the pressure on him get too strong, he should be having fun."
Having lived in Sweden for a number of years, Alexander and his family are well settled in. But there was a time when they dreamed of going back to Russia.
"We did think about it a lot, but not so much lately. Everything is so different there now; it's like a whole other country. Maybe if we'd been younger, anyone over 30 is too old unless you're a super skilled specialist. If I were alone I could manage, but the family is better off in Sweden. We go to St. Petersburg every summer so Sasha can train and I help out a little. Last summer we met Alexei Yagudin (Alexander's former student) and I asked him to come on the ice and help my son. At first he said 'I can't help' but I told him I needed a role model for Sasha, someone who could show him what to do, and then he agreed. They had a blast together; Yagudin is really a great guy."
Alexander knows that for a fact as he was one of the two coaches who advertised for new skating students in St. Petersburg back in 1984. And Zoya Yagudina, Alexei's mother, saw that ad.
"About 100 kids showed up and we picked out the ones we felt had potential. The more prestigious schools downtown only took on kids who had already had some training, but we took beginners. Little Alexei, age four, came in the room and he immediately started running and climbing, he was very fast! I remember it well because the others children were shy and quiet, but not him. But he calmed down and I coached him for many years."
One could add 'and the rest is history' and leave it at that, but Alexander has more to tell.
"When he was a novice I could imagine him skating at the European and Word championships someday and maybe medal, but I could never dream he'd win Olympic gold! After we moved to Sweden he spent a couple of summers training with us, and by then he was already the junior champion. Sometimes I remind Sasha and my student how far Alexei had come when he was their age."
There are many fond old memories from the old days and one is shared with us.
"Once when Alexei was little and lived in a very bad apartment his family had to share with others, I asked him what his dream was for the future. He told me he wanted to eat bananas every day and have an apartment just for himself and his family. After he'd won some competitions he bought an apartment and skated a banana program. It was hilarious and he finally had the future he wanted!"
Hm, yes, and some of us still haven't recovered from the "One banana" experience¬Ö But that's not all, Alexander says they are still in touch and he starts laughing.
"He called me a couple of years ago and said 'Alexander, I'm through competing and I want to work with you!' I had to tell him I live and work in Sweden now but he insisted. 'I have everything here, money, ice time and you can stay with me! And your son, too!' I said 'Lyosha, you're funny, but you don't know enough about life, you're too na√Įve!' As usual, he was always like that. 'In two or three years you'll understand what being a coach really means and you'll be off somewhere else. Where would that leave me?' But he will stay in Russia now and said he won't mind coming to Sweden to help me out."
Alexei, if you read this, know that there are several little skaters in Malm√∂ as well who would just love for you to go there and train them too!
After that enlightening talk with Alexander Majorov senior, it's Sasha junior's turn. He has no problems whatsoever with the language. Although he always speaks Russian with his family there isn't even a trace of a Russian accent, in fact he speaks with a genuine Northern Swedish accent. At first he appears somewhat withdrawn but gradually grows more talkative.
What do you enjoy the most about skating?
"Jumping, my favorite jump is the toeloop."
How's your triple Axel coming?
"It's coming, I keep trying but I haven't landed one yet. I have about another half revolution left."
What's the least fun to practice?
"Everything is fun!"
How far do you plan to go?
"As far as possible."
What is it like to have your dad as coach?
"It's fine, no problems. At home he's my dad and when we train he's the coach, it's not hard to keep apart."
Does your family usually go with you to competitions?
"It depends on how far we have to go. My mom has come to the last couple of Nationals but not to Nordics. Traveling is fun, I like to fly!"
Where do you get your amazing energy from?
"I do a lot of conditioning, I go running and I run an obstacle course. And I ski sometimes; slalom, although that's mostly for fun¬Ö"
Sometimes you train in Russia, what is that like?
"It's ok, but I'm not there all that much, maybe a couple of weeks during the summer is all. But I wouldn't want to live there, Sweden is my home and I have all my friends here."
Do you have any other hobbies?
"Karate! I have a yellow belt and I plan on continuing. But besides school, skating and karate there is no time for anything else. I'm in eighth grade and I like wood shop the most."
Do you read any Internet sites about skating?
"Not very often, but our Internet connection has been pretty bad¬Ö"
It's a pleasure to talk with this young man, but I'm about to wrap up when he suddenly says:
"I trained with Yagudin!"
There's a lot of pride in his voice and he goes on:
"It was last summer when we were in St. Petersburg. We worked together maybe an hour a day for four days. I had some problems with the triple toe and triple sal and he helped me and it got better. Also with the flip, it got a little better and I tried the triple Axel. He didn't skate cause he still has problems with his leg, but we took some photos and he showed us his Olympic medal. I got to hold it, it's very heavy! I have the pictures here, do you want to see?"
Boy, do we! The pictures are in his cell phone and he generously offers us to use them for the article. But the transfer causes a bit of a problem. He takes my phone and zaps through the menu searching for a proper function, but it's not there. Emjo's phone is of a totally different make and model, but that doesn't bother this electronic wiz kid. We're amazed over the speed at which he presses the buttons; I have never seen such fast fingers, and the picture issue is soon resolved, thank you, Sasha!
Remember the names of the two Majorovs because chances are we'll be seeing more of both at future competitions. And if you get a chance to watch Sasha skate, do it, this young talent really has something extra!